The 4 Stages of Memorization

With content straight from his book, The Musician’s Way (reviewed by Natalie back in 2010), Mr. Gerald Klickstein shares 4 well-thought-out and practical stages for memorization on his blog. Each stage has some really helpful strategies for becoming a more proficient memorizer, and whether you’re a student or teacher, you’d be doing yourself a favor by learning about them and then choosing at least one to try implementing. :)  Enjoy!
ht: Facebook; http://musiciansway.com/blog/2010/05/the-four-stages-of-memorization/

Have you ever been blindsided by a memory lapse? Maybe you felt secure in practice, but, during a performance, you blanked on a passage.

I suspect that every musician has felt the jolt of memory slips.

I also believe that memory glitches could be far less common because secure memorization involves concepts and skills that any musician can learn.

This post summarizes a 4-part framework that helps both singers and instrumentalists become masterful memorizers. 

All of these ideas are fleshed out in Chapter 4 of The Musician’s Way.

Stage 1: Perception
Deep perception makes for solid memory. When we grasp the inner workings of a composition as well as how we want to shape each phrase, those rich connections lead to steadfast recall.

In contrast, shallow perception – especially that rooted solely in muscle or tactile memory – readily falls apart under pressure. Here are strategies that deepen our perceptions of a piece.

a. Clarify the compositional structure. Identify where sections and phrases begin and end; look for rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic patterns.
b. Fashion a vivid interpretive map. Explore the emotional feel of every phrase; pinpoint where phrases peak and repose; write in dynamic and articulation signs.
c. Form a robust technical map. Before you begin to memorize, verify that fingerings, bowings, tonguings, diction, and so forth are unmistakable; ensure that you can easily execute from score. If you feel flooded, choose easier music.

Stage 2: Ingraining
Ingraining is the means whereby we lay down enduring memory tracks. But beware: ingraining necessarily involves repetition, yet only mindful repetitions will do.

a. Plan your practice. Schedule frequent memorization sessions in which you restrict the amount of music that you memorize – if you exceed your limit, much of what you absorb could become scrambled. Also get ample sleep to allow your brain to consolidate what you’ve learned.
b. Combine imaging with executing. Mentally image a portion of music from memory before you attempt to play or sing it; if anything seems fuzzy, review with the score. In general, execute a portion securely from memory three times in a row, then steadily link portions.
c. Employ diverse memory types. Memory types include conceptual, aural, kinesthetic, and visual. To highlight different types, you might play hands alone, re-examine chord progressions, sing bass lines, recite song text without singing, or write out tricky passages. Most of all, savor every phrase that you play or sing so that the music vibrates with meaning.

Stage 3: Maintenance
Even if we ingrain deeply, unless we maintain our memory, the mental connections we form will gradually disintegrate. Here are strategies that keep memories strong…KEEP READING!!!

 

Musaic – A New Treasure Trove of Advice from Music Professionals!

As I’ve attended music teacher workshops and conferences over the years, one of the highlights has always been attending master classes. I love watching other teachers interact with students and gleaning insights that I can utilize in my own teaching. Musaic – an initiative of New World Symphony – seeks to bring masterclasses and dozens of other videos from professional musicians right to your fingertips! In addition to masterclasses, you can view a growing collection of performances, tips, and how-to videos that will prove beneficial to music teachers and students alike. What a great project!

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HT: The Musician’s Way Newsletter (November-December 2014)

New Music Matters Blog Store – 50% Off Everything for 1 Week!

Even though things are a bit quieter on the blog these days, I’ve been doing some updates behind-the-scenes to make things run more efficiently. One of those updates is the integration of a brand new Music Matters Blog store! I’m super excited to get this up and running, but I need some help to make sure that it’s working correctly. So, for anyone willing to help me iron out any glitches I’m offering an unprecedented 50% off EVERYTHING in the store for 1 week! All you have to do is select any item(s) and enter the following coupon code when you checkout: 6SYWB4GOH36M. (The code will expire on Tuesday, November 18.)

You have to use the links in this post to go to the new (beta) Music Matters Blog store so that the coupon code will work properly. I’m planning to add some sample pages for all of the products so that you will be able to sneak a peek at the Practice Incentive Themes, Piano Camp Programs, and Games. You’ll also notice that I’ve included my published books (physical books that will be shipped to you if you order them!) and a category for Piano Books and Sheet Music. In the course of downsizing my studio, I have hundreds of brand new piano books and pieces of sheet music that I’m going to be listing and making available at 50% off the retail price. Stay tuned as I get these uploaded to the site – there are lots of goodies!

