As a piano teacher, I am often asked by students and parents whether memorizing the music is required for the recital? And the answer is “it depends”. If you are an advanced student or a college music major, you are often required to memorize your solo classical music. It is because you are expected to know the music beyond the notes and the score. By memorizing the music, one can truly focus on the musical artistry, musical expressiveness, and other musical elements that will ultimately furnish a better stage performance. However, if you are playing “new music” or chamber music, memorization is typically optional. This trend of memorizing music for performance began during the Romantic Era (1820-1900). It was first started by famous performers and composers such as Paganini on violin and Liszt and Clara Schumann on piano. Musicians usually spend a lot of time working on memorizing the music and striving to master it at the same time.
There is a famous Chinese saying: “A minute on stage takes ten years of practice.” Even professional pianists put all their efforts into memorizing and practicing music. But if you can start today by learning the right technique for memorizing music, you will be rewarded with confidence in stage performance. And maybe you will even start memorizing all the music pieces you’re ever going to play. Remember, memorizing is not getting easier; it is you who is getting better at it!! The technique on how to memorize music requires patience, dedication, and numerous repetition. The key is to divide the piece into several phrases and adjoin them all, once it is memorized. To start, maybe try memorizing a short piece. Do not feel like you have to memorize the entire song right away. Memorize the piece as much as you can by starting with a single phrase (about four measures) at a time. Once you feel comfortable and confident, then add more phrases the following week. Also, instead of memorizing the music for the upcoming recital, you might want to try to memorize a song or several songs for your lessons. This training will help you better prepare to be a memory expert before you showcase it to your peers.
Am I required to memorize my music now? The answer is no. You are not required to memorize until you are ready to try it. At the end of the day, we just want to make sure everyone is enjoying making music at home, at lessons, and at a recital. But in some cases, like exams, students will have the duty to fulfill the memorization requirements regardless of their age.
– Maria Crystalia, D.M.A., Piano Instructor