Category: Piano Practice 钢琴練習

How to memorise a piece effectively

I get a lot of enquiries about playing by memory. Here are a few useful tips:

1. Mark out the sections and phrases
It’s important to know where a section / a phrase starts and ends – this practice is not only important for memorisation but also in practice and knowing the music more deeply and securely

2. Repeat in small doses
It’s a very useful tool to memorise a piece in small doses first especially if you are new to the practice. Start with one phrase and then two, gradually working up to a whole section. Then work on two sections and more eventually leading up to the whole movement/piece.

For example:
Repeat each phrase 5-10 times. Then two phrases 5-10 times. Then three phrases 5-10 times and so on.

It’s also great to try starting in the middle of a piece – a lot of times when performers have a slip of memory it’s never at the beginning of a piece or not even the beginning of a section/phrase. I encourage my students to start playing /memorising in the middle of the music to see if they can start and continue from there – I call them “safety stops”. It’s like taking a train: it starts and ends at big terminals, but it also travels through and pauses by many small stations / stops in between the whole journey to pick up and drop off passengers. So throughout the whole music journey (the music piece you are playing and memorising), you also need some musical stops to know where you are at currently. It helps you keep track of where you have been, where you are at, and where you are going, until the end.

For me I even memorised from the end back to the beginning just to test my memory of the piece. Most important of all, try to be creative about your memorisation process and think/practice outside of the box – remember, there is no one way to do it right for you, and often, those “weird” ways of doing one thing are THE ways to get you closer and faster towards your goal!

Until next time,

Teresa Wong

(中文) 計劃你的鋼琴練習 (II)

Sorry, this entry is only available in 中文.

Plan Your Piano Practice Strategy

How to perfect your scales (Part II)

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Please don’t “play” the piano

I am going to be as candid as I can ever be in this post, and from now onwards.

It’s not that I wasn’t being truthful or honest before. I was trying to be “kind” and “nice”.

There’s nothing wrong with being kind and nice, but when I was being “too kind” and “too nice”, I found out students became lazy and started to rely on me, meaning they always looked at me for directions, instead of thinking for themselves how to do it.

Playing the piano and perfecting the skills required needs a lot of brainwork, and to that I mean A LOT.

It’s not for those who don’t like thinking and analysing to the deepest.

It is also not for someone who don’t want to move their bodies.

What does that mean? There has ben a stereotype that playing the piano is to “tame” the kids’ temper, like it’s some sort of circus moves. Actually, it sounds more like the teacher is the animal trainer and the students being… you know.
Only I hope your teacher doesn’t have a wipe to hold on to..

First, let me tell you what playing the piano is not:
It’s NOT just for GIRLS
It’s NOT to train boys to sit still
It’s NOT for ANYONE to sit still and NOT move their bodies
It’s NOT just a finger movement

Now, let me tell you what playing the piano is about:
IT IS an activity that requires MIND, BODY, EMOTION , and SPIRIT. (Yes, it is that kind of activity.)
It is an ACTIVE activity, like a SPORT.
It requires BRAIN WORK. – LOTS OF IT.
It requires BODY COORDINATION – hands, feet, eye, torso (upper and lower, even when you are sitting) and oh yeah, brain again, you guess it.
It requires FEELING – yes it does, because it’s ART, an EXPRESSION of EMOTION – otherwise go do maths or play video games. I can’t imagine anyone filling in forms and studying tests with PASSION, that would be weird.
It requires not only feeling for music, but also feeling for your own body, that’s the ultimate way to transform your technique forever. So it requires the player to be in touch with themselves.
It takes FOCUS, DEDICATION, DISCIPLINE, HARD WORK, RESILIENCE, STRUCTURE, SKILLS, TIME, and PATIENCE. – I think there’s more I am missing…oh maybe, PASSION?
It requires FAST RESPONSE. REALLY FAST – so if you like slow motion, go do tai chi in the park with old ladies and men, no offence.
It requires A LOT OF THINKING -it needs a lot of rationalization and analysis, and is therefore NOT for anyone who prefers spoon fed everything or everything shuffled down their throats – or did I mention this point already?
It is NOT cost effective.
It requires PRACTICE, ON YOUR OWN.
It requires REFLECTION, ON YOUR OWN.
IT REQUIRES THINKING, ON YOUR OWN – oh I think I am getting dementia or something, here I am repeating myself again.

So I hope I have told you what it takes to be really great at the piano. Of course, if you just want to be mediocre, keep telling yourself “it’s too hard”, “I don’t have time (for lessons and/practice)”, and “the teacher should tell me everything I need to know!”

Anything great in life requires hard work, resilience, time and patience, and A LOT OF THINKING.

Next post, I might start bashing on “teachers” who think they are teaching, but they are really not!