Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Why Memorize?


Gray Violiner
 Share

Recommended Posts

This subject came up recently for me and I hadn't really noticed much discussion about it.

Exactly why is memorization of pieces such a big deal for classical soloists? It seems that it's most acceptable for Perlman and Zukerman to use music when they play duets in concert, most chamber groups use music and obviously any orchestra uses music. Why is it considered something akin to a sin in the classical world for a soloist (at most any level) to use music?

It's a bit of a sore spot for me as I took a nasty blow to my head when I was 16 (a million years ago) and memorization is very difficult for me. I'm not looking to be a concert violinist, so it's no big deal in my own little world, but I've always wondered why there is almost a double standard for soloists.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1. Tradition

2. Looks cool

3. Some say "you know the tune better" ( I don't)

I am a freak, I memorize everything, but it doesnt bother me if people use the notes. I have been a judge at 20 Concerto competitions, and we have had brutal debates about this subject.

Wind players use the notes a lot when they solo. Why? They were not trained to memorize like young string players.

I am always baffled at first when I see a principal bassoonist of a major band use the notes to the Mozart Concerto. My first thought is " Dude, there is only one major Concerto, you have played it for 30 years and you don't have it memorized?" Then I realize, they not only weren't trained for this, but it is not part of the tradition for windies.

With that, I bid you good morning, and have a pleasant day, your friend, Le Dave

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Using music ties down some performers (such as me). I have a hard time memorizing, but if I don't, I find myself glued to the pages. When I have something memorized, I'm more aware of what's going on around me and I'm more free to do little things with the music which I've not done in the practice room.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree. My playing is much better when I know the piece by heart. Everything (and I mean everything) improves: tone quality, intonation, expression, all of it. The trouble is that right now I have a lot of pieces only partially memorized, so I tend to stop looking at the music during parts I know well, and will get lost when I come to the bits I don't have memorized. It's actually safer for me to perform with the sheet music and not try to play from memory, since I'm a good sight reader, but I'd prefer to have it all memorized. Of course, the older I get, the longer it takes to commit something to memory. For example, right now I'm rambling because I forgot what this thread was about...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Im the same way, memorizing comes really slow. I spend 3 hours on 1 page just to learn it correctly. Then I can start practicing.

Reading makes me think, but when performing there is no time to think of what note comes next.

The goal is not to think but to feel, when the notes are second nature is when you have control of things like dynamics, phrasing, etc.

A second reason (for me) is what if you are playing outdoors and the music blows away in the wind?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Somebody who knows the nuts and bolts of this will have to explain it because I can't, but playing from paper and playing from memory are two different brain tasks. I was a wonderful memorizer before I learned to be a really strong sight reader, then my ability to memorize went south. I was once singing Brazilian Psalm, which has a repeated phrase with changing tropes (seems like a million of them). I sang the first one and skipped to the last one, the whole choir went with me and a piece that should have been eleven minutes long was over in less than a minute. Our poor director had to accept the rather incongruous applause, then go back and do the whole thing over again. Such are the idiosyncracies of memory. (Or lack of....)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

memorizing has troubled me since the day i started playing music. I'm so much more confident playing w/ music bc when I'm without it, I'm constantly worrying about forgetting the notes,etc. to pay attention to dynamics, style, etc. its been hard personally to memorize pages and pages of violin and piano music for teachers who adamently stated that playing w/ music is "un-professional". I KNOW I would do a better job with the music. It's just how it works for me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suppose that's all well and good, but why doesn't that same sentiment cross into duets/quartets/etc.? THIS is my question. It seems the memorization issue only applies to soloists. Frankly it impresses the devil out of me that musicians can memorize an entire concerto, but I realize people at that level started playing in the womb versus old farts like myself that started at 39. And playing a concerto as written for an hour is quite a bit different than a jazz/country/bluegrass/etc. musician that takes a theme and runs variations on it for an hour. While that also impresses the devil out of me, missed notes aren't an issue because the musician is doing their own thing. Maybe I need to switch over to another genre so I can just play what feels right and sounds good instead of being a slave to notes on a page.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For what it's worth...

My orchestra played the Schumann Cello Concerto last night. The soloist was a professional that we hired from London. She was superb. I was really surprised, but she used the music for her performance.

I didn't get a chance to query her about it, but it didn't seem to affect her performance. I would almost bet that she could have played from memory, but she chose to use the music.

Although it's unusual not to play from memory, some professoinals do use the music--and they don't seem to be any worse for the wear...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My guess is that whether or not the soloist uses the music does not objectively affect the quality of the performance, but only the audience's perception of it. I also think that a lot of soloists think memorization is expected even if it does not affect the objective quality. I am for whatever works for the soloist.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Perhaps one view might be that the audience pays to see a polished performance. Just a thought but it's like a contract and part of the contract for the exchange of the ticket fee paid must not only include playing well but looking good too. If it weren't like that, then we can have solists in shorts and slippers on stage (or in Steve's case, just a thimble)although they play like Heifetz.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In reply to:

I wonder how Broadway singers or rock stars or theatre actors would come across reading their parts.


When we saw Paul McCartney in Philadelphia last summer he had flat panel video screens alongside the stage monitor speakers. The video screens were scrolling the lyrics to the songs that he wrote and sang a zillion times during his 40 + year career. Maybe they were just security against a sudden case of brain deadness.

What Pag said make sense to me. I have to hear it in my heart to play it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.


×
×
  • Create New...