Do you memorize a piece before performing?

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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Shalludog
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Location: Ocean Park, WA

Do you memorize a piece before performing?

Post by Shalludog » Sun May 12, 2019 2:47 pm

Do you memorize a piece before performing it, or do you use sheet music while performing in front of others? I'm interested in your thoughts and qualifications, i.e, are there situations in which you'll perform a piece you have not yet memorized and other situations in which you will only performed memorized pieces?
Thanks!

Kevin L Benbow
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Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2012 8:40 pm

Re: Do you memorize a piece before performing?

Post by Kevin L Benbow » Sun May 12, 2019 3:01 pm

I almost always use memorized material. Last year when performing duets I kept the score in front of me as I did not have a great deal of time to memorize.
Purnell #93
Cordoba C12
Admira Virtuoso (c. 1999).

Rognvald
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Re: Do you memorize a piece before performing?

Post by Rognvald » Sun May 12, 2019 3:03 pm

If I really want to say something musically, I memorize the piece where my main focus is interpretation. However, when I play gigs, I read quite a lot of music to keep it interesting. I hope this helps. Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

Shalludog
Posts: 27
Joined: Wed Jan 02, 2019 4:02 pm
Location: Ocean Park, WA

Re: Do you memorize a piece before performing?

Post by Shalludog » Sun May 12, 2019 7:59 pm

I appreciate your responses and how your practice varies with the performance. When I was playing jazz standards I had most songs memorized. With classical I am trying to add a few different pieces to my repertoire and memorizing seems daunting. However, quality interpretation, in my experience, comes after memorization.

Kevin L Benbow
Posts: 505
Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2012 8:40 pm

Re: Do you memorize a piece before performing?

Post by Kevin L Benbow » Tue May 28, 2019 4:08 am

For what it's worth, I find that the sheer repetition involved in learning a piece results in memorization by default.
Purnell #93
Cordoba C12
Admira Virtuoso (c. 1999).

nickfallerguitar
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Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:18 pm
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Re: Do you memorize a piece before performing?

Post by nickfallerguitar » Tue May 28, 2019 2:53 pm

I almost always memorize solo pieces but sometimes use sheet music for chamber music/gigs. I find splitting my focus between reading and playing keeps me from performing at 100% and the confidence that comes with really knowing a piece inside and out really helps with any performance anxiety.

In terms of what you said about it being daunting to add more pieces to your repertoire, just take things slowly and memorize in small chunks of 2-4 bars at a time, gradually combining them into larger sections. Good memorization can't be rushed!

Good luck :)
Nicholas Faller

dhbailey52
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Re: Do you memorize a piece before performing?

Post by dhbailey52 » Wed May 29, 2019 9:54 am

I'm involved in so many widely varied types of music that memorization is difficult for me. I conduct a community band, I play trumpet mainly (classical and jazz) but also mandolin, violin, guitar (steel-string for many years but just starting with classical), bass (bass guitar and upright bass) and I don't have the time for memorization of all the music I work on. While I have some music memorized through sheer repetition, memorization of anything has always been difficult for me (even back in elementary school where in 5th grade we were required to memorize a different poem each week and recite it to the teacher). I've always been jealous of people like my brother-in-law who can play so much great music by ear. But on the other hand, he's jealous of me because I can sight-read practically anything (not classical guitar music yet because I'm still learning) and he can't read music at all.

Having said that, for performances I work the pieces up to where they are very solidly learned and I use the printed music more as a safety-net reminder to remind myself of what's coming up instead of having to stare at every note, so the music is all-but-memorized.

Tim22
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Location: England

Re: Do you memorize a piece before performing?

Post by Tim22 » Thu May 30, 2019 7:40 pm

This interests me, because I have a continuous internal debate about whether I should be memorising pieces or not. I have my own arrangements of European folk tunes fairly well committed to memory, but I have not attempted to memorise classical pieces which are often longer, more complicated and with fewer repeated phrases. From what others say here, I am starting to feel that for my playing to ever be of a good enough standard to play in front of others, I should work on memorising, so that I can really start to focus on playing musically, rather than just striving to accurately play the notes from the printed page. So I'd like to ask a follow up question. How many pieces do people find they are able to memorise effectively? I realise this is a slightly obtuse question, as pieces vary in length and complexity and we're all different, but I would be interested to know, in general terms. I suppose things that have been memorised can be forgotten if not revisited, but then, hopefully, the re-memorisation process would not take as long as from scratch. Anyway, I would be interested to hear thoughts on 'memory capacity' as it were, and I shall commence the memorisation of a piece when I practise later!
Tim, in the UK, playing an Almansa 434.

Smudger5150
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Re: Do you memorize a piece before performing?

Post by Smudger5150 » Thu May 30, 2019 9:02 pm

Tim22 wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 7:40 pm
... How many pieces do people find they are able to memorise effectively? ...
I asked a similar question here:-
viewtopic.php?f=4&t=115583
"Music washes away the dust of every day life." Art Blakey

"If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, the critics know it. And if I don’t practice for three days, the public knows it." Louis Armstrong

Tim22
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2018 10:19 pm
Location: England

Re: Do you memorize a piece before performing?

Post by Tim22 » Fri May 31, 2019 7:57 pm

Thank you Smudger5150. The above-linked thread is very interesting and relevant to anyone interested in memorising pieces. I suppose a concern of mine around memorising is that without regularly returning to the score, a memorised piece could, over time, become altered and inaccurate, due to the peculiarities of memory. The way a friend I have always misquotes lines from films but is convinced that his memory is accurate. I suppose the answer to this is to ensure the score is returned to every once in a while. I suppose it's also obvious that one's ability to memorise is going to be closely linked to the amount of practice time available to you. I was encouraged by the people who state that memorisation is not necessary as long as you can read the music well and you really have learnt the piece well. In these situations I suppose the score is more of an aide-memoir. I imagine, and I suppose to an extent this is my experience, a really well-learnt piece is not a million miles from a memorised one. Consequently I guess it is vital to have really learnt and to really be able to play a piece, before one has any thoughts of memorising it.
Tim, in the UK, playing an Almansa 434.

dhbailey52
Posts: 35
Joined: Mon May 13, 2019 10:16 am

Re: Do you memorize a piece before performing?

Post by dhbailey52 » Thu Jun 06, 2019 8:30 am

One thing to keep in mind in considering memorization or not is that memorization is not a guarantee of being able to play the music musically and not mechanically. I've heard lots of people play from memory where it's obvious they mechanically memorized what they should do and that's all they can do when they play -- play it mechanically. I've also heard lots of people have the music in front of them and play it more musically than I'll ever be able to play it, sometimes playing it for the first time even. Musicianship is a factor of the person playing the music, not a factor at all of whether the music is being read from paper/tablet or is being played from memory. A good musician is a good musician.

Personally I feel most relaxed and most able to be the best musician I can be when I do have the music on the stand in front of me. Using it like an aide-memoir, as you suggest. Of course one of the goals we should all develop is the ability to play musically no matter whether we're playing a piece for the thousandth time or playing it the very first time. Thinking about timing and tone as well as reading the articulations and the dynamics should always take place, even the first time playing a piece.

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