Practicing--with the goal of playing recitals by heart--forced me to recall and follow all of the good things my best teachers taught me!
In other words, playing from memory forces good habits.
I quickly learned that, if I don't follow those good habits, I will fall flat on my face in performance. (Remember all of those early lapse experiences? I hadn't yet recalled those good habits from my conservatory days.) This is all to say that not playing from memory for so many years had allowed me to become apathetic in the practice room.
(Let me interject here by stating that I already had a pretty good career as a harpsichordist and general musician. I certainly never considered myself apathetic, and I don't think that my colleagues would have considered me apathetic. However, we musicians must always strive to be better, and doing the bare minimum is never good enough.)
So what were these good habits that resurfaced?
- Written/consistent fingering. (Wasn't it Wanda Landowska who said that fingering is the strategy of the hand?)
- Using a metronome.
- Slow practice.
- Creating a practice log/journal
- Studying the score away from the instrument.
- Playing programs for others before making public appearances.
I did all of these things (more or less) when I practiced to perform from score. But playing from memory has made them essential, indeed, mandatory.
When I finally get around to the how to part of this blog, I'll go into greater detail about how all of these elements (and more!) figure into my daily practice.