Learning and Memorizing

There is no faster way of memorizing than to memorize when you are first learning a piece and, for a difficult piece, there is no faster way of learning than memorizing it. Therefore memorize these sections that you are practicing for technique while you are repeating them so many times, in small segments, HS. Memorization is discussed in more detail in section III.6. The procedures for memorizing are almost exactly parallel to those for technique acquisition. For example, memorization should be done HS first. This is why learning and memorizing should be done simultaneously; otherwise you will need to repeat the same procedure twice. It might appear that going through the same procedure a second time would be simpler. It is not. Memorizing is a complex task, even after you can play the piece well. For this reason, students who try to memorize after learning a piece will either give up or never memorize it well. This is understandable; the effort required to memorize can quickly reach the point of diminishing returns if you can already play the piece at speed. Once students develop memorizing-learning routines that are comfortable for them, most of them will find that learning and memorizing together takes less time than learning alone, for difficult passages. This happens because you eliminate the process of looking at the music, interpreting it, and passing the instructions from the eyes to the brain and then to the hands. With these slow steps bypassed, the learning can proceed unencumbered. Some might worry that memorizing too many compositions will create an unsustainable maintenance problem (see section III.6c for a discussion of maintenance). The best attitude to have towards this problem is not to worry if you forget some pieces that are seldom played. This is because recalling a forgotten piece is very fast as long as it was memorized well the first time. Material memorized when young (before about 20 years of age) is almost never forgotten. This is why it is so critical to learn fast methods of technique acquisition and to memorize as many pieces as possible before reaching the later teen years. As you go through each step described in this section to acquire technique, memorize the music at that same step. It is that simple. Section III.6 also discusses the numerous benefits of memorization; these benefits are so valuable that it does not make any sense not to memorize. It is much easier to memorize something if you can play it fast; therefore, if you have difficulty memorizing it initially at slow speed, don't worry; it will become easier as you speed it up. The major difference between practicing for technique and memorization is that for technique, you need to start with the most difficult sections first, whereas for memory, it is usually best to start with sections that are easy and repeated many times so that you can quickly memorize a large portion of the composition. Then, by memorizing the remaining small sections, you can connect the long easy sections and thereby memorize the whole piece quickly. In general, it is better to memorize first, and then practice for technique. That way, you can start to practice for technique while memorizing. Obviously, all these many requirements are often contradictory, so you must use your judgment on what to do first for each specific case.