Thursday, June 27, 2013

Is Memorization Really Necessary?

I love to play the piano. I love the feeling of playing in front of an audience and communicating with them simply through the sounds I draw from the instrument. I HATE playing from memory. I've spent years avoiding public solo performances because I wanted to avoid the memory work. Now I'm asking myself (again) if it's really necessary.

I understand that there are some definite advantages to playing from memory. Memorization removes the necessity of turning pages. It suggests that we are intimately acquainted with the piece and have studied it thoroughly. We are able to lose ourselves in the music when playing from memory.

I am also well acquainted with the negatives of playing from memory. Memory slips are par for the course and can rattle the player's confidence. When that happens, I find myself only thinking about getting off the stage; the joy of sharing the music with an audience is gone! Just because I'm using a score doesn't mean that I am reading every note. It just means that I am more confident with the music in front of me and want to insure that I can play beautifully without stressing out about an unexpected memory slip.

I've planned recitals with the intention of using a score and learned the entire program before canceling at the last minute. I assumed that some in the audience would label me as an inferior musician because I didn't memorize every note. I allowed fear of others' opinions to keep me from doing something I enjoy. That's simply not acceptable.

Perhaps my fear of memorization comes from never developing a good approach. I've tried analyzing chord progressions, sequences, and melodies before memorizing. That is certainly helpful in getting to know the piece, but it doesn't help me with the memory work. I'm just really slow at memorization and get frustrated with myself as I struggle through the process.

I know that the only way to get better is to actually do it. So I've pulled out some scores that are completely new to me (and not terribly complex) and started to learn a couple of new pieces. Now I'm beginning the process of memorizing. I'm approaching the memory work differently with each one and will see which procedure seems to work best for me. At this stage, if I memorize a few measures each day I am considering it a successful session. As I stretch my memory muscles, I am confident that the process will become easier over time.

How do you memorize music? Do you feel it is necessary to memorize the repertoire for a solo recital? I welcome your comments.

PLEASE NOTE - I will not post next Thursday in observation of the July 4 holiday. I will resume blogging the following week.