Almost everyone who plays the piano has, at some point in his/her study, learned Chopin’s Prelude in A Major, Op. 28. Only 16 bars and lasting a bit less to a bit more than a minute (depending on the performer), the Prelude is deceptively simple. A few repetitions and it feels as though we have it “under our fingers;” a few more repetitions and hey! we’ve memorized it!
But wait – leave it for a couple of days, and all of a sudden, you begin to wonder: Continue reading →
None of my teachers ever spoke with me about how to practice. They didn’t suggest strategies or give me tips. I guess they assumed, since I memorized so easily, that I didn’t need any help. I had what’s called a “good ear,” and I could hear the piece in my mind. By the time I had developed the motor skills to play a particular piece, all of the melodies, rhythms, and harmonies were in my head, and I counted on that when I performed. I assumed that good auditory memory was all I needed. But after a couple of bad experiences following grad school, I decided that I needed to develop a more secure system for learning and memorizing.
The Starry Night isregarded as one of Vincent Van Gogh’s best works and is probably one of the most well-known images in art, having been appropriated for everything from mugs to mouse pads to desktop wallpaper.
Van Gogh’s The Starry Night
I recently happened upon a very unusual version of Starry Night – a video of the iconic image created by falling dominoes. As I watched the dominoes fall (or not, in some cases), it struck me that the falling dominoes are a perfect analogy for motor programs in the brain as we perform a piece from memory.
In music we often talk about auditory, visual, and motor memory. But outside of the music world, we encounter a dizzying array of memory terms. We read about short-term vs. long-term, explicit vs. implicit, declarative vs. procedural, semantic vs. episodic – and more. So what do all of these terms mean in relationship to memory for music? Continue reading →
When I was in grad school (the first time), a friend showed up at lunch one day looking far more stressed than usual. When I asked her what was going on, she said she had a dream the previous night, and she was convinced it was a premonition of disaster for an impending degree recital. In her dream, she walked out on stage, acknowledged the very large audience of faculty, friends and family, sat down at a beautiful 9’ Steinway on which she had practiced, and then drew a complete blank. Not only could she not remember how to begin the first piece, she couldn’t even remember what repertoire was on the recital. Sound familiar? Continue reading →