All of the PCS students are in full swing now, preparing for a number of different events that will happening this coming spring semester. For many of these events, including NFMC and PCS Fest, memorization is required. Why is memorization required? Why is there such an emphasis on it?
Freedom of Expression
When a student is able to memorize a piece of music well, it becomes more comfortable to play. There is greater freedom of movement and there is much more room for musical expression and interpretation. Unlike a student who is practically glued to the music, a performer who has successfully memorized his/her piece will be better able to present it to the audience more as a work of art rather than a simple technique exercise.
When a student is required to memorize a piece, it requires more planning and preparation and consequently, there is a little more motivation to practice. Without the memorization requirement, it can be easy to fall into the trap of putting it off. Memorization is simply not something that can be “put off.” Consequently, with the greater need for practice, students often perform better when they are required to play from memory.
Although it’s not expected that every student become the next Rubenstein, PCS teachers do wish their students to have the full experience of what it is like to be a musician. Playing from memory is part of what it is like to be a musician. It’s more professional and sets a higher standard for the student to work toward.
So memorization is necessary—what are some good ways to try and memorize a piece? The following are a few “tricks of the trade”:
Work in small sections
Instead of trying to memorize a piece by playing in from beginning to end over and over again, divide the piece up into small sections of one or two measures and drill just those measures. It will be a whole lot less frustrating that way!
Work end to beginning
Another way to memorize is to work from the end of the piece to the beginning. For example, start working on memorizing the last line of the piece. Once that is accomplished, start working on the second to last line. Memorizing it backwards prevents too strong of a reliance on muscle memory.
Look for patterns/repeated sections
Scan through the music and look for patterns that repeat. Once these sections have been identified, mark them in sections (e.g. A, B, C) and then set out a plan of attack. For one day, work on memorizing the A sections, another day the C section, another the B, etc.
Believe it or not, playing slowly is a great way to work on memorizing a piece. As opposed to playing fast (and relying more on muscle memory) practicing playing by memory very slowly requires greater thought and really solidify memorization of a piece of music.
Enjoy trying out some of these suggestions in the coming weeks and seeing how much easier it is to memorize pieces for the upcoming NFMC, PCS Fest, and recitals!