I really appreciate your help and support in getting all of this up and running and making Music Matters Blog as helpful of a resource as it can be for music teachers and enthusiasts. If you have any comments, suggestions, or things you’d like to see included in the store or on the site, please feel free to send me an e-mail and let me know! Happy shopping!

Review & Giveaway of SingTrue


One thing I really like about this new app on the market called, SingTrue, is its option to try an activity “just one more time” and see if you can do better. It’s a strange balance between getting you hooked (addicted) and being intrigued (the possibility of improving), that I haven’t experienced in an app before. Sure, plenty of games-especially popular electronic ones-have these elements, but they’re rarely helpful for stimulating one’s mind, voice, and ears.Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.46.41 AM

From the creators of the Relative Pitch and Tone Deaf Test apps, SingTrue is designed for singers and non-singers alike who want a fun, portable way to improve-even discover-their singing voice.

Here’s a quick visual summary of SingTrue:

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If you didn’t quite catch how it works, here’s the run down:

  1. Opening SingTrue will take you to the home page. On the home page you can view your profile (your current level, your eXperience Points, your number of lives that are indicated by hearts…). From here, you can also select your module, view other apps, sign up for singing tips, write feedback, and read a little notice that says, “More Modules Coming Soon…” :)IMG_8231IMG_8232
  2. Once you’ve entered a module, you can then choose a sub-module (ears, voice, mind), and then from there, you can do any of the available exercises. Some modules have just a few exercises, while others have ones that are locked until you’ve reached a certain level or passed the requirements for the preceding exercise. And then there are some exercises that can only be accessed if you purchase the “full app” version of SingTrue.IMG_8233
  3. After selecting an exercise, some brief onscreen instructions will appear and then you begin. Most of the exercises require very little time and are quite fun and mostly painless, but really seem to get your brain going-at least it did mine! :) Once you’re finished, it will show the stats of your performance and whether you lost a life or earned a star.IMG_8234IMG_8235IMG_8236IMG_8237

I really liked seeing my personal progress/regression because it motivated me to keep striving for better…and better…and better…:)

Even though I don’t think SingTrue will ever be able to compare to the sound and instruction quality of having an actual voice teacher, or is as thorough as the eMedia Singing Method program, it is incredibly convenient and portable which are perks an actual teacher nor the eMSM can offer. Plus, SingTrue was just released, so I’m sure we can expect many improvements and updates to come!

To find out more about SingTrue and/or download it follow the links below…but wait…SingTrue has offered a “full app” giveaway for MMB readers! All you have to do to enter is comment to let me know you’re in and one lucky participant will receive a special code to receive full app privileges for SingTrue.

SingTrue Website

SingTrue Download (Compatible only with iPhones)

 

Integrated Learning

One of the things that I love about teaching piano is the challenge of figuring out how to integrate every part of the student’s learning so that they understand concepts in a relevant way. One of the ways this can be done very effectively is through structured improvisation assignments.

If you’ve been a reader on Music Matters Blog for any length of time you know that I’m a huge fan of Pattern Play as the most effective approach I’ve found to truly teaching improvisation at the piano. But now that most of my students (and I!) have become more comfortable improvising, we create a variety of assignments from week to week that utilize improvising as a way to help students cement various musical concepts.

Right now Mercy is learning chord inversions as part of her Theory and Technique section in our C2 practice incentive theme, so this was the short piece she improv-ed using a c-minor chord and inversions:

It’s amazing how much more exciting and relevant theory concepts are when you see them become a creative expression like this!

Do You Find Joy in What You Do?

I suppose an easier way to phrase this question is, “Do you enjoy your job?” But the more I’ve thought about the question the way it’s phrased in the title, it’s proven to be very thought-provoking. You see, I’ve found from my own human nature, as well as talking to other people, that no matter what occupation we find ourselves in, it seems there’s always something we can complain about. And the nature of our complaints can range from feeling tired, to griping about unhappy clients, to not getting a big enough paycheck or wanting a raise, to systems not working properly, to an unreasonable amount of stress, to an uncomfortable inconvenience such as spilling water down the front of your shirt. Yes, all of these unfortunate circumstances could justify our complaining, but complaining does no one any real good. It exhausts those around you or feeds their own ungrateful spirit and causes a negative attitude to emerge. And letting a negative/ungrateful attitude take root clouds our ability to see the good things we’ve been given and find joy in our work and life.

