Piano Lessons Blog - 10 Ways to Memorize Music More Effectively

10 Ways to Memorize Music More Effectively

Karmel Larson

Ever since the time of Franz Liszt, pianists have been playing recitals mostly from memory. While there are pros and cons to memorizing music (a discussion for another day - check out one interesting op ed here), if you ARE going to memorize music, there are definitely ways to make it easier! Here are ten ways to memorize music more quickly and with less effort:

Learn and memorize the piece one small section at a time, hands separately and then hands together. Your brain can only store so much information in short-term memory. Give it a chance to put one line or section into long term memory before you move on to the next.

Learn the patterns of the piece. This might include analyzing harmonies, finding sections that repeat, or even just finding small patterns that come back again and again. This is a strategy called chunking. By grouping pieces of information (for example, individual notes), you can keep more music in your brain at once.

Repeat, repeat, repeat. Play a section 10 times in a row - after 5 times, start challenging yourself to play it from memory!

Practice away from the piano. This sounds weird, but it works. Use your music (and maybe a recording) and go through the notes, rhythms, and dynamics in your head.
Engage your aural memory by singing along or verbalizing your fingering, articulation, or dynamics.

Did I mention repetition? Seriously, this one is super important. One way to make repetition more effective is to space it out. Working on memorizing for ten minutes every day will put the music into your long-term memory faster than practicing for an hour straight in one day.

Sleep. Lots of research suggests that sleep plays a huge role in memorization. If you want to memorize music quickly, you'll have to make sure you're getting enough sleep for your brain to consolidate and store the information you're learning. (Read more here.)

Mix things up a bit! Play sections of your piece out of order or starting at random places in the music to solidify the hard spots. And that way, if you do have a memory slip during a performance, you'll have more "starting places."

Practice performing for others. Performing will expose the places where your memory is weak so that you know what to practice. Performing in a lower-pressure situation also helps you work through performance anxiety before a bigger performance.
Last but not least, remember to enjoy playing your piece! If you're connecting with the music emotionally and having fun playing it, it will be easier to memorize.

Which of these is your favorite idea? Are there any we left out? Let us know in the comments!

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