Tag Archives: encoding

Practice, learning and memory, part I

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.

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From sight-reading to memorized performance

If you have performed from memory, you no doubt have had the experience of an audience
member coming up after a concert and saying in amazement “How did you learn so many spartito musicalenotes?”

In the last few posts about memory, we’ve talked about learning and memory as two sides of the same coin,  about the many kinds of memory in music, about the formation of neural pathways in the brain, and about our brain initiating a motor-action plan as we begin to play a piece of music. But how, in fact, do we “learn so many notes,” and what are the best ways to practice to ensure that the memory for all those notes will remain secure? Continue reading

The many kinds of memory in music

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

Dance, sing, draw

A few years ago one of my students, who usually played with a great deal of musicality, found herself struggling with a Chopin Mazurka that just didn’t seem to “click.”  All of the notes and rhythms were there, but it sounded stodgy – not at all like a dance.  One day, I suggested that we actually dance to the music.  I hadn’t known until I made the suggestion that she had studied ballet for years and dancing was second nature to her.  Continue reading

Patterns in the Brain

Screen Shot 2013-08-24 at 9.05.23 AMThis wonderful image is not your brain on music.  It’s from Stephen Malinowski’s animated graphical score of Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps:  Part I and Part II.  A few months ago, at the time I was thinking about starting this blog, a lot of media attention was being directed to the 100th anniversary of the famous, riot-inciting premiere of The Rite of Spring (May 29, 1913).  I discovered Malinowski’s video on PostClassic, Kyle Gann’s comprehensive, informative and thought-provoking blog about new music.  (If you aren’t already familiar with Kyle’s blog, you should check it out.)     Continue reading