Memorizing Pieces

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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bensonm
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Memorizing Pieces

Post by bensonm » Wed Jun 28, 2017 7:27 pm

Despite the subject line, this post is not asking about how to memorize pieces. Rather, I'm interested in hearing the thoughts of others regarding why some pieces seem to be easier to memorize than others. For me, some pieces that are quite difficult for me to play correctly are still rather easy to memorize. For example, about a year ago I started on "A Day in November" by Brouwer. I can't remember exactly how long it took me to memorize it, but it wasn't long. Maybe a couple of weeks, and then I had it. (Couldn't really play it, but I knew what I was supposed to play.) Even now, if I set it aside for a month, when I come back, I remember how to play it without looking at the score. In contrast, a few weeks ago, I started on Cancao Triste by Lopes. You could hardly ask for a simpler piece. But for some reason, I'm finding it maddeningly difficult to memorize. My only theory is that even though it is a simple first position piece, it has many spots where you play notes in ever so slightly different orders from one part to the next. For example, in one measure you may play F on the low E string with A on the G string, and later you play the F with an open G string -- a very simple variation, but if you mess it up the piece falls apart.

So, anyways, I was just wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience. :merci:
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fast eddie
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Re: Memorizing Pieces

Post by fast eddie » Wed Jun 28, 2017 8:52 pm

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Nick Cutroneo
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Re: Memorizing Pieces

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Thu Jun 29, 2017 3:54 pm

I find that texture and complexity have a lot to do with how easy a piece will be to memorize. Also, the individuals understanding of music theory and their ability to analyze the score. Finally, how familiar you are with what the piece sounds like, or also how easily "tune-ful" it is (so it can be "stuck" in your ear).

To me the hardest music to memorize is Renaissance and Baroque music - due to the complexity of the texture as well as the subtle differences between phrases (at times). Also, its music that is so far removed from our everyday exposure to music that at times makes it hard to internalize the music. Also, the melodies aren't often quick to pick out and to stay with us.
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Aucaman
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Re: Memorizing Pieces

Post by Aucaman » Thu Jun 29, 2017 4:18 pm

My "rule" for many decades has been: play it and play it again. After a while, my fingers -somehow- remember it.

Recently I have been trying some more conscious approaches.
I play a musical phrase many times not trying to memorize it, but looking for different ways to express the idea contained. I play it loud, I play it soft, slow. fast, near the bridge, near the neck, etc. By the time I have finally found a way to play it that IMO sound the best, I have already memorized that segment.
When I finally can play the whole thing by memory, the moment I hesitate on a measure, rather than trying that section again by memory (attempting to see if my fingers will play it right) I immediately go back to the score. I don't want to repeat wrong notes not even once if I can help it.

One more point. One of the recommendations above was to play it with your eyes closed. Maybe it's a good exercise to learn to explore the length of the guitar neck and learning to land on the right fret, but bringing that into the memorization process is to bring more issues into the task.

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Re: Memorizing Pieces

Post by LBrandt » Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:59 pm

This is an interesting thread, and I have thought about it many times, and I have a question. To illustrate my question, I'll provide an analogy, as follows: Let's say that I read a book and then put it down for a long time. If I later decide to read it again, when I pick it up again, I actually read each word and sentence! I don't rely on memory, but actually read it!

Now, change the focus to music. When I start working on a new piece, I have to read all of it, since I've never seen it before. If I then put it down for a while, and pick it up again weeks later, do I actually read it, or do my hands and fingers remember what to do and therefore, I'm really not "reading" it as I did the first time I worked on it.

I ask this because I always think that I'm somehow "cheating" when I play a piece that I've played before, and this time not actually having to read everything, but instead letting the score just stimulate he memory of what to do as I move along.

bensonm
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Re: Memorizing Pieces

Post by bensonm » Fri Jun 30, 2017 7:06 pm

Also, the individuals understanding of music theory and their ability to analyze the score. Finally, how familiar you are with what the piece sounds like, or also how easily "tune-ful" it is (so it can be "stuck" in your ear).

To me the hardest music to memorize is Renaissance and Baroque music - due to the complexity of the texture as well as the subtle differences between phrases (at times). Also, its music that is so far removed from our everyday exposure to music that at times makes it hard to internalize the music. Also, the melodies aren't often quick to pick out and to stay with us.
[/quote]

Thanks, Nick. I have very little understanding of music theory but I know how the piece is supposed to sound. I think you're correct about the complexity of texture having something to do with the difficulty of memorizing a piece. My teacher says that Bach is particularly hard for him to memorize because so many of the passages have just very slight variations between them. The melody for Cancao Triste is quite clear but it has still been hard for me to memorize. However, last night I had something of a break through and I think I will have the whole thing in my head and my hands shortly.

