Robert Estrin - piano expert

When is the Best Time of the Day to Memorize Music?

A very interesting tip to help with memorization.

In this video, Robert talks about memorizing music, and how doing so at the right time of day can improve your results a great deal.

Released on December 17, 2014

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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

Hi and welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin, your host, with a viewer question, "What is the best time of day to memorize music?" Well, this is a great question.

Now some of it comes down to personal preference, but there are some things I think you should know. I like to memorize earlier in the day when I'm fresh and that makes a lot of sense, you know, you get up, you eat a nice meal, you're raring to go, get a little bit warmed up. I like to do some reflection of what I've done the day before to reinforce and once I've done that while I'm not tired I go ahead and memorize a bunch. But you know what? There's actually studies that show that if you memorize just before going to sleep, you actually retain better.

That's right because your mind assimilates what you've memorized just before going to sleep. Now one size does not fit all. Some people are really just at the evening their minds wander and they can't possibly concentrate. I'm kind of a night owl so I can memorize at night and take advantage of that little fact that I just mentioned of being able to assimilate music while you sleep.

But here's another tip for you. Trying to memorize all at once is extraordinarily difficult just as if you had a big physical job that required a lot of effort like, let's say, you were moving a household and you had to carry boxes and boxes. If you did it all at once, you'd be exhausted, but if you did some, took a break, did something else and came back to it, you'd probably get a lot more done.

Well, it's exactly the same with memorizing music. Sure, get up, do some warm-ups, refresh the music you did earlier and memorize a big chunk of music. Then do something else for a while, some other practice or even some other activity entirely. Come back to it and do more memorization.

First, refresh what you did earlier and then go on further. You can do that a few times during the day and if you're like me and you can concentrate late into the evening, do that last bit of memorization before you go to sleep and take advantage of that process that goes while you're sleeping.

I hope this is helpful to all of you and thanks for those viewer questions. Keep them coming in to me, and See you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

William Strickler * VSM MEMBER * on December 27, 2017 @7:01 pm PST
Best way for me to memorize any music is to practice it at least 6 times per day for 30 minutes each time for several weeks. Then spend many hours memorizing it several times per day for several weeks. Once I have it memorized, I need to keep playing it at least a couple of times per day to keep it memorized. If I skip a couple of days, then I have to go back and put in lots of hours re-memorizing it. Once the recital is over, within a few days, I will have retained very little and within a month, I don't remember any of it. I can't play even the simplest song from memory without looking at the score. If I had be introduced to music when I was younger, I might have been able to retain it. Since I stopped memorizing, my music skills have improved drastically. But sight reading several double stops in a row on a violin is still very difficult and requires memorization to play it well. The problem with memorized music is that it feels like I am a robot. When music is written, I play in context and can feel a great sense of musicality that I could never do for memorized music. I have been playing violin for 7 years and it is the only instrument I can play. I have averaged 1 to 2 hours per day of practice for 7 years.
Wayne Russell * VSM MEMBER * on December 31, 2014 @4:36 am PST
How can you develop the ability to "read ahead" of your playing?
Robert - host, on December 31, 2014 @10:22 am PST
Reading ahead is actually not exactly how it works. Instead, it is a matter of looking at chunks of music instead of reading note by note much like reading text. When reading text, instead of looking at letters, you look at words and groups of words. It is the same with reading music. You begin to recognize chords and progressions instead of just individual notes.
wayne russell * VSM MEMBER * on December 31, 2014 @3:54 pm PST
Thanks, Robert,

My teacher told me she reads a line in one glance! I appreciate your response and love your informative videos.
Fulvia Bowerman * VSM MEMBER * on December 18, 2014 @6:45 pm PST
Back when I was in school in Italy, it was common practice to study the most difficult subject at night before going to bed, and get up early to repeat the subject before going to school. (We had to memorize lots of poems, history dates, etc.)
With piano studies, I found that I can practice a piece for several days, then give it a break of 2-3 days, and when I go back, it seems that I can play it better.
The current problem is that since I had a rather severe concussion 6 years ago, I don't seem to be able to memorize any simple piece of music! Very frustrating. But, somehow, my fingers still remember more difficult pieces that I used to know very well (3rd movement of the Moonlight sonata, Poet and Peasant military marches reduced for piano, etc.) that I have not played in decades.
Robert - host, on December 19, 2014 @10:02 am PST
That is a tough situation to deal with. I produced a video on how to memorize which may help:
John Raftopoulos * VSM MEMBER * on December 17, 2014 @2:23 pm PST
A question on memorizing music:
“Once I memorize something, no matter if it is long or complicated, eventually comes “automation”!
I cannot really explain it very well; I seem to play this composition automatically, without really thinking! My hands play automatically, and I could concentrate more on listening to me and giving extra effort to giving a “feeling” to my performance.
Well, I don't know if I am clear, I tried at least to explain it!
My concern is whether this is not correct or not…maybe I should play more consciously…I don't know really…
I know very well how it should sound and I recognize if any mistakes happen…
Hope you can help me with an answer!
Thank you!
Robert - host, on December 17, 2014 @9:01 pm PST
You have hit upon an important subject which I will be covering in a future video. The following video provides information on how to overcome any limitations with relying solely on tactile memory.
Fulvia Bowerman * VSM MEMBER * on December 19, 2014 @4:48 pm PST
Thank you, I watched the video. Will follow your advice.
John Raftopoulos * VSM MEMBER * on December 27, 2014 @2:18 pm PST
Thank you! I think it is a good idea to study my music sheet using my mind (not on the piano!) especially the ones I know well and I have memorized. It helps realizing what I "automatically" play with my fingers.
thank you for the advise!
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