[Menvi-discuss] Thoughts on Memorization

Karen Gearreald karen118 at cox.net
Mon Apr 15 18:40:07 EDT 2019

Kathleen Cantrell is right: we should not compare ourselves with other
musicians regarding any skill or talent, such as speed or comfort in
memorization.  Each of us has unique strengths and weaknesses, and the
demands of various types of music also influence our learning.  The melody
and words of standard popular songs readily go together for me, but the
contrapuntal voices of a Bach invention are not so easy.  For contrapuntal
music I rely heavily on muscle memory.  For contemporary Christian pieces,
in which the melody and tempo and style may vary from soloist to soloist, I
focus on chord structures so that the soloist and I can stay together
regardless of melodic differences.

I also agree that the time of day makes a huge difference.  I'm definitely a
morning memorizer.  In addition, I memorize most effectively if I can clear
way any mental or emotional or physical distractions that may be hindering
the process.  Another factor is the sheer enjoyment of the music.  It's hard
to memorize a piece that doesn't appeal to me.

As much as possible, I like to be able to hear the music in my mind.  This
is a necessary skill when, for example, I'm accompanying the congregation in
a medley of hymns at church.  When nearing the end of a song, I need to
think ahead to the one that is coming next.  In advance I think through the
process so that I can logically introduce the song--by playing the last four
measures, for example.  For security I practice such transitions at home
before I come to church.  This is just one instance of the complexity of
memorization.  Memorization works best, I think, if we know why and when and
how we'll probably be performing the piece, whether at a lesson or in
public.  In preparation for a lesson, it may not be necessary to memorize a
whole piece, such as an entire sonata:  one movement or section or even a
few measures may suffice, according to the goals of the teacher and student.

						Karen Gearreald  

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