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Memorize the piece?


chicklet
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What's the best way to memorize a piece? Do you just play it hundreds times until your fingers would naturally fall on the places, or you would put in the effort to try to memorize the piece? for example, like a few measures at a time until you memorize the whole piece. I have been playing violin for about 1.5 yrs.

Any tips would be appreciated!

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I tend to be a measure by measure memorizer. Although I find that some parts just appear in my memory as if by magic, and others I have to work at and still seem to struggle with-so for those I do one or two bars at a time. BUT...I'm an adult beginner so I always tell my teacher I can't possible memorize pieces because I have the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease.

(She never falls for it, though!)

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I memorize best phrase by phrase, whether or not that falls into a measure. If I memorize "by fingers" only, there's more of a chance to stumble, which makes it hard to get back into the flow. I think it's usually a bit of a mix though, ultimately. If you play the piece a lot while trying to memorize it, your fingers are going to know the drill anyway.

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Break the piece into logical sections and label them in your score; A, A' (that's A prime - a section closely related to A), B, C, or clue words, or a mix.

In addition to practicing from beginning to end, practice from the end of the piece (last section), to the beginning, adding one section each time you work through. You'll be giving yourself more repetitions on the last sections, and the piece will get easier and more familiar as you go along when you play the entire piece.

Make a musical map of the piece by writing out the section labels and the first measure or something unique about each labeled section. Then practice from your map instead of the music. That will give you an intermediate step between the score and nothingness!

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There are of course many many ways to memorize a piece, but the best and fastest is just to get rid of the music, and play until you mess up. Once you mess up, really look at the music where you slipped up and figure out exactly what you did wrong. Once you've gotten through the piece, and can get through it with the notes accurate, you should go back and study the dynamics, and memorize those.

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Good point.

On another note, after I get somewhat comfortable with a piece, I sometimes read in "chunks". While this is good for not staring at the sheet music when playing, it can hinder if a note or two off. So after I've played a piece for a bit, I'll revisit it with a good reading of each and every note, with and without the instrument.

Also, I'll play pizzicato once in a while, so I can focus more on the notes rather than the tone.

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I have never seen direct research on the best way to memorize violin music, although it may exist and I have not done a search in the journals. However, I suspect the same principles apply as does learing any new skill, which is to do an number of repeats for lets say 5 to 15 minutes at 4 or five intervals each day. The spaced memorized system works far better than one long session.

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Listen to a recording over and over again while driving around in your car, in addition to practicing at home. Then, start fingering the notes while listening to the recording, or sing the piece while you're walking around town, and finger the notes as you sing it. When you get stuck, listen to the recording and remind yourself of what you missed. If you forget fingerings & bowings, bring the

music along in the car, or remind yourself at your next practice session. I have discovered that I don't have to spend any practice time memorizing. It can mostly be done away from the instrument. Then your practice time can be spent working on technique, dynamics, bowing, etc.

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In reply to:

or sing the piece while you're walking around town, and finger the notes as you sing it


I can just imagine the looks one would get walking around town, singing a piece while fingering an imaginary violin. Better yet, stopping periodically to retune or correct a mistake.

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I would never recommend listening to a recording to help memory. Listening to a single recording over and over again would absolutely destroy the integrity of your interpretation. It will affect you in ways you don't realize. Instead, take the time to sit down and study the score (not while driving!) and deduce the reason for every mark. Once you know the composer's reasons and intentions, memorizing becomes less about notes and more about ideas, which makes memorization easier! If you have trouble hearing the score in your head, pick it out on a piano, but don't take the easy way out and listen to a recording.

All of this IMHO, of course

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Recording and listening to yourself is a different story. You can learn so much about your playing by listening to a recording of yourself that its value easily overrides to possible drawback of permanently stamping a silly interpretive idea on your brain. Just try to remember that interpretation is a process, never a destination.

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