to my STUDENTS,
I am not developing your memory, but rather the ability to benefit from your already, highly developed memory, and I'm training you to focus your remembering abilities when playing the piano.
Your ability to memorize extends far beyond your capacity to use that ability. You routinely live out each day, from beginning to end, doing tens of thousands of things that flow seamlessly and invisibly from our memory.
As Neil Moore has said, "And from the moment we awaken it begins - demonstrated in our knowing how remove the covers from the bed; knowing in which direction the bathroom is; whether the door handle turns left or right; whether the door opens toward you or away from you; how to remove the lid from the toothpaste; how to brush your teeth; how to shower yourself; how to shampoo your hair; how to shave; how to put on your socks; how to tie your shoe laces; knowing the difference between hair spray and insect spray; knowing how to do up your shirt buttons; knowing where the kitchen is; knowing where the cereal bowls are kept; where the cereal is; where the milk is kept; how to peel an orange; how to make juice or coffee or scrambled eggs, or any one of the vast multitude of things that we are doing at any given moment, minute by minute, hour after hour, every single day, on and on and on it goes, relentlessly and reliably drawing from our vast, vast, inexhaustible memory."
"In concert with this, all human beings are pattern-seeking, memory machines that have been set to music. We are steeped in rhythm and intonation in our gesture, motion, functionality and communication, and we would lose our ability to operate in the world were we not."
"That some people believe that they don’t have a 'good memory' is quite amazing. It is as much an illusion as is believing that we are unmusical. And as we know, no person has the capacity to communicate their belief of being unmusical, without doing so via the use of complex variations of rhythm and pitch that are embedded in the very words that they use in an attempt to communicate their lack of musicality!!! Truly a vaudeville parody!"
Is there a problem with your memory? Are you too old to remember? Are you just not that good at memorizing? Don't have time to memorize? Well, if you believe even half of what Neil said above, you might want to consider that the problem with your memory isn't a result of an inherent flaw in yourself, but that it is a problem with the WAY IN WHICH YOU GO ABOUT TRYING TO MEMORIZE.
When I teach, I have 4 goals.
Playing the pieces I teach you is huge. What a wonder it is to have at your fingertips a repertoire of all different kinds of music, including the ability to read and play every chord symbol out there! Yet, playing the music isn’t my number one focus. It will always be the joy of piano lessons, but my number one focus in lessons is to TEACH YOU A WAY OF LEARNING . How...why...what are you learning? How can you use what you are learning?
Did you know that I am not responsible for your success? Ultimately, as long as I teach you according to the materials and method that I’ve been trained in, the rest of the responsibility lies with you, and if you are a minor, with your parent(s). We are partners, and when I provide you with all the raw materials, and the instructions on how to process them at home, all of the burden of learning is then transferred to YOU!
With every song I teach you, there are learning strategies I intend you to master. Things like verbalization, sentences, fragments. I point out patterns, and ask you to look for your own. I simplify, and insist that you slow down. I call your attention to where your hands are in relation to each other, and even what they feel like in a position I want you to remember. Every single one of these ways of looking at, feeling, seeing, and hearing a song you are learning is a strategy that you must become good at, in order to become the musician you dream of becoming. Playing the song isn’t the goal - mastering HOW TO LEARN the song is our goal, because you’ll be able to transfer what you’ve learned to learning other songs.
I've noticed a lot of reluctance in people to participate in music, like joining in singing, because "I can't sing", and "I'm not musical". I've heard variations of that time and time again and have begun to wonder where this comes from. People are adamant... "You don't want me to sing, I'll ruin everything" is a common theme. Why is this? Whew. There are so many reasons I could write a dissertation on it, but what it boils down to is that people have been propogandized - They've been compared to really skilled musicians and fall short. They've been told by someone they trust that they should stick to baseball, or something like that. They've even compared themselves to the musicians on the radio and it's obvious they could never be good, so why bother? In a radio world, we have become a population of people who let the "talented professionals" make all the music, and we enjoy the music vicariously through radio, mp3 players, live concerts, and music videos. Would you settle for other vicarious experiences in your life? Take the example of getting married, having children, and raising them. Few, if any, people are convinced that they aren't talented or skilled enough to get married and have kids - yet let's be rational. Are many of us really great parents? Wouldn't it be better if we left parenting to those who have the talent, and we could just enjoy parenting vicariously in movies and eventually, virtual reality entertainment?
So, maybe I'm being somewhat facetious, but the basis of my observation is sound, I think. Making music is just as easy as having babies, and perhaps easier in that there aren't any long term consequences! The following video is one that supports what I'm saying, and I dare say you could find many more videos like this one. A steady beat, and pleasant sounds from an instrument ANYONE can pluck, are healing babies. I for one am going to continue to encourage people to make music, any kind of music, for the healing of souls, perhaps even our own.
Want to go digital with your playlist? How about using color? We've already talked about combining songs on a single line. Let's face it. For every piano student, there is a unique and completely personal relationship with their music, and their playlist. Some students are perfectly content to have a black and white spreadsheet of blank check boxes to fill each month. Others take one look and run away screaming "BORING!" Whatever works for you, is the best way to do your playlist. Here are some ideas for you to consider:
All of my students regularly check off their playlist AND keep track of how well each song is doing by grading them on a scale of 1-5 each time they play it. This is one of the ways we keep track of repertoire health when there are too many songs to keep track of any other way. Potluck Creative Arts has posted a lot of other ideas for you to consider, especially if you're needing some inspiration as far as the playlist goes.
By the time you're in level 4, you're usually practicing 20-30 minutes a day just on the current projects. Maintaining the health of your repertoire is in addition to that! How important is your repertoire?
There are more reasons, and if you want me to, I'll sit down and write out everything - but the above 3 are the critical ingredients. With the playlist, and the repertoire, you will become the pianist you imagine.