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!!!