Mike
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bensonm
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Re: Memorizing Pieces

Post by bensonm » Fri Jun 30, 2017 7:07 pm

fast eddie wrote:
Wed Jun 28, 2017 8:52 pm
I found this on wikihow.
http://www.wikihow.com/Memorize-Sheet-Music
Thanks. I wasn't looking for this, but it's very helpful.
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bensonm
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Re: Memorizing Pieces

Post by bensonm » Fri Jun 30, 2017 7:10 pm

I ask this because I always think that I'm somehow "cheating" when I play a piece that I've played before, and this time not actually having to read everything, but instead letting the score just stimulate he memory of what to do as I move along.

I've had a similar experience where I don't need to actually "read" the score but just having it in view somehow stimulates my hands and my confidence. I never consider this cheating. I just wish I could play more consistently without it. Thanks for your thoughts.
Michael L. Benson
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Aria AC60

LBrandt
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Re: Memorizing Pieces

Post by LBrandt » Fri Jun 30, 2017 8:15 pm

bensonm wrote:
Fri Jun 30, 2017 7:10 pm
I ask this because I always think that I'm somehow "cheating" when I play a piece that I've played before, and this time not actually having to read everything, but instead letting the score just stimulate he memory of what to do as I move along.

I've had a similar experience where I don't need to actually "read" the score but just having it in view somehow stimulates my hands and my confidence. I never consider this cheating. I just wish I could play more consistently without it. Thanks for your thoughts.
Those are my sentiments exactly!

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Re: Memorizing Pieces

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Fri Jun 30, 2017 9:57 pm

bensonm wrote:
Fri Jun 30, 2017 7:10 pm
I ask this because I always think that I'm somehow "cheating" when I play a piece that I've played before, and this time not actually having to read everything, but instead letting the score just stimulate he memory of what to do as I move along.

I've had a similar experience where I don't need to actually "read" the score but just having it in view somehow stimulates my hands and my confidence. I never consider this cheating. I just wish I could play more consistently without it. Thanks for your thoughts.
How is this "cheating"? In fact, when you are playing a piece (from music) that you've been working on for a while it's supposed to be familiar. You are supposed to anticipate the next passage/notes/chord/etc... If you are performing a piece with the sheet music in front of you and "figuring it out" (IE - figuring out the notes/rhythm/fingering/etc...) then you haven't learnt the piece well enough.
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spanishguitarmusic
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Re: Memorizing Pieces

Post by spanishguitarmusic » Fri Jun 30, 2017 10:36 pm

For me it depends on how difficult the piece is and also if it has hard sections and fingerings. If the piece has a lot of repeated sections that have already been worked out and played through multiple times, it will be much easier to memorize the piece and to keep moving on to the next part or section.

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Aucaman
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Re: Memorizing Pieces

Post by Aucaman » Sat Jul 01, 2017 1:17 am

spanishguitarmusic wrote:
Fri Jun 30, 2017 10:36 pm
If the piece has a lot of repeated sections that have already been worked out and played through multiple times, it will be much easier to memorize the piece and to keep moving on to the next part or section.
If it's an exact repetition, then there's nothing to memorize.
If it's "similar" but with variations here and there, I find it much trickier to memorize and not to confuse the two slightly similar sections.

dtoh
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Re: Memorizing Pieces

Post by dtoh » Sat Jul 01, 2017 3:06 am

If it's cheating to look at notation, is it also cheating to look at the fretboard while you play a "memorized" piece?

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Steve Ganz
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Re: Memorizing Pieces

Post by Steve Ganz » Sat Jul 01, 2017 3:37 am

There are many aspects to memorizing. It's not simple. Environment, stimulus chains, cognitive memorization verses physical memory, expression... I could go on. The process is hard for me, and sometimes frustrating. Some things just make sense to me when I learn them, (and I think readiness is critical) and others just seem obtuse. You are not alone Michael.
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Guitar Slim Jr.
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Re: Memorizing Pieces

Post by Guitar Slim Jr. » Sat Jul 01, 2017 6:06 am

I find that the more difficult a piece is, the easier it is to memorize. I invest more time and effort into the challenging pieces.

Also, the simpler ones tend to be easier to sight-read, and so I have to make a special effort to memorize them. If it's a difficult repertoire piece, by the time I can play it, it's already memorized....

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