That Pesky Memory….

How many of you have avoided playing for others because you can’t remember your piece, or because you are afriad you will look stupid because you might make a mistake, not play “perfectly”?

Memorization is an integral part of playing the piano, but it can be elusive and inconsistent. As children, many of us simply remembered our pieces after we played them long enough, and indeed exposure and familiarity are important aspects of memorization.

Artists as well-regarded as Martha Argerich and Pitor Andreszewski acknowledge they can never represent 100% of what they can do in private, Andreszewski said he is lucky to ever play at 60%. Performance anxiety comprises many things, fear of failure, perfectionism, being exposed and vulnerable, and perhaps at the base of it, memory. If we knew we would have no trouble remembering our piece, we would likely feel more comfortable on stage. I always feel more secure with pieces I have known longer and performed before, since I was successful before I likely can be successful again.

So how do we teach or practice memorization so performers or the casual piano player feels better about playing in front of others? Nelita True, esteemed piano pedagogue for decades at the University of Maryland and the Eastman School, thought more advanced students should have 10 places in each piece that they could jump to if something happened while they were playing, so they could always move through the piece. Then she had them practice starting at these spots backwards, from the back of the piece to the front.

I was taught and try to teach the memorization is a multi-faceted skill. It encompasses muscle memory, playing by ear or at least knowing how the piece should sound, and on more advanced levels understanding harmony, chords, form and structure. A sonata, for example, has an Exposition where the melodic, rhythmic, harmonic, and motivic ideas are introduced, the Development takes these elements through various keys before the Recapitulation revisits the materials in the original key of the piece. In order to memorize a larger structure like a sonata one must understand the underlying structure.

Likewise in simpler pieces there are themes, chords, rhythmic patterns, hand position, and intervals that can be recognized and mentioned. Through exposure and awareness of the materials the student will learn the piece but also internalize it so it becomes memorized.

I want to explore this in more depth next week, if you have any questions please ask them below or contact me at tony at adamsmusichouse dot org.

Better yet, why don’t you contact me and have a piano lesson, I would be happy to show you how this all works!

Spring 2020 Master Classes at Adam's

We are pleased to announce the following master classes!

All are free for participants and observers, all are welcome to watch.

Contact Dr. Anthony Tobin to perform in one of the classes:

tony at adamsmusichouse.org

Dr. Stephen Burnaman of Huston Tillotson University will give a master class Saturday February 1st from 2-4:30PM.


Dr. Fritz Gechter of Texas A&M International University will give a master class Saturday March 7th from 2-4:30PM.


Sophia Gilmson, Professor of Piano Pedagogy at UT Austin, will give a master class Saturday April 4th from 2-4:30PM.


Dr. Kiyoshi Tamagawa of Southwestern University will give a master class Saturday April 11th from 2-4:30 PM.

Brian Marks Master Class

We were very pleased to have Dr. Brian Marks, Chair of the Piano Department at Baylor University, for a master class at Adam’s November 16th

Those in attendance heard very good playing and a nice variety of pieces. Seascape by William Gillock, the Bach Invention in F Major, the Rachmaninoff g# minor Prelude, the Opus 72#1 Chopin Nocturne, the Birds by Rameau, and the 1st Movement of the Chopin 2nd Sonata were all played very well!

Join us in the spring, we will have many more performances and master classes including Sophia Gilmson of UT Austin, Kiyoshi Tamagawa of Southewestern University in Georgetown, Fritz Gechter of TAMIU in Laredo, Stephen Burnaman of Huston Tillotson, and more!

Austin Chamber Ensemble: Dr. Tobin

Adam’s Music House was thrilled to host the first concert of the Austin Chamber Music Ensemble’s 2019-2020 season!

Many thanks to Marti Ahern for arranging and inviting Dr. Tobin, Artistic Director at Adam’s, to play a solo recital and a lovely 4-hand piece by Clara Schumann with Marti Ahern!

We had a full house as Dr. Tobin played the late Mozart Sonata K. 570,. Estampes by Claude Debussy, the Chopin bb minor Scherzo, and a short piece Opus 15 by Clara Schumann. This concert was in honor of Chopin and Clara Schumann’s birthdays and the performers made connections among them.

Thanks for all who attended! Our next event is a master class Saturday November 16th from 2-5 with Brian Marks, Chair of the Piano Department at Baylor University.

Shearon Horton Master Class

Shearon Horton was very generous and gave a wonderful master class November 2nd at Adam’s. We really appreciated her detailed approach to music and technique, she really tailored her comments to the needs and abilities of the students in a special way.

Repertoire included The Great White Sharp by Jennifer Linn, Chopin Mazurka Opus 7#2, Bach Invention in Eb Major BMV 773, Beethoven Sonata Opus 2#1 first movement, and the first movement of the Mozart Piano Concerto K.488 in A Major.

Our next master class is November 16th from 2-5 with Brian Marks, Chair of the Piano Department at Baylor University!