Robert Estrin - piano expert

Do You Have to Analyze a Piece of Music in Order to Memorize It?

Learn to what extent you need to know the piece you want to memorize

In this video, Robert talks about memorizing a piece of music. Do you really need to analyze it in detail to memorize it well?

Released on August 12, 2020

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Welcome to the Robert Estrin here for you today with a really interesting subject which is do you have to analyze a piece of music in order to memorize it? It's an interesting turn because in some ways I think that you have to memorize a piece to analyze it.

So, let's talk, break this down a little bit and talk about, do you have to analyze a piece at all to memorize it? Well, I would say certainly there are aspects of the composition you better understand like the time signature, the key signature, things of that nature. The truth of the matter is, though, when you're learning a piece of music you're absorbing the sound, and you're absorbing the feel, the tactile feel of it. And all of this is coming together and a deep understanding of the composition, whether you're in a transition to a second subject or recapitulation, a stretto in a fugue, these are all interesting things to observe, but indeed it is not essential that you understand the inner workings of a composition. I think it's somewhat impossible to really delve into a piece and really have a depth of understanding of what makes it tick in terms of analyzing it without committing it to memory.

It's a combination, really. You want to certainly understand if you're learning a sonata movement where the exposition ends, where your themes are. And certainly once you have memorized it to go back and figure things out so you don't take a wrong turn and find that you go to the exposition when you should be in the recapitulation or vice versa, so some analysis is really important for memorization. But to a large extent, just like you can learn a song and you can sing it, and you don't think about the pitches necessarily or the rhythms, you just sing it because you can hear it, and you know it. A lot of music, it can be approached that way.

Now, having the intellect to back it up, it's really important because, as I said, you can take a wrong turn. And you might not quite understand something, and once you delve into the score it will make more sense to you and make it easier to remember. So, yes, analyze important aspects of the piece you're working on, but then get to work memorizing the way I've described, chunk, small chunk over small chunk, connecting as you go. Starting with hands separate, phrase at a time. I've got videos on this subject. Analyzing is to your benefit, certainly, but you're going to understand that piece way better after you learn it and be able to analyze it in a much deeper level after you memorize it, then just a precursory analysis when you're first approaching a piece of music.

I hope this is helpful for you. Again, I'm Robert Estrin., your online piano resource. Lots more on Patreon. Thanks for all you subscribers. We'll see you next time. Thanks for joining me.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Sean on August 13, 2020 @5:00 am PST
Great Subject and Explanation Robert
Robert - host, on August 13, 2020 @11:57 am PST
Thanks for your feedback!
Michael Verive * VSM MEMBER * on August 12, 2020 @11:25 am PST
It may not be necessary to analyze a piece of music in order to memorize it, but analysis often helps by allowing us to visualize patterns in the music that assist in memorization (i.e. recognizing arpeggios, intervals, recurring elements, etc). More important is analyzing music to get a feel for the composer’s mood, allowing us to interpret the music and apply that interpretation during performance. For instance, I am currently working on Dvorak’s “Humoresque” on cello. Knowing that this piece is supposed to be a generally light and whimsical piece not only makes it more fun to play, but makes it more interesting for the listener, and really benefits from the changes in mood throughout the piece. When we are truly interested and engaged in the pieces we learn, memorization becomes more enjoyable.
Robert - host, on August 12, 2020 @7:56 pm PST
Having a backstory of pieces you are playing can be enlightening, particularly for programmatic music that tells a story!
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