Memorization, visualization and repetition are all parts of a daily practice routine. After days, weeks and months of such practicing, our fingers start to take over and we spend less time looking at the music and simply playing. This means we have memorized what we are practicing. What if we are pressed for time and we need to memorize a piece of music quickly, without having the luxury of endless repetition? There are techniques that many professional musicians use in order to create quick internal imprints with ability to play sans score. Let’s take a look at a few.

1. STRUCTURED REPETITION

Let’s be honest. When we have ample time to just practice, we tend to stray away from structured approach. But if we are on a timeline, we have to apply structure. Typically that means chunking things up. Each piece has measures, that combine into phrases. Phrases are logical wholes that are easily followed when learned properly. In order to memorize phrases, repeat those separately, each one at a time, and then combine more and more phrases together, until one page at a time is memorized. This will create a phrase logic in our mind, and a good musical roadmap for playing without a score.

2. VISUALIZING

There’s few things scarier than sitting on stage, playing from memory, and then drawing a blank. When muscle memory fails, we need to be able to tap into our visual map for the music we are playing. That can be practiced by playing the piece in your mind with the score first, and then without the score. Phrase by phrase, part by part, try to photographically remember what you are actually seeing on the page, so that when fingers fail, the score will appear in your mind in times of distress.

When muscle memory fails, we need to be able to tap into our visual map for the music we are playing.

3. ANTICIPATION

Visualizing can also embody anticipation of where the fingers move before they move. This is separate from muscle memory, since this type of memory is reactive, and visualization is proactive. Thinking of a couple of notes ahead provides for a strong backbone to knowing where you are at all times. When you practice this type of preparation, you have to, at all times, whether playing simple phrases or larger chunks, make it clear in your mind that you are not playing ‘in the now’ but ‘in the future’, always thinking three or more notes ahead. This is hard to do, but gets easier after a couple of tries.

4. SINGING

If we are not used to using our ears to create a musical roadmap, this is the place to do it. Getting away from the page by singing the text creates musical affiliation to what we are doing at all times. The issue is that we are often ‘not hearing’ what we are playing, when practicing from score. When finding ourselves with a memory slip, it is good to have an aural association to what comes next, since ideally that informs our fingers and triggers the stale muscle memory.

5. LETTING GO

Sometimes it is just best to let go and loose ourselves in music. Providing this is the last step in our exercise of memorizing, we need to allow the flow to happen naturally. Holding a tight grasp on each single note makes us stiff and creates more worries than we can possibly handle in a moment. Trusting yourself to execute in a given moment, and just enjoying the ride can be a way of relaxing into playing by heart. Don’t worry about what can happen, just enjoy the music.

We hope this provided some helpful insight. As always, if you have any requests or suggestions for a topic, don’t hesitate to reach out at [email protected] Thanks for reading!