March 10, 2010


Memory is essential to our craft. We all know that we want to memorize music – it makes it easier to play – and it is far more impressive to sit down to play for a long while with no paper!

In order to present long stretches of music without the dot crutch, you have to master the memory of the music and its presentation.

Let’s start with Memory – What is memory? Now, we’re not going to have an in depth technical discussion of memory and the brain, but you do need to understand what memory is.

Memory is how you hang onto what you heard and what you have played. It is likely that there are multiple areas of the brain that are important for the musical experience. We know this because imaging studies have shown significant activity all over the brain with music (which is different from other similar tasks where activity is more subdued).

Anecdotally, we know what memory is. We know it is affected by experience, practice, fatigue, hunger, and stress, as well as other impacts. But are you aware of the different “kinds” of memory? Each of them is important and impacts your ability to play.

There are a number of types of memory that need to be developed to improve your practice and performance. They are:
• Visual
• Auditory
• Muscle
• Kinesthetic
• Conceptual

Visual memory refers to recalling what you have seen. Auditory memory is recalling what you’ve heard. Muscle memory is the recall of what your positions and motions. Kinesthetic memory helps you remember what something feels like. And Conceptual memory assimilates all the parts.
We’ll discuss each of these types of memory in greater detail in the future. For now, remember that you have a lot to remember when you’re playing – so give yourself a break if you’re having trouble memorizing new music or recalling music you’ve already learned. It’s in there; you just have to get it out!

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