The Hows and Whys to memorize: Practice tips from CMC piano faculty Elyse Weakley

Whether you’re learning to play piano or another instrument, follow these practice tips from CMC piano faculty Elyse Weakley.

From the series: Practice Tips from Community Music Center Faculty

Elyse Weakley blog

The single most efficient practice strategy for mastering a piece of music is to begin by memorizing it. Many instrumentalists will never need to perform from memory however I still strongly encourage the effort as it reaps many benefits including muscular dexterity, freedom of expression and greater ease of reading.

Follow these steps:

1. Analyze the form. Where does section A start and end? Does it ever repeat? What small or large variations are made in the repetition?  Does it start in one key and end in another?

2. Break section A into individual phrases, usually 4-8 bars long, and memorize them one at a time. I often ask my students to sing along while they play the melody as it enhances listening and retention (If you know solfege, use it. Note names or finger numbers work well too).  Pianists must memorize hands alone at first then combine them.

3. Before moving on to section B, make sure that section A is memorized as a whole, now repeat the above steps for each new section.