Ten Tips for Memorizing Music

Do you memorize sheet music by playing it over and over, hoping it will somehow stick in your brain after playing a song many times through? Sometimes this will work, especially if you are playing a short piece.

If you have ever experienced forgetting where you are at a lesson or recital, you might want to try these ten ideas to make memorizing easier for you.

1. Learn the song first before you begin to memorize it.

2. Use the proper fingering.

3. Practice slowly and steadily at first.

4. Watch your hands as you play.

5. Memorize your hands separately.

6. Memorize small sections, maybe one or two measures of music. Don’t try to memorize the whole song in a day.

7. Divide the piece into sections and plan to learn some each day. Then review all the sections. Start anywhere and play through the A and B section of a song. Focus on the ending to the song, so with the knowing the last measure, you can end strong.

8. Analyze the music. Notice notes and sections that repeat. Pay attention to where the music changes. Memorize the dynamics and other markings in the song.

9. Practice mentally away from the piano, tapping your fingers on the table or visualizing the music in front of you.

10. Repetition.

Many teachers consider memorization one of the most important aspects of piano playing. Most books, which discuss the how-to of memorization, stress the importance of understanding the details of musical form. So, start an opening phrase of music and learn it without the music.

Then consider the physical demands the piece of music is making. Look for tricky fingering that comes up at a certain point. Play it many times over and over, remember the feeling. Are your hands playing together or separately? Are they moving in opposite directions? On which notes does the thumb go?

Each time you hit a blind spot, you need to refer to the printed music. Remember that when you hit your first blank moment, open your music book and find the place in the music you couldn’t remember. Play through it a few times. Now you’ve begun to deepen your understanding of the song.

Most importantly, every now and then play the song you memorized because some memorization is only short-term. The advantages to following these points are many. By memorizing, the music is unfolding in a new way.

Mildred K. Pearson

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