Proven Strategies to Enhance Your Memorization

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Proven Strategies to Enhance Your Memorization

Post by nickfallerguitar » Fri Jan 25, 2019 4:20 pm

Hello guitar friends!

I just wanted to share a post on memorization that I recently sent to my mailing list. Hopefully you'll find it helpful :D
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Imagine this: you've spent weeks preparing your music for an upcoming recital. Hours upon hours have been poured into shaping each and every note. The lights dim as you walk onstage, your friends and family watching eagerly from the audience. You sit down, shaking slightly with anticipation as you prepare to play the first note, and....

Nothing. You draw a blank.

Sound familiar? If this sounds like you, you're not alone. Many students never truly develop a sound strategy for memorizing music. They simply walk out onstage and hope that the muscle memory they've accumulated from their hours in the practice room carries them through to the end. As a savvy musician, you know better than that, though. In your practice time, you need to utilize as many different strategies for memorization as possible, so that you always have a backup if one fails. By taking advantage of several methods of memorization, you can walk out onstage with a cool, confident smile, worry free as you glide fluidly and effortlessly through your repertoire.

Here are a few strategies I use:

Step 1: Work in small chunks
An easy one: Divide the music up into very small chunks, no larger than 2-4 measures each. The smaller the better.


Step 2: Start building up your muscle memory
Muscle memory is the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought, acquired as a result of frequent repetition of this movement. While it shouldn't be your only method of memorization, building muscle memory is an extremely effective strategy.

With the music in front of you, slowly play through your first small chunk of music. Repeat this process 10+ times until you feel like you can reliably play this chunk at a slow speed. Ensure that you are playing every note correctly and that your fingers are moving confidently and accurately.

IMPORTANT: I highly suggest that you start this process after you have made your decisions on left and right hand fingering. It is critical that you are playing through each chunk in the exact same way every time in order to build secure muscle memory.

Step 3: Visualize
Now you build on your muscle memory with another key strategy: Visualization. Visualization in its most basic sense, means closing your eyes and reproducing the imagery associated with playing your instrument, without the actual physical feedback of playing the guitar.

Close your eyes, and try to visualize the movements of your right and left hands in as much detail as possible. Try to picture the musical score in your mind's eye. If you can visualize through the music without a problem, great! If there are gaps in your memory, go back to the score and review the trouble spots in more detail before trying again!

Step 4: Test yourself
Grab your instrument and try to play through the chunk without the score. Research says that regular periods of testing promote long term retention of material (see: ... ss/283195/). Test your work by playing the chunk a few times through without the score, going back and reviewing trouble spots as needed. Not only will you cement the music into your long term memory, you'll build a lot of confidence with each successful repetition!

Step 5: Repeat
Repeat this process with each chunk, eventually combining them into larger sections. Before you know it, you'll have memorized the entire piece!

Practice hard,

Nicholas Faller

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Re: Proven Strategies to Enhance Your Memorization

Post by Carlos » Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:16 pm

Thanks Nick, this is very useful!

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Julian Ward
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Re: Proven Strategies to Enhance Your Memorization

Post by Julian Ward » Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:35 pm

This is a massive subject but experience will tell you that muscle memory reliance is a certain failure. You have got to be able to visualise the piece all the way through. Takes some doing but it is the only true way - muscle memory of course comes first. Some people can actually visualise the score. I cannot really do this, only sections. But I can visualise what I am meant to be doing, in my head. It is a facsinating subject...
Classical guitar teacher

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Re: Proven Strategies to Enhance Your Memorization

Post by Trent » Wed Jan 30, 2019 12:30 pm

Thank you! This is an interesting topic to me, as a beginning guitarist, because I am trying to establish the most effective practice routine for my available time and skill level. One of the things I am working on is the memorization of the pieces, which seems to slow my progress down. This will be very helpful.

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