Memorising music

Does anyone have any tips for memorising a piece of music? I’m working on the chanter, and am trying to memorise, by clsoing my eyes and playing a phrase at a time, over and over.

I’m having some luck, if I just let my fingers go and not think about it, but then I consciously try to think of the next notes, and stumble.

Anyone have any bright ideas?

I played the piano from kindergarten to the end of high school, and I would say that you’re going about it the right way. I’m afraid that I don’t have any really helpful tips because I learned when I was young, and now it just comes naturally.

With longer, more important, pieces though, I was encouraged to immerse myself in it - pop a copy in my discman while on the train to work, listen to it while on the computer, etc. Eventually you get to know the piece by ear, and it’s only a short time before the mind/hands follow. :slight_smile:

When I was in marching band, we had to memorize 12 minutes of music. I remember doing it by breaking it down; first page, second page, etc. Usually, I’d play through it 8-9 times, then read through it without playing it (sound it out in your head) 2-3 times. Then I’d flip the sheet over and play. It’s important to keep going as long as you can, even if you hit a few dud notes; those will come, it’s the overall phrasing to catch at first. I could usually memorize 1 page in an average 2 hour practice session. After that, its just simple repetition. Start out each of your practice blocs by reviewing what you’ve learned.

Before you ask, yes I did have rather complicated music; I was lead trombone. My last piece of advice is stay positive, as its really easy to get discouraged on difficult passages. If you really cannot get a section, leave it and come back, or you’ll get a mental block on it, and then it’s really hard to memorize properly. Do a section that you know is reasonably simpler till your confidence to try the rough part returns.

Hope this helps, as it really is rewarding when you can finally play it!

I play the Irish flute and whistles so my advice may be a little more relevant than those classical sissies :wink:

Brendan McKinney, a local Chicago piper and flutist, taught me to say the notes.
By that I mean if I am trying to learn an O’Carolan or matt Molloy piece, I "diddlyei dum skidddly ei o " it till I can recite it verbatim.
The reasoning given was that you have many many more brain=mouth pathways wired than brain=fingers pathways. I am not going to debate that neurological point but it works for me. I do not read music, but after learning a tune like that, I can spot an off note like a sore thumb!
Example, I had a heck of a time with some of the tempo changes in “the Butterfly” till I tried it with this method. Now it is one of my session mainstays (and one of my favorite tunes)
Hope this helps and good luck on the pipes, I have always wanted to try the Uilleann pipes pyself.

The ONLY way I can memorize music to perform (other than having played it for months), is to memorize the actual sheet music. I have to call up a visual image and read that.

This is, of course, extremely bothersome. Especially when there is no need to memorize rather than read it in the first place.

Strangely, I have no trouble recalling how a particular piece sounds, and can “hear” songs in my head at will. But to play the music, I have to read it.

thanks for the suggestions, guys - I’ll give them a try.

The matter is now more pressing: see this thread.


“What is worn under the kilt?”

“Madam, there is nothing worn under the kilt. Everything is is perfect working order.”

Your approach is good–I recommend closing your eyes while practicing from memory. It helps you concentrate on feeling what your hands are doing. Once you have a piece well and truly memorized, you won’t remember the notes–your hands will just do the right thing at the right time with no real volition on your part.

Just two cents from another lead trombone (the other Neighbor’s Terror).

A couple things that help me:

Give all sections of the song equal time. For instance, if you try the song from the beginning, get stuck, go back to the beginning, get stuck, go back to the beginning, then firstly, you’re ignoring the rest of the song, and secondly, you’re “practicing your mistakes”. Work on the beginning for a while, then work on the middle for a while, then work on the end for a while, then next time work on the end first, then the middle, etc.

If while practicing, your goal is to play the whole tune, keep playing through to the end of the tune even if you stumble. Don’t keep stopping and going back.

Every once in a while, cover up the music and let 'er rip. You probably know the piece better than you think you do.