Late to the Party: Memorization

Throughout my musical career I was never required to give memorize any of the music I was playing. And to be honest, it was something I really never wanted to do for a lot of my training as teenager. Up until recently, it was never a requirement. In fact, I remember being told by a couple of the bass teacher’s I have studied under, that memorization was not a requirement, nor was it a common thing in the classical bass world. Now whether that statement is true or not, is up to you to decided, but this is what I have learned in my journey as a bassist:

From time to time in the practice room the music I have worked on, I have known well to the point of memorization. However, I really never had that skill tested. Thankfully, I had a great piano teacher, Josh Wright, my freshman year at the University of Utah that taught us how he memorizes his music for recitals and performances. This was my first experience learning how memorization is done and it is not as scary as I had made it to be while I was growing up. Thanks to his help and my persistence in practicing I will have a solid chance memorizing my music well.

Over the past year, I have really sat down and tried to memorize all of the music I am seriously practicing. Through the focus, my practicing has been able to enter a new level of improvement. I almost feel I have unlocked a new level in a video game. I say this because the world of music is now a little bit different for me to think about than it was before.

Let me know if I am the only one who feels this way, but when I am learning a piece of music, the sheet music almost gets in the way of me being able to focus on the nitty gritty details of a piece. It could be that I am a learner by doing rather than a visual learner, however, it could be more. When I watch the majority of the pianists I have known, they all memorize the music they learn, or they improvise their music. Either way, they have a deep understanding of the music they are playing. Through my practicing over the past year, I have been able to see that my understand of the music has deepened. Now I am not focused on the sheet music rather, playing the music from how I really know it.

The advantage of playing this way, is it shows you, what your body knows, and what you are using as a crouch. After the point where playing the notes with the most satisfaction, I am able to focus on is the musical quality of my playing. This is a step that I don’t feel I have executed well in solo performances previously. I believe it was the a visual block through the intent focus on the sheet music.

Overall, I am really excited for this new door I have opened in my musical journey. Has any one had a similar experience in there time learning the importance of memorization? Do you find it makes a big difference? Do you require your students to memorize? If so, do you make them memorize at all levels? I would love to hear from you. :D

Never stop learning and discovering, friends!