How to Memorize Piano Music

Authored by Christina Morrison in Music
Published on 08-26-2009

Memorizing piano music has been a tradition for professional pianists for the last century. Pianists often memorize music so they can play without worrying about sheet music or turning pages.

Keep in mind that some sheet music is simply too complicated for most people to memorize. Select an appealing piece that is easily within your playing level or something that you have already learned to play. Something more complicated than your playing level will prove frustrating to memorize.

Once you have selected the piece, begin practicing with your instructor or by yourself. Play the piece at least a few times before attempting to memorize anything. Now you will have a general idea of what the song sounds like and what the difficult parts are in the song.

There are several different ways to memorize sheet music. The key to memorization is finding a system that works for you.  Some people are able to memorize pieces by playing the piece repeatedly When fingers become accustomed to the repetition of playing the piece, it forms muscle memory. People that use this form of memorization often cut up a piano piece into several parts and learn one part at a time.

Maybe this means learning a page of music every few days, or even every week. Once you learn your own pace, it will be easy for you to memorize things. Playing slower than usual will help you memorize faster.

Sometimes this means learning the left and right hand parts separately, or learning the most difficult parts first. Once the most difficult parts are memorized, learning the rest of the song will be much easier!

Other pianists listen to a recording of the piece multiple times to memorize the sound of the song before they begin memorizing the actual notes.

Many famous pianists used to write out the entire piece of music in order to memorize music. Johann Sebastian Bach used this technique! However, this form of memorization can be quite time-consuming and use a lot of paper, so it is advisable to try out other methods before trying this one.

Some people recommend playing the piece right before going to bed. This way, the piece stays in your memory. Those that try this should also go over the piece as soon as they wake up. Not only will you see how much you have retained, it will help when it is time for piano practice later in the day.

Pianists that must memorize a piece within a few days should try this technique. Cut the piece up into multiple sections. Sit and play the first section several times in a row. Then take a short break away from the piano (about 5 to 10 minutes). Then return and play the “memorized” section(s) and learn the next section. Repeat this until you have memorized the entire song.

To keep from forgetting memorized pieces, many people recommend playing memorized songs every couple of weeks.


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