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!

Hailu Studios Recital

Adam’s Music House was thrilled to host Hailu Studios‘ Spring 2019 Piano Recital. Thank you so much to Sarah Hailu Sheerin for bringing her talented students to Adam’s Music House.

Sarah Hailu Sheerin and performing students


The young people played works ranging from “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” to J. S. Bach’s first Two Part Invention. Every piece was greeted with well deserved enthusiastic applause!

Debussy Film and Preludes Event

Dr. Anthony Tobin, Music Director of Adam’s Music House, gave a double treat to a full house this past Sunday. Not only did he perform the first book of Claude Debussy’s Preludes for Piano, he also screened his short film “Le piano du reve”.

Dr. Tobin’s playing brought to life the shimmering world of Debussy’s pieces. From the majestic opening Danseuses de Delphes (Dancers of Delphi) to the playful Minstrels his control of sound and clarity held us all spellbound. Indeed, it felt as if we were experiencing  a only vague representation of our normal senses hearing La cathédrale engloutie (The Engulfed Cathedral) and the ethereal De pas sur la neige (Footsteps in the Snow)My personal favorite, La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with Flaxen Hair), left me simply breathless. The sound of the seven foot Bösendorfer that was just recently returned to the performance space rang with a true, rich tone that Dr. Tobin took every advantage of.

In “Le piano du reve” Dr. Tobin demonstrates how the construction of Debussy’s Bleuthner piano inspired him to create the sound-scapes in the Preludes. Not merely theorizing about this possibility from a distance, Dr. Tobin gained access to the Bleuthner now housed in the Musee Labenche in Brive la-Gaillarde. The film frames the period in Debussy’s life when he married a second time, became a father, purchased the Bleuthner, and wrote both books of the Preludes. Playing on both a modern piano and Debussy’s, Dr. Tobin demonstrates the sound quality and keyboard response the Bleuthner opened for the composer. The film closes with Dr. Tobin’s performance of the virtuosic Feux d’artifice on the instrument it was imagined upon.

Thank you to all who came to our event and we look forward to seeing you again at Adam’s Music House. 

Enrique Rangel Performs Forgotten Melodies, Op. 38: No. 7: Danza silvestra & No. 8. Alla Reminiscenza

Enrique Rangel Performs Forgotten Melodies, Op. 38: No. 7: Danza silvestra & No. 8. Alla Reