Can't memorise left hand part

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dorsetpiano
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Can't memorise left hand part

Post by dorsetpiano » 03 Dec 2011, 11:05

Does anyone else have this problem? I start learning a piece (currently working on some Chopin waltzes) and find fairly quickly that my right hand "learns" the notes to the extent that when playing I only really read the left hand stave. Then no matter how hard I try I can't play the left hand from memory. This might be something to do with age (I am 63) or something about different sides of the brain controlling each hand. Alternatively is might be something to do with the fact that the melody is often in the right and the left is an "unconnected" sequence of notes if you see what I mean.

I have had a 40 year gap in my playing from 18 to 60 but there are pieces from 40 years ago that I can play both hands totally on autopilot but I don't seem to be able to get new ones hard wired like that any more. Perhaps I am just past it.......

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Re: Can't memorise left hand part

Post by Gill the Piano » 03 Dec 2011, 18:23

Why try? You've got the music; use it! :) You're making life difficult for yourself trying to memorise. If you keep practising over and over again you'll find it goes in subconciously. You have three memories: aural, visual and kinaesthetic. Or maybe kinetic, can't remember which! Anyway, the movement memory will kick in if you always use the same fingering; think of tying your shoelaces. You no longer (I hope) think 'that goes through there, that goes under here....',etc., but your fingers do it automatically without the brain being wholly engaged. Be patient with yourself; adults are always far too self-critical!
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dorsetpiano
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Re: Can't memorise left hand part

Post by dorsetpiano » 04 Dec 2011, 14:48

But I can't tie my left foot shoelaces either! :wink: :roll:


Sorry, thanks for the advice.

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Re: Can't memorise left hand part

Post by Gill the Piano » 04 Dec 2011, 18:34

dorsetpiano wrote:But I can't tie my left foot shoelaces either!
I'll send somebody round then, shall I? :lol:
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Re: Can't memorise left hand part

Post by OurRedPiano » 16 Feb 2012, 17:32

I know how to tie my shoes. IT TOOK ME FIVE YEARS! I'll be honored to show you.

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Re: Can't memorise left hand part

Post by chrisw » 17 Feb 2012, 19:00

I have always found right hand easier to read and play, even as a youngster. Now I am at about the same age as dorsetpiano but I am improving owing to efforts made by an excellent teacher.

I find it easier to learn when practicing in the morning rather than late at night. Mind is more active and I get more ideas of how to get over difficult passages.

As a youngster I could also memorise pieces, but then the pieces were shorter and more simple. I only try to memorise cadenza like passages. My teacher also takes the view there is no point in taking time to commit to memory when you can use the music.

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Re: Can't memorise left hand part

Post by dorsetpiano » 25 Feb 2012, 10:35

"My teacher also takes the view there is no point in taking time to commit to memory when you can use the music." Is that a commonly held view? I have heard the advice "you need the music in your head rather than head in the music". I have never had a lesson so don't have anything to go on.

ps I always used clip on ties too so you can see I have a problem.

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Re: Can't memorise left hand part

Post by Colin Nicholson » 25 Feb 2012, 11:44

Whoever the "teacher" is, its their opinion only. From a professional point of view, the piano is a "memory instrument" - unlike sections of an orchestra that nearly always use music. I have a few pupils competing in for a local music festival next Saturday, and only one or two of them "prefer" a memory performance - however, at a young age it is a risk; they might forget some of the music & not regain, or as happened last year - one pupil started at the wrong octave.

For longer pieces of music, say, Moonlight Sonata - its more than "memory" that is required - you also have to possess good "key centre" techniques - like modulations, and the implied or expected bass notes to carry the music forward into the next few phrases.

It also depends on page turning aswell. For example, a grade 6-7 pupil is attempting to learn "Dizzy Fingers" by Zez Confrey.... a wonderful piece, but can only really be "pulled off" by a memory performance - unless you feel like stretching about 6 pages of music across the music rest - and after a few attempts myself, I have found the key changes & chords from A6 arpeggios quite straight forward.

There is no hard fast rule about playing from memory, however, yes, examiners & adjudicators prefer it. When I did my grade 8, the B piece was Mozart variations - loads & loads of music, and to my advantage to ensure a better performance, I decided to memorise it. There are also special techniques to learn - which are separate to normal tuition/ rhythm/ expression ...... learning from memory is an art in itself - rather like painting a picture from a blank canvas, having nothing to copy or refer to.

However, for my adult learners - some can pick up the memory aspect, others cant - simple as that!!! .... no one thinks anything less of them - and the fact they are learning the piano at the age of 75 is an achievement in itself.

However to learn say, a Beethoven sonata (from scratch) - both kinds of learning should be employed together - not learning the music with the music first, then memorising it later - doesn't always work that way.
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dorsetpiano
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Re: Can't memorise left hand part

Post by dorsetpiano » 25 Feb 2012, 12:22

Thanks for the response. I find that lots of stuff I play eventually goes "on autopilot" like the second movement of the Moonlight (and most of the first). The problem comes if I make a mistake and I can't resume play except by starting again from the beginning. Having the music in front of me doesn't help as I can't quickly see where I have got to. Equally there are other pieces like some Chopin walzes where I need the music in front of me but I am not really reading it!
I am currently working on Schubert Impromptu in Bflat op142 and Grieg's "wedding day in Troldhaugen" and with the latter find that the left hand jumps are so large that memorising is the only way I will be able to play it.

I guess that with my history I have so many ingrained bad habits that a teacher would be horified and give up so I am on my own.

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Re: Can't memorise left hand part

Post by markymark » 25 Feb 2012, 14:55

As far as having to start from the beginning of a piece is concerned, you ought to be able to find a phrase or a part that just precedes the bit you got stuck at. Starting at the beginning of a bar in the middle of a piece or at the point where you went wrong, more often than not, won't start you at the beginning of one of those phrases. To just start where you left off would be a bit like starting to read or talk in the middle of a sentence with lots of sub-clauses - you wouldn't understand what you just read or heard. So it's not surprising that you find it hard to just pick up at the place you got stuck.

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Re: Can't memorise left hand part

Post by chrisw » 26 Feb 2012, 14:11

A teacher should be impressed by the pieces being tackled by dorsetpiano rather than horrified by technique. My teacher always encourages and has helped me to progress quickly. My goal however has always been to become a good sight reader rather than memoriser. After sight reading my next priority would be to play popular tunes by ear, but this is likely to be confined to the privacy of home !

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Re: Can't memorise left hand part

Post by Gill the Piano » 26 Feb 2012, 17:18

Memory comes from learning a piece thoroughly, so the only pieces I've memorised (purely as a by-product of working hard on them) hve been exam pieces!
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Re: Can't memorise left hand part

Post by dorsetpiano » 18 Mar 2012, 16:58

Just picked up the Beethoven pathetique sonata slow movement, haven't played it for over a year. As usual I can't play without the music but with the music I seem to go on autopilot and I am definitely not reading it off the page. It's almost as if I just need it as a subliminal reminder in places. I wonder if any psychological research has been done on this sort of thing?

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Re: Can't memorise left hand part

Post by Gill the Piano » 18 Mar 2012, 17:32

Oliver Sacks' book, Musicophilia, might have something in it about memory - I can't remember! :)
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Re: Can't memorise left hand part

Post by Colin Nicholson » 18 Mar 2012, 17:35

If you know the music well, your 'subconscious' mind will be remembering the music for you. You may not be fully aware of this, but in fact during most cadence areas/ changes of key/ chord changes etc.... your eyes will very quickly flick on the bar, then back to your hands.... and you dont know you are doing it!! I've watched many of my pupils doing this - and they claim they dont need the music.

Even if you have the music book closed infront of you, this is still not classed as a memory performance.... but more of a 'comfort zone' . Once you rip up the music and throw it away - your mind then goes into a state of shock, 'not sure' and doubt - and when you reach those cadences - thats when the memory lapses.

If I memories some music, I always try to stop & start just at the cadence areas, so eg. approach chords/ melody leading to a cadence.... then start the next phrase, stop after a couple of beats, then jump to the next cadence area, and so on. Students who attempt the tactile approach of just looking into space, and allowing their fingers to do the work - it never really works.

One thing to note in this piece is the strong enharmonic change of key to E major, this also needs a good theoretical approach, perhaps some analysis, THEN to be memorised using the cadence routine. One of the hardest things about memorising is also to perform the same 'tasks' during a modulation..... and sometimes, we flick back to the tonic accidentally, instead of moving to the dominant or F minor (relative minor) ...... this is just a snippet of what I teach!!!!
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