12 Tips for Memorizing Piano Music:
- From Day 1, practice your music with the intent of internalizing and memorizing it. Don’t wait till you would get the piece learned to start memorizing it.
- Use good fingering and use it consistently. It will take a lot longer to learn the piece if you are using different fingerings each time. Noting your fingerings in the score will help (specifically if you choose to utilize fingering aside from what is suggest in the score).
- Constantly memorize the characteristics, articulations, and other markings on the page in addition to the notes. Do not wait until you have the notes mastered! It’s difficult to return and fix things later. It’s much better– although possibly more tiresome at first– to discover it right the very first time.
- Try to play without the music in front of you— see how far you get. Instead of leaving the music on the music stand, put the sheet music on the floor so you’re not easily tempted to look. In some cases, I even put my music book on the floor on the other side of the room! Only peek if you need to.
- Watch your hands as you play. (image below). Closing your eyes all the time isn’t really a smart idea: when performing, you might take a look at your hands and unexpectedly everything looks foreign. Look for patterns on the keyboard as you play.
6. Practice gradually. If you have fun with a quick tempo as you are aiming to memorize, you are strengthening primarily your muscle memory (which is not enough, by itself). Practicing slowly is harder, and forces you to strengthen other memories, like your visual, tactile, and intellectual memories.
7. Memorize in small sections, typically just 4 measures at a time– however in some cases 2 measures at a time may be necessary (as is typically the case with Bach). As soon as you’ve gone through the entire piece in this manner, attempt doubling the number of measures and going through the entire procedure once more. Start incorporating a mechanical metronome.
8. Memorize hands independently, specifically the left hand. The left hand is commonly neglected and left to chance that it will follow the right hand. However then if a memory slip takes place, it’s often hard to get the LH back on track. I likewise believe that comprehending the LH bass line is crucial to internalizing the music in a secure way, both aurally and analytically.
9. Assess the music. This ought to be carried out in a number of ways. Initially, analyze the type (e.g., AB, ABA, rondo, or sonata kind). Label the sections in your rating and aim to form a mental plan of the piece in your head. Also examine the piece harmonically: utilizing Roman Numeral analysis (e.g., I, V7) or lead sheet signs (e.g., CM, G7, Em). Both systems have their advantages, so I usually do both.
10. Designate a number of starting places throughout the piece where you can start the piece at any time, should a memory slip occur. These starting locations should be marked in your score. You can mark them using A, B, C, etc., or 1, 2, 3, and so on. Attempt numbering the piece backwards, from completion to the beginning, so you are counting down the end rather than up. Another system I gained from an outstanding pianist is to mark the beginning locations using circled S’s (to mean “beginning location”). In his approach, you are developing a hierarchy of beginning places. Usage “sss” (super, super starting place) to designate a really strong beginning place; for example, the start of the piece, or the start of the Recapitulation. Use “ss” (super starting place) to designate a relatively strong starting place; for instance, at the start of a set of four expressions. Use “s” (beginning location) to designate other beginning places; for instance, the starts of most expressions throughout the piece where you can quickly start from.
11. Practice mentally, far from the piano. Rest on the couch with a chocolate bar or some popcorn and see if you can mentally play through the whole piece. Attempt to visualize the score and/or the keyboard. Having the ability to successfully play through the whole piece mentally is a strong indicator that you have the piece solidly memorized!
12. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat! Do not be discouraged if you go back to the piece the next day and discover that everything you dealt with memorizing the other day appears to be gone from your memory. It’s part of the process. Re-memorize those sections. Each time you return to a section, it will become more solid in your memory.
If you enjoyed this post, check out this engaging and easy to read post on learning to play the piano in five simple steps!