As I’ve been evaluating this area in my own life, I’ve been asking myself, “Why is it so hard to NEVER complain? Why can’t I just always be thankful for everything?” I have come to believe that the honest truth is that it’s a part of our fallen human nature. Because of this nature we’re apt to be greedy, ungrateful, impatient, etc. However, there’s another nature we’re imprinted with, and that’s the nature of a perfect God who gives us exhortations like these…

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. –Ephesians 5:16-18

Do all things without grumbling or disputing,… -Philippians 2:14

Because of these two natures that battle within us, we have to make a choice each and every day: give in to our flesh (complain/be ungrateful) or be filled with joy and thankfulness.
Whether you’re working your dream job or not, every occupation is going to have its ups-and-downs; its good days and bad days. But having a thankful attitude will make a world of difference for when those downs and bad days arise! Over the past week or so I’ve been discovering just how much of a difference being thankful can make…

…When you’re about to complain that you have to go in to work, you can find joy in the fact that you have a job.

…When you’re about to complain about working with unappreciative people, you can still find joy in serving people.

…When you’re about to complain that your products are going unnoticed, you can still find joy in the fact that you had the resources to make something that could potentially impact someone’s work and life.

Our attitude greatly affects our relationships, work productivity, and influence. So let’s inspire people by tossing aside tendencies to complain and use those moments to be thankful and find joy in what we do!

Welcome to Fall Special Coupon!

I know I’m a few days after the official beginning of fall, but I’m sure enjoying the gorgeous days! So, in honor of another fall of teaching, I’m offering a special sale in the Music Matters Blog store. You can get $5 off any order by entering the following coupon code when you checkout: 05355663

By far, the favorite item in the store is 5 for Fun! Games and Activities for the Private Piano Lesson. These are tried and true games that we have used for years in the studio. Last year, my students loved perusing this book and selecting games they wanted to play as part of the e.p.i.c. practice incentive. But I also find myself referring to the book to pick out specific games to help reinforce a concept I’m working on with a student.

The coupon will be good until next Friday, October 10, so have fun picking out any item you’d like! Hope you all are enjoying a lovely fall of teaching!

Welcome to My New Studio!

Whew! What a year this has been! After getting married last December, I continued teaching full-time through the spring semester while also adjusting to being a full-time wife and mother of four. For the sake of continuity for my students (and preserving my own sanity!), we opted to leave the studio at my parents’ house until this summer. I wanted to have a good chunk of time to go through the entire studio, get rid of things I no longer needed, and then move everything over to the new studio in as organized a manner as possible. Not to mention that the new studio still looked like this at the beginning of summer:

What, you don’t think that looks like an inviting studio, either?! :-)

Thankfully, my awesome and artistic husband had a vision for bringing life to our old, dark basement, and we employed some talented friends to help us make my new studio a dream come true! Now I get to enjoy this colorful and inspiring environment every day:

We have almost no natural light in our basement, so we wanted to use colors that would make the area feel bright and welcoming. The waiting area is just outside the studio and has lots of space for families to sit and play games, read a book, or hang out and talk. We’re hoping to put bi-fold French doors on the studio entrance, but that will have to be part of Phase II!

Here’s a closer look into the studio where you can see my desk along the back wall, the Clavinova and piano on the side wall, and then a beautiful entertainment cupboard that houses our printer and shelves with extra paper and envelopes. You can also catch a glimpse of this year’s practice incentive theme: C2: igniting the power within!

I just have to let you peak in my closet because it’s one of the most exciting parts of the studio for me! We picked up this handy shelving system at Lowe’s and some plastic drawer organizers at Walmart, and now everything is neatly organized and easily accessible from anywhere in the studio. I love being able to reach over and grab whatever I need while I’m teaching, but then close the doors and have a squeaky clean-looking studio at the end of the day.

Here’s a view of the other side of our waiting area/library where we have lots of books to peruse while relaxing in one of our comfy chairs. And in between lessons, feel free to plug in a guitar and jam away. :-)

I’m thoroughly loving my new studio and look forward to posting more now that we’re settled and full-swing into a new year of piano lessons. Hope you enjoyed the virtual tour and that your year of teaching is off to a great start!