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Is It Worthwhile To Memorize Music You Play?
Benefits
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 
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ELCBK
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December 26, 2022 - 6:36 pm
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There's a long history of learning tunes by ear and memorizing them, but today we have software that helps us put what we hear down as music notation to read - so, do we really have to memorize anything, nowadays? 

Playing by memory can be stressful in itself - so, is it worthwhile to take the time & effort necessary to memorize the pieces we love enough to keep playing them throughout the years? 

What are the benefits?

I personally believe it's natural to want to have a repertoire of memorized tunes that can be played with only one thought in mind - how do I want to express my feelings about this music today?  

Long, complicated compositions, or even short pieces that will only be played once or twice, may not warrant the effort of memorizing.  But, even larger pieces usually have repeated motifs or maybe particularly hard to play areas that if, memorized, could free your mind up considerably and make playing less stressful. 

 

These videos give some valid reasons for memorizing and helpful tips for doing it. 

 

Suzuki Violin Online - How to Memorize Music Quickly - Memorization Techniques

 

 

 

Note: there is NO such thing as 'muscle memory' (because the brain controls everything), but having your fingers in shape, ready to respond quickly to neural pathways the brain has made - is very helpful. 

 

https://cache.lovethispic.com/uploaded_images/223806-Winter-Is-Here.pngI remember, from somewhere, it was said if you learn a piece played slowly - you'll forget it slowly, if you learn a piece quickly - you'll forget the piece quickly. 

...my experience is - the more music I have memorized, the easier it gets.

Now is a GREAT time to start committing some music to memory! 🤗

- Emily

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ELCBK
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December 28, 2022 - 9:29 pm
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"Acquiring, Retaining & Retrieving information."  Digging into how my brain does this... not a pretty sight! 😳 

Reading music notation is one thing, we have to practice to actually learn a piece, but how we practice will determine where in our memory it is stored. 

 

Prof William Fitzpatrick goes over his 'memory' graph, explains how memory relies on practice - by keeping this in mind, it might help us consider creative ways to practice that would be more helpful. 

 

Related threads: 

3 Essential Ingredients of an Effective Practice Session Thread

Darol Anger interview about practice Thread

Your Brain on Music... a book topic Thread

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wtw
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December 29, 2022 - 12:36 pm
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ELCBK said 
Playing by memory can be stressful in itself - so, is it worthwhile to take the time & effort necessary to memorize the pieces we love enough to keep playing them throughout the years? 

  

Well, I would have put it the opposite way, so I can't answer that. To me :

  • reading sheet music is stressful, and tension-inducing,
  • I wouldn't ever decide to learn a piece without hearing it played (and played well) beforehand – meaning a CD or youtube recording, ... etc
  • anything I listen to "a lot" tends to get stuck in my head,
  • what I practice tends to get memorised automatically after some repetitions

so why take the time & effort to struggle with sight reading ?

(I'm being a bit provocative here - sheet music are useful sometimes for me too. It's a bit difficult to explain, though.)

 

-----------

I don't think there's any necessity to have a looonng list of tunes/pieces that you can play 'on command' years after learning them… I think with a bit of practice, a previously learned tune should come back rather quickly. 

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ELCBK
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December 29, 2022 - 4:09 pm
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@wtw -

I'm pretty sure you and I feel the same. 😊

I think listening definitely helps to store music in long-term memory & having something memorized means I really have 'learned' it. 

I've noticed I learned to play quite a few new tunes, within a veryshort period, at the Fiddle Hell workshops - a week later it's like I never learned them, unless I spend the extra time to commit them to memory.

Some people may never try to memorize anything or simply cannot play without sheet music.  I hope they discover the benefits of listening & memorizing.

 

I wanted to learn many pieces of music that had no sheet music available, but there is also the opposite - much music written where I can't find a performed example to hear.  I think learning different genres/style of music helps, along with working a little more on sight-reading, but I still gain SO much more useful information from listening!  

 

One thing for sure - I've felt the most reward when I take some previously memorized music and spend time developing it more to my liking. 

 

https://www.azquotes.com/picture-quotes/quote-there-are-three-things-i-always-forget-names-faces-and-the-third-i-can-t-remember-italo-svevo-71-50-26.jpgImage Enlarger

- Emily

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ELCBK
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January 12, 2023 - 1:18 am
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I took a moment today to log into my little 'Tune' notebook the last few tunes I learned & memorized well. 

I have played, and still play, many tunes that I never learned well enough/played long enough to store in my long-term memory (I do not keep track of those), but thought it was worth mentioning I've now passed 160 tunes!  I have memorized 162 tunes well. 

This may be about my limit. 😔 

...but, I certainly won't stop, even though I'm definitely starting to have problems remembering how a few start off, just by looking at their titles - they're tunes I haven't played in a while or have names that are not in English.  Most pieces don't take longer than 5 minutes to play once through, I love playing them - but I'm never content with just that and only have so much time.  Glad I keep a list.  I shouldn't stress over it, because I can always find the tunes played or sheet music to jog my memory - and I certainly can sit down & play enough other music, from off the top of my head to be happy. 

I'm just surprised I feel a bit melancholy, when I thought I'd be elated to get this far. 

 

Related Threads with GREAT advice: 

Associative Memory vs Fiddle Tunes Thread

Memorising pieces Thread

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ELCBK
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September 13, 2023 - 3:06 pm
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This thread is almost a year old!  There's some very helpful tips throughout, plus there's links to a couple other great related threads. 

So, @Katie L mentioned she had been memorizing phrases! 

I'm just curious if any more people have been trying to put music to memory this past year? 

 

My 'list' is really climbing, but I'm definitely having trouble recalling many older tunes without some kind of prompt - usually hearing a few beginning notes/rhythm is best.  I'm not so good at just pulling my older tunes 'out of the blue' anymore, because many of them I haven't played in quite a while - can't remember the last time I played them! 🤣 

...still, it's mind-boggling to me how ANYONE can concentrate on improving intonation, bowing, phrasing, dynamics, articulation, etc... IF the notes (at least a phrase) aren't memorized! 😳

Anticipating 'what comes next' just seems necessary, to me.  It's probably because I can't read music fast enough, but seems near impossible to get even a brisk, let alone fast, tempo correct without having the order of note succession memorized. 

 

Does anyone keep sharp some special/favorite tunes to play spontaneously when family & friends gather? 

What are they? 

 

I'm never 'warmed up', so I'll play something pretty slow to start, like the "La Gueussunette" mazurka, or a waltz like "O'Carolan's Welcome" - both comfortable old favorites, but I might also have something recent that sounds great played slow.  After that, it all depends on my mood (or the occasion) as to what's next, usually a couple newer tunes - except no really fast/fancy finger-work until fingers & brain are good 'n warmed up!  

 

017ab1ec5d75dcdb783a8aa70690ce1f.jpg

Musicians would notice there's something SERIOUSLY WRONG with the length of these fingers - if they were all on one hand! 🤣 

...more than one person's finger in the photo.

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Ripton
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September 16, 2023 - 12:32 pm
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Odd to see this discussion. I have been seeing a lot of ads for neurocognitive training to help memorize tunes. Myself, I seldom use sheet music after learning a tune. Sometimes I need to go back if I forget. 

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