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Sight-Reading and Memorization. Connections?


paganiniboy
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I have slowly started to notice that over the past few years, My sight reading is getting better and better. And, when I played in the orchestra in El Paso, I was concert master for the sight reading secion of UIL. However, I used to memorize my music SO easy, but, i've been getting worse every year. I can't even play Suzuki 4's anymore w/out the music... Only La Folia in Six I can Play (suzuki)... Is there a connection? Does/Did anyobdy have this problem as well?

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P

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Yes, I also believe that as one becomes more proficient in reading accurately from print, on relies less and less on memory and the skill weakens. I was once singing a piece with a repetitive refrain and about 12 verses. I skipped from verse one to verse 11 and the whole piece, which should have run 6

minutes was knocked off in 46 seconds, and my poor director didn't have the nerve to start over. I also find that when I do memorize, especially instrumental music, I tend to do so more as a mechanical, or muscle based skill.

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Yes this is exactly what I am interested in. I also find that memorizing music tends to become a mechanical reaction for me... Honestly it make me a bit uneasy, I a prefer to be thinking about and anticipating the next music. The other point I really like is that memory is probably like any other part of your body if you do not use it, it will become weaker. During the middle ages people used to memorize entire books etc. and only until recently in history have we had any place to store information other than our minds. Perhaps our memory capacity is becoming genetically depleted.

Tony

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I used to sight-read well but prepare pieces poorly: bad practice habits, awful tone and intonation, etc. Lately I've been better with prepared solos and practicing, but I think my precious sightreading has gone down the tube. Now I have to practice the **** orchestra music!

Maybe you're getting good enough at reading and playing what you see so that you don't have to memorize in order to play fluently and in tempo. You could be getting to the "memorize this piece for next lesson" point faster than your memory can keep up.

Muslims are said to have good memorization and learning ability--probably because many memorize the Koran to recite it during prayer.

-Aman

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Definitely. A lifetime of decent reading skills has made it very tough for me to memorize music at all. It's also tough to get much ambition to practice one set of excercises or sit and decipher a piece of music from a recording. I find that kind of required grunt work to be excruciatingly boring. I guess it's fortunate that I don't have any delusions of musical proficiency anymore, since I just can't bring myself to do what's necessary to make myself better. I'm content with what I can do and that's enough.

I also find that I don't like playing in most gigging types of bands. There's a set repetoire and I get distracted easily. I prefer working from charts (like a jazz combo or swing band) and the extra challenge of sight reading and improvising a nights worth of music. Just tends to keep it more lively for me when the set list changes every night.

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Jane,

Ultimately, both. The problem is that a focus on one or the other can lead to an unhealthy dependence on that discipline. Not being able to memorize tends to drive me crazy. On the other hand, missing the potential spontenaity of being able to read is something I wouldn't want.

They can both be done. I've know session players who could read a whole broadway score cold and pull an entire fake book of tunes out of thier memories at a moment's notice. Simply be aware that both can lead to laziness in one way or another and don't let yourself fall into that trap.

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I think the answer depends on your chosen career path.

If you want to be an amateur (doing lots of chamber music, orchestra work, etc.) or an orchestra player, being able to read things at sight is almost certainly vastly more important -- you will face far more unfamiliar music than familiar music, at least 'til you exposed to the gamut of repertoire.

If you want to be a soloist, memory is going to be vital.

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But, I ask, why is it going to be vital for one to be better at memorization? Not saying the question, "Why is it better for one to be better at memorization *than sight-reading*?" You know? I mean, why is it so horrible for a soloist to play with music anyways? I don't really understand...

In my case, what I WOULD do is, learn the music by heart, or at least close, right? Then, when its time to perform, I'd take the music up w/ me, and when I play, however, I'd look wherever else, the audience, foward, etc... Only when I needed to, i'd take a look at the music. I think of it just like when somebody is giving a speech... They take the words, notes, whatever, up w/ them, but still make sure to look at the audience, or spectators more...

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P

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I can sightread AND memorize.

What really helped was doing Kreutzer, as I ingrained finger patterns into my muscle memory that are used over and over again in real music.

Of course, the repetition of Kreutzer etudes helped my general violin technique so much that memorizing became even easier because I didn't have to think through the technique as much.

I never play as well when I sightread as when I memorize. For me, nothing beats familiarity.

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Ah my dear HKV, I could almost have guessed you could do both perfectly, probably while knitting a saucy little three piece suit with your toes, even before you told us so, but I believe that this was not the issue in discussion for Paganiniboy, and it definitely wasn't for me. What I believe we were interested in was whether or not one skill actually changes, perhaps even varies back and forth over time. In my particular situation I can and do memorize, but I don't like to perform from memory, and memorization is much more at a kinesthetic, proprioceptive level than it was before I became a quick accurate sight reader. Previously I would have described myself as a more gestalt memorizer. I do prefer strongly to depend on print now, especially in a situation in which there is a repetitive theme that varies slightly from the original, perhaps repeats at the octave, slight changes of line or rhythm. On the subject of performance memory lwl, it is also a very interesting subject to me. Preucil recently did "The Lark Ascending" on tv using music, and I believe Rostropovich's Dvorak was also done with music in front of him. The performances of both were sublime, and in no way diminished by a glimpse now and then of the music stand in the corner of the tv screen. There is an archival thread about the subject because it surprised me about Preucil, and I discussed it with others here. I sometimes think personally that memorization is a bit of a parlor trick, in that it does not clearly impact on the quality of the performance. I love to conjecture back and forth on that idea though.

