I'm urged by my teacher to keep returning to the score. I have a tendency to memorise too quickly, setting the score aside as soon as I can, which I know is not a good thing.
So I now spend longer with the score, trying not to dispense with it too soon. However, I'm finding that my responses to the score change as I progress with the piece, and not necessarily for the better.
This is what happens. At the start of the process, all is well. I make my way through a piece, questioning fingering, adopting it or finding my own. I play over and over, still looking intently at the score because at this stage it hasn't settled into memory.
After a few days, with constant repetition, the swing of the piece begins to take hold in my memory. I can't help that – it just does. I'm still making sure that I intently look at the score. But I'm no longer seeing the notation as I was a few days ago. I'm now, it seems, using the physical patterns of the printed notation on the page to act as my cues to where I am and what I do next. I don't mean to; but this is what is happening. I'm no longer seeing the notes; just black and white patterns on the page which translate into placement of fingers (both hands) in a certain pattern that is specific to that particular part of the physical page.
I've found that this 'pattern recognition' falls apart if in any way the pieces of the pattern change. If, for instance, I'm presented with exactly the same piece of music, but from a different source, the small differences in presentation throw me. It may be that there are 4 bars to a line on one version, but 5 on another. My cues have shifted: bar 18 is no longer where it should be. Or it may be that the actual typeface used for the notes is different, so the thing looks alien. And because I'm no longer 'seeing' the music and the notes – as I had been doing right at the beginning, when I had no memory of either music or score to get in the way – I get lost and confused.
Perhaps, because I'm not completely at home with notation and instant recognition of where notes are right up the fretboard, my brain is stepping in to help me out: it's quicker and more comfortable with pattern recognition than it is with note-to-fretboard deciphering. But ultimately this isn't helping me keep thoroughly in touch with the music itself, which is the whole point of returning to the score. It's a short-hand that I don't want, but which I don't seem able to prevent.
I'm not asking for solutions – I'm sure that time and experience will help. But it is an odd conundrum to be faced with.
"She ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B."
(Dorothy Parker on Katharine Hepburn)