“I’d like you to perform your music from memory.” Oftentimes, these words tend to trigger anxiety and weeks of stress to music students of all ages and abilities. In this post, we'll dig into a brief history of memorization, and ways to make this challenge easier and more fun.
What is memorization in music?
Memorization in music simply means being able to play a piece without looking at the music.
Who needs to memorize music?
Generally, all musicians playing as a soloist will perform from memory. If a musician is playing with an accompanist (i.e. vocalist, violinist, clarinetist, etc.), the soloist will typically have their music memorized, but the accompanist will not. If an individual is playing in front of an orchestra - like in the case of a concerto, the featured performer should have their music memorized, as well. Not everyone needs to memorize music for performance, however. Ensembles like duets, quartets, or symphony orchestras, traditionally do not memorize their music.
Why do we do this in the first place?
We didn’t always memorize music. Beginning in the Romantic Era, composers began writing “art for art’s sake”, and took more time to produce and finesse their work. This gave touring performers like Nicolo Paganini, Franz Liszt, and Clara Schumann more time with their repertoire, and established memorizing music as a customary practice. These artists changed the way music was performed.
What are the benefits of memorizing music?
I've never memorized anything. How do I do it?
There is not one fail-proof method that works for everyone. The best way to memorize your music is to spend time with it. Here are some ways to make memorizing more of a game and less of a chore: