After many years of teaching, I have come to realize that memorization is a skill, and like any skill it requires practice. I encourage students to memorize their favorite pieces throughout the year, not just at recital or contest time. By practicing the skill of memorization, and playing often from memory in casual settings, students learn that playing from memory is nothing to fear and can even be fun!
Just like there are several types of learning styles, there are several types of memory. I have found the best way to help a student learn to memorize effectively is to work on all four types of memorization. Once students feel they have a piece learned securely, I test them to see if they are truly using multiple types of memory on their pieces.
Below are four types of memory and ways to test your students on each:
- Muscle (kinesthetic) memory: this is the type of memory students usually acquire by playing a piece over and over. Test it: ask students to play hands separately from memory; ask students to “play” their piece on the closed piano lid or table top.
- Aural memory: this type of memory helps students to imagine the sound they would like to create before they play and to play a piece accurately. Test it: ask students to “play” their piece silently away from the piano, thinking through each note; ask students to start playing at different spots in the score from memory, imagining the sound before they play.
- Visual memory: this type of memory can be helpful for visual learners who picture the score mentally as they play. Test it: ask students to visualize and name details from the score, for example, the first note and dynamic marking that appears in the music.
- Analytical memory: this type of memory helps students to understand the structure of their music. Test it: ask students to analyze and play patterns or chord progressions in their pieces; analyze the form of the piece and make sure students can securely start each section from memory.
What do you think? Any tips or tricks you use to help your students memorize effectively? Please share in the comments!