One of our most experienced and respected teachers took time to respond to last month’s topic on “Memorization and Performance” by sharing with us some of her ideas, based upon personal experiences. The following is a compilation of these thoughts and we thank you, Peggy, for your initiative and helpful suggestions.

‑Even if one plays with music, one is doubly prepared if it is memorized also.

‑The only pieces I can play now by memory are ones memorized for an exam years ago.

‑If one uses music in performance, one has to be sure to spend time concentrating on the kinesthetic (touch and feel” of the keyboard.

‑If students have experience with simple keyboard harmony in their program, the keyboard will feel more comfortable, which will help their memory.

‑Memorizing the L.H. first, especially in Baroque music, makes for a more solid performance.

‑Analyze the music and be able to start at difference sections of the music and be able to identify the keys of each.

‑Be able to visualize the look of the whole piece, and go through “seeing” the music in the mind, (Lying on the floor!)


Apropos to this topic: Bonnie Kellert, in Keyboard Companion (Winter edition, 2003) discussed the patterns and related processes that can assist in memorization and offered the following techniques to assist in memorization:

‑Analyze and discuss the overall structure and key relationships in a composition.

‑Dissect phrases into elements such as intervals, chords, and arpeggios, Practice clusters created from these elements and patterns found in the composition.

‑Color code repetitions and sequences.

‑Examine dynamics and other expression indications.

‑Sing individual voice lines.

‑Internalize gestures and choreography (physical movements) for articulation, phrasing, sound production, and technical challenges.

‑Practice silently on the fallboard or tabletop to enhance tactile memory.

‑Encourage story‑writing to develop more internal involvement.

‑Invent lyric to describe structure and mood changes.

‑Insert memory hints in the score, referring to one or two concepts per measure or phrase.

‑Draw”maps” outlining phrase and pattern shapes.

‑Study the score away from the piano to help develop concentration and more thorough comprehension.

(Used by permission of Keyboard Companion. Subscription information may be obtained by contacting Margaret Zullinger at 1‑800‑824‑587 or E‑Mail at circulation@keyboard


For further reading, the Spring edition of The Canadian Music Teacher (2004) has an excellent article on long‑term and short‑term memory by Dr. Maureen Volk entitled “The Science and Art of Musical Memorization”.

With the beginning of the new teaching year, a good topic to discuss is one that teachers diligently and conscientiously teach…. with mixed results!. Hopefully we will all be more enlightened and successful with your good ideas and suggestions in discussing :

SIGHTREADING (The Black Hole of Teaching)

Fax or phone all ideas for topics or questions at (604)263‑1592. Thanks for your help!!

Mary Tickner, Coordinator