Memorizing a piece of music is not easy. However there are tools you can use to make it more effective.
- Kinetic Memorization: This is acquired by playing and practicing over and over again. It is not always the most trustworthy tool as we could slip a note or two and not know where again to take from.
- Memorization by Ear: If you are listening carefully as you are performing, you may catch and figure out the next step of the piece by figuring it out by ear.
- Visual Analysis: Some people are very strong visually and they literally see the pages before their eyes as they are performing. For this, take the music in front of you and read the notes in your head as you are visualizing moving your fingers along with the notes. Try to do this away from the piano so your visual sense doesn’t get distracted by your auditory sense.
- Logical Analysis: This is a bit similar to the visual analysis but this time, you try to create logical connections. This can be a very powerful method if you are lacking time and you need to learn fast. Take the music in front of you and start looking at its form and find queues and repetitions. Music can be very mathematical -therefore logical- so learning the piece by analysis can be a secure way of finding where you are if you were completely lost.
- Cheat Points: First mark letter points such as A, B, C on the pages depending on the length and the form of the piece. It could be a spot where a new melody is introduced or another where the piece is repeated in a different key. Then practice only taking from these spots. Afterwards, close your music and try to take from A, B or C without even opening the book. This way, if you are lost during a performance, you can quickly go to one of these ‘cheat points’ and pretend that nothing had happened. 🙂
When I was younger, I had help from all of the above tools, however, I tended to use the visual analysis more often. I have also practiced with cheat points if I were to perform Bach -which is linear in his writing (this is called counterpoint)- and if you were out of track, it was hard to hop back on that train. Now that I am older, I mostly use my ear because my goal is to follow every note that comes out of the piano and adjust the sound in the present moment as accurately as possible. This also helps with sounding musical and not mechanical.