Can anyone give me advice on memorization of piano music? I am basically self taught with a solid technique. I never really had a good teacher or studied at a music school. Thanks!

move thrd plz


now i alwayz have tiz predizpozition dat people who azk tiz kind of queztion are da TM in dizguize

but i iz actually quite interezted in tiz topic mazelf

I’ve seen memory experts who learn thousands of digits of pi and other mathematical feats so I wonder if someone has learned to do the same thing with piano scores.

well, I in no way claim to be anywhere near a good source of knowledge, but from my personal experience, chunking up the piece into manageable sections and memorizing each section has worked well for me. But then, afterward, you have to work out the transitions, so I’m not sure exactly how well it works in the long run. However, using that method got me the notes for Jeux D’eau memorized in about two weeks, which is like a record for me. My teacher also suggested to put sticky notes over every other measure and push yourself to remember, the switch which ones are covered. Never tried it, but sounds like there is some merit there.

I’m curious, though, as to what morsels of knowledge the legends of this forum might grace us with. :smiley:

Guys what do ya think? how many notes can Evgeny Kissin memorize?
Or Martha Argerich? or Yuja Wang?

Cuz we are talking about da pimpness here…

kind of a noob question, better would be how many pieces. I’ve always wondered whilst looking at a pianist rep, if they could play on command every piece, or is the rep just what they have played, and only a few are in working order. I’ve never been around too many great pianists, so I have no idea. I know that at max I’ve been able to have about 6 medium sized pieces in relatively good shape.

So I’ll redirect in a non my-cock-is-bigger-than-yours way, how many pieces have you guys been able to keep enjoyable at once? Koji? Jredmond? Slapnutz? anyone?!

No I ain’t think this is a noob question. Lemmie explain.
I didn’t ask about compositions/pieces, because the size of the pieces varies.
I think a concert pianist (such as Evgeny Kissin, Vladimir Ashkenazy, etc) would need more time memorize Lizst’s Sonata in B Minor, rather than a Mazurka by Chopin.
In addition, each composition has its own individual writing, and we can expect that someone can memorize harder a composition that has complex writing (in comparison too something that has simple writing).
Therefore I didn’t ask about compositions/pieces, because the complexity of the writing varies on each composition.

Therefore I believe the question “How many compositions can a concert pianist memorize?” (approximately of course), is an inappropriate question.
On the contrary the question “how many notes can a concert pianist memorize?”, can be considered as “acceptable”, because the notes are notes no matter what the value or the pitch is.

I remember in the Gift of Music the narrator said tha Kissin had to play many thousand of notes for the BBC proms all from memory. Actually Kissin can play from memory some of his own compositions.

I understood the reasoning of why you chose to word it that way, focusing on the quantity rather than quality portion of the notion. However I feel it is a noob question because of its irrelevancy to anything having to do with music. It really has no bearing weather or not a person could remember billions of notes or not. Even when I play, I don’t necessarily remember EVERY note, rather how the piece is composed and chord progression etc. I believe in your original post you also tried to whittle down musicianship to something quantitative, which is just wrong in my opinion. And by that I mean “X pianist can memorize X amount of notes so he is best” or “Y pianist can play Y notes per second so he is best.” However, in an attempt to not escalate a pointless argument, I will rephrase my question to the following: Approximately how many minutes (or hours) of music can a professional concert pianist maintain in good standing at once?

tru :comme:

Of course my question is irrelevant with anything about music. My question was directly revelant with anything about the human brain, the intellectual musical giftedness, the abilities of musical recall, etc.
No I did not had intentions to whittle down the musicianship to something quantitative. Besides I didn’t post something like “Oh Evgeny Kissin can memorize more notes than Yuja Wang!”.

Yes the question of yours is apposite. “If we take a pro concert pianist and put him in a room where there is only a piano (and no sheets around), for how long will he/she performing inerrably on the piano?”

Performing inerrably and performing from memory are quite different things. For example, I’m quite sure none of us pianists here actually sit down with the score and memorise it note-by-note - at least, none of my teacher’s students have ever had to do it.

My own method of memorising involves a combination of listening to a wide range of recordings and muscle memory. Sometimes I even learn a piece by never looking at the score until I can remember how the full piece sounds throughout by memory.

I’ve been able to keep quite a large amount of music in functional order at a single time, since I’m never stationary on one piece very much: for this year I have a number of Kapustin works (including the 1st Sonata), some Bortkiewicz, Godowsky’s Passacaglia and a few waltzes and two movements of his Sonata, quite some Liszt, some Bach transcriptions and other odds and ends. I believe concert pianists, while definitely unable to play ALL their repertoire at a single time, can probably keep a few hours of it at one go (Kissin’s full programme at the Albert Hall was around three hours long, encores included).

Thanks for understanding my question. Serious respec for your rep tho! That’s just sick. I’ve never been able to have more than 20 or so minutes at a time. If someone wants more, then I have to resort to improvising lol. I’ll have to use that tip about memorizing how it sounds for my next piece.

Since I’m more of a hobby pianist these days new pieces the approach to
new pieces that I learn is mostly exclusively via listening to recordings.

I find a recording, listen to it, fall in love with the piece, listen to the recording over and over until I can literally “sing”, tap the rhythm, etc completely. Then when I print and pick up the sheetmusic memorization is usually a very very quick process :slight_smile:

PS: diz iz alzo helpful fo zytreadin but alzo cheatin :dong:

I’ve found this interesting text on memorizing … aying-faq/

All of the rep I play now is contemporary, I haven’t committed anything to memory in quite some time, now I find it extremely difficult to get anything off-copy, regardless of complexity. I really need to get back into it.

Those people are

A. Geniuses


B. Use groupings (the way we arrange a phone number for instance) and patterns.

well, a lot of us can’t make letter A happen, so we can learn to group.

What will help this more than anything? Knowing your scale/arpeggios shapes and music theory. That’s just my opinion.

I also have a belief that sightreading helps as well (like reading several books and then trying to memorize with vocabulary rather than just trying to memorize one book). Of course, too much sightreading with no memorization can be the devil.

Every type of knowledge of the music helps, so ear training as well (recognizing the solfege in some way, knowing if its the 2nd, 4th etc). Its interesting how Ashkenazy, Argerich etc have different ways of memorizing. Some sightread enough that they can see the music as they play, some almost purely muscle, some auditory (i wish i remember the name of this damned book I read), but of course they probably don’t even know how their minds really work.

I also try using a scent while I practice (cherry air freshner or something) because smell is supposed to be one of the largest memory cues.

Yeah, I’m big into neuroscience but memorizing is complicated. Obvious answer but FOCUS/ATTENTION will help more than anything.

oh and the more specific and more details you can point out in the score, such as voicings, hidden phrases, motives etc, all the better to solidify the memory in multiple ways,

just the same as learning hands separate vs. learning it all together.

To memorize quickly, it always help to think in larger phrases/units rather than every single note. When a vocalist sings a dramatic phrase, they’re not thinking the word “I” than the word “saw” than the word “a” than the word “rapist” than the word “today.” They think the full phrase “I saw a rapist today” and it’s much easier to memorize that way (sentences vs. words) similar to how we read and piece together words by noticing the first and last letters more than the letters separately.

it’s true that different pianists use different methods

eg (these I know for a fact):

Rubinstein - visual
Kissin - aural
Berezovsky - muscle

Although more accurately I think these are the types they rely on the most, because I doubt the various methods are really mutually exclusive.