It’s happened to all of us before.
Someone sees your ocarina or they hear you playing. They run towards you with excitement and after you explain what it is, they say “play something for me!” But all of a sudden your mind goes blank, and even though you’ve played many songs from tabs and sheet music before, you can’t remember a single song! That’s where memorizing music come in. Knowing how to memorize music effectively is a great tool for any musician, whether you’re preparing for an onstage performance, or just want to be ready for spontaneous requests. Here are six great tips for memorizing music by Dr. Robert T. Kelley of Lander University.
1) Analyze the piece and work out the fingerings
This is where you’ll learn how to actually play the music and make any necessary performance notes, making it the most important step. Review each musical phrase and work on correct finger placement. You can always change the fingering later if necessary, but once it’s comfortable, try to be consistent.
2) Work on a small section of the music and try to play without the sheets or tabs
Now the fun begins! Repeat the first section of music so it starts to stick in your brain, and when you feel comfortable playing it, try your best to play parts of the score without looking. If necessary, close the book or put the music aside and don’t peek at the music unless you really need to.
3) Use a metronome to work it up to tempo (without the music)
Now that you’re working to play it at the correct tempo, try not to stop in the middle of the phrase when mistakes are made. If you notice a slip up, make a mental note and keep going! After you play through the section, go back and review what went wrong and try to play it again correctly on the next go round.
4) Repeat steps 2 and 3 with another section
As you work your way through the music, mark each section you work on in case you have a memory lapse later on and want to return to a section.
5) Practice something else and comeback later to test your memory
It’s always good to take breaks between some intense practice. Switch to another piece of music. Make up your own song. Go drink some water. Just relax for a bit and let the music soak in before reviewing.
6) Test your memory on the following day by playing again without the score before going any further.
One final tip: Don’t expect to memorize an entire piece in a single day. It’s best to practice in 15 minute intervals, giving yourself an opportunity to really break down the music and a little extra time for the more difficult passages. The goal is to play it as perfectly as possible whenever you’d like, so take your time and have fun!