Start at the End and Work Backward
A widespread technique in memorization is to start at the end of a piece and work back towards the beginning. Similar to splitting up your music in small sections, this technique does the same thing, but in backward chronological order. You can go backward by phrasing or by measure(s). For example, you may start two measures from the end, then start four measures from the end, six, and so on.
This method is very effective because after you’ve memorized a section, you will continue to perform it over and over again, locking it firmly in place. By the time you’ve reached the beginning, the end will seem like a piece of cake because you will have rehearsed it numerous times.
Memorize at a Slow Tempo
Very rarely do musicians learn a new piece of music at it’s indicated tempo. Starting slow ensures that the notes and rhythms are learned correctly. The same method can be applied to memorization.
It’s very common to begin making mistakes you usually wouldn’t make when starting memorization. Suddenly things you had previously mastered regress, and it’s easy to get frustrated and discouraged quickly. Slowing the tempo down has the same effect as when you’re first learning a piece: it ensures accuracy. It also gives you a fair amount of time to think before playing or singing the next note. As you work your way back to the indicated tempo, you will exercise repetition. Altogether, this method will bypass a lot of the frustration that memorizing music can cause.
Visualize The Sheet Music
Visualizing sheet music works particularly well for those who have a photographic memory. If you can see the sheet music in your head, you can anticipate what’s next.
As all musicians know, there is far more to memorization than the notes in a piece. You must also memorize dynamics, repeats, tempos, time signatures, codas, lyrics (in the case of vocalists), fingerings (in the case of instrumentalists), expressions, crescendos, and so much more. Visualizing your sheet music applies to each of these things, and can give you quite the advantage when it comes to memorization.
If you don’t have a particularly photographic memory but would like to try this technique, spend some time studying your music without playing or singing. Talk through the music, bringing to attention any tough sections or sudden changes in expression.
Memorize in Small Sections
Possibly the most common way to memorize music is to divide it into small sections. It can be intimidating to tackle an 8-page piece all at once, so memorizing section by section allows for a more focused mindset as well as better retention. The length of sections you choose to tackle is up to you. We recommend looking for phrases.
Beginning to End Repetition
Some musicians don’t like tedious work of splitting a song up or having a precise method for memorization. And that’s okay! Sometimes what we need is to play or sing the song from beginning to end over and over and over again. The only caution when approaching this method is to make sure you aren’t skipping over any difficult sections or problem areas. You certainly don’t want to reinforce any bad habits or missed notes after working so hard to learn the piece!
But after you’ve fixed all of the rough patches, playing your piece several times in its entirety is a great way to solidify memorization. As we mentioned before, there is so much more to memorization outside of the notes alone, and this method is perfect for memorizing the ebbs and flows of your piece.
-Beats Central Team
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