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Ah my dear Ann, you concern yourself too much with my (in)ability to knit 3 piece suits with my toes and too little with my response to the original topic - which I summed up clearly the FIRST time around.

Sight reading relies on already existing technique, which I was able to develop by practicing Kreutzer.

The same goes for memorizing.

I'm not suggesting that paganiniboy try Kreutzer or even attempt to memorize.

I only presented how I managed to solve my own problems of BOTH memorizing and sightreading.

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Sight-Reading and Memorization in the same post? I dont really get it. Some folks are good at one, some the other, some both and some none.

As I stated in another thread, I have close to photographic memory in certain areas, like music, and I thank God that I have this very cool gift, along with perfect pitch, which obviously helps me memorize music.

I, however, cannot tie my shoes, and that is not a joke, it's true. I didnt learn to tie a

necktie until I was 25.

True, a soloist might need to memorize the concertos, but the rest of can use the notes and be content with are lives. Wind Players usually use music in Concertos, its not that they are dumb, they were taught in a different fashion. Unless the use of sheet music gets in the way, why would you care about it? It doesnt seem to affect the Berlin Phil, The Cleveland Orch, the Quarneri quartet, the hollywood session players, etc. If you looked Closely at the academy awards, Perlman had the music at his feet. It obviously didnt get in the way, he sounded great.

Sight Reading, IMHO, is a learned skill. The more you do it, and the more you concentrate, the better you will be. Practicing sight reading makes a lot of sense, and you will improve by doing so. The orchestral excerpt books are great for that, its important to pull out an unkown work and see if you can get through it.

But memory is more of a gift than a learned skill. Sure, it can be greatly improved upon by doing it a lot, and having goals set as to

when you will memorize a piece, but if you dont or cant, nobody should care.

I have seen some posts here saying " If a person use the notes......." "I can tell when someone use the notes" " the only way to play Paganini is from memory", "if you dont have it memorized, you dont really know it".

What a bunch of garbage, it's unfair and untrue. Some folks feel comfortable with the notes, so be it, others play from memory.

Big Deal.

I think some people just have a prejudice when they bring out the music stand for the soloist, they come to a conclusion before hearing the piece. Most soloists who use the

notes dont look at them, it's just a safety net, and in modern music soloists might use the notes if the Orchestra gets off, which happens a lot.

I dare someone to go see the Berlin Phil, as I have many times, and walk out saying

" Well they were OK, but if they didnt use the music it would have been much better".

Ditto any quartet, or any recital, where it is customary to use the notes in Sonatas.

The Concerto thing is a tradition, not a

mandate.

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If you get away from the strictly classical application of these skills, both of them are very useful for the musician who wants to play more outside his/her basement. The more versatile you are, the more situations you'll be sucessful in, period. If you can walk in to a room and can a) sight read a score :) improvise over a country tune with the changes scratched on a napkin c) play a mess of jigs and reels from memory AND d) play "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" at a wedding from a notebook you carry in your bag; you'll be able to get 4 times the gigs than if you could do any single one of them.

And I'm with DavidK, the thing about the music stand hindering a performance is BS. I've known plenty of players that do both as the mood or need suits them. You can't tell.

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quote:

Originally posted by Ann:

saucy little three piece suit with your toes,

Oh! O! Yes, sorry!

er, I think that if it had been me asking the question, I would feel quite happy to know that both could be done, and how to do it, and to hear it from the one with that experience.

I can also agree from experience of the other direction, as I never really felt a problem of anything being remembered until I tried Pag. Cap. One, and that took me a long time to remember, also being finger patterns way different to what I'd ever been playing before then. The technique of it too.

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I'm sorry but I feel obliged to gently point out once again that I don't believe that the majority of very interesting responses here are referring to what Paganini, Tononi, and I are talking about. The phenomenon to which we refer is not about how one achieves the goal of doing either, or whether either is more or less important, or whether one needs one or the other in one area of musical participation. We refer to the fact that there appears to be a fluctuating variable

between reliance upon the eye and reliance upon recall. Again, I repeat as clearly as I am able to do, we are NOT speaking of the means to the end, the virtue of either, or the comparison between those who do it in public or those who don't. And again, HKV, with all due respect, you not only did not sum up THIS point clearly, you entirely missed it.

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I wasn't a good sightreader, and memorizing was not that easy once the technique started getting hard.

Over time, my sightreading got WORSE as my memory got better. This I believe was due to an increasing reliance on the singular input of acquired muscle patterns.

Eventually, I got sick and tired of having to kill myself to memorize things while also being incapable of sightreading easily.

Doing Kreutzer helped train my acquired muscle memory and pattern recognition so that my sightreading wouldn't truly be "sightreading" and my memorizing wouldn't truly be "memorizing".

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Ann:

I can't speak to the memorization aspect, since I don't consciously try to memorize things: it seems to happen pretty much by itself, save for the occasional refractory passage, as a by-product of studying a piece carefully. As for sight-reading, however, my own experience is that it is a skill that suffers from disuse. It takes me a while to get back in the groove if I have gone a spell without doing much demanding reading. And it also seems to me to be greatly influenced by "extrinsic" factors, such as fatigue, distraction, self-consciousness, etc.

HKV:

I think you are right in saying that a roster of ingrained fingering patterns improves one's reading, if for no other reason than that having to improvise choices on the fly is distracting. But I don't see how Kreutzer helps in the reading of 20th century music, where the reading problms are so frequently rooted in rhythmic and intervallic relationships that at first look hit the eye like an icepick to the brain. Such things are not previewed by Kreutzer.

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