Monday, August 26, 2013

The Middle Stages of Memorization: You've got it! Or so you think...

So now you've gotten a pretty good foundation with your piece. In fact, you're able to play it through completely by heart with only a little bump here or there. Or maybe you've even played it perfectly once or twice.

Now what are you going to do? You feel pretty good about it, but you're nervous about playing it in public. On a good day, you can play the piece really well, but on a bad day you don't feel completely ready.

Welcome, friend, to the Middle Stages of Memorization, a musical purgatory that lies between the early excitement of memorizing a piece and the late confidence of knowing that you have a solid piece in your repertoire.

Here's the problem: The early stages of memorization have very clear goals. You need to get from A-Z, and, as I've been outlining, there are some very clear ways to do that. At this point, it's very hard to assess your goals when you're so close to performance-level memory. Am I ready yet? Do I need to do more? How will I know when I'm ready? Scheduling a performance in order to find out the answers is not a wise way to go about this!

The middle stages create their own impatience. You're almost there, but not there yet. How much mental practice do you need to do? Should you just play through the piece till it's perfect? When should you add new repertoire to memorize? Will this process ever be over?

Most importantly, when can you let a piece rest? You've spent so much time bringing your piece to this level, but how do you know when enough is enough? 

These are all very challenging questions to answer, and you may find yourself quite unsettled at this point. In my upcoming posts, I will address this issue and present some techniques and methods for finding your answers.