Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Memorize a Piece of Music You Can Already Play on the Piano

Even if you already know a piece, you should take the next step: memorize it.

In this video, Robert talks again about memorization, extending the topic to repertoire you already know.

Released on March 11, 2015

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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, I'm Robert Estrin here at and Welcome!

We have a viewer question from Jim who asks, "How do I memorize a piece that I can already play?" This might sound like a funny question, but there is great difficulty in taking a piece you can get through with the music, and yet it's not memorized. Jim has got the "Fantaisie-Impromptu" of Chopin. He can play through the whole thing and barely glances at the score. But he does need the music there, and it's very cumbersome in live performance with page turns and such. He'd like to commit it to memory and wants to know how to take it to that final step.

Well, if you've watched my videos, you know I have a video I made on how to memorize music. I was very fortunate to learn how to memorize it, my very first lesson as a young child, studying with my father Morton Estrin, taking small sections, hands separately, memorizing them, putting the hands together, and connecting sections as you go.

Now, this is a great system, but if you already have a piece you could almost play from memory, how can you get that push to solidify the memory?

Well, there are two ways. One is a technique I've described in a video called the Band-Aid approach. The Band-Aid approach is very simple. You play through the piece as far as you can from memory. You get to the point at which you can no longer go further. Then, study the score and just work on that one little section. You might even break it down hands separately and find the few things that you need to solidify in your memory. Get it totally solid. Start from the beginning and pass that point until you come to the next section that needs work, and you patch that up the same way. Eventually, you'll be able to play through the whole piece.

Well, that's a great system if you're, like, 95% of the way there. But suppose your piece is kind of memorized, but maybe you start the Band-Aid approach and it just doesn't work - at a certain point it breaks down and you can't just patch it up.

Well, at that point, do you have to start over from the beginning and start little sections at a time? Well, not exactly. However, the best system still is taking hands separately, memorizing a little bit at a time, but whereas initially maybe you would've learned two or four measure phrases with this piece, because you're so familiar with it you might take 8 or even 16 measure phrases. You might even just play hands together and spot check the couple of things you need your attention. Focus in on that, solidify, and continue on the next large chunk this way.

So together with these two systems, you can take a piece that's almost memorized and push it over the edge using the Band-Aid approach patching as you go. Or, take large sections and memorize them hands separately, putting the hands together as you go. In the future, though, I find it much more efficient to just memorize the piece as your first step instead of your last step. And ultimately it's a more efficient system, because you never let mistakes creep into the learning process, so you never have to undo anything you've done before.

Thanks for the great question, Jim. And for all of you, I appreciate the questions coming in here at and I'm Robert Estrin. I'll see you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Garry Corbett * VSM MEMBER * on March 12, 2015 @8:49 pm PST
Always such a pleasure receive music lessons from you ! Your upbeat presentation skills are muchly appreciated and even contageous ! Many thanks to you.
christopher Slevin * VSM MEMBER * on March 11, 2015 @7:15 am PST
Thanks Robert, very helpful.
Seun Akin-Ajayi on March 11, 2015 @6:04 am PST
What is the correct way to read music?
Robert - host, on March 12, 2015 @6:25 pm PST
There are many aspects to reading music. Here is a video which stresses looking at groups of notes instead of individual notes which helps with your fluency:

However, before you can run, you must walk. So, first become familiar with simply naming the notes fluently so you can develop speed.

Here is another video which explains how to approach sight-reading:

I hope these videos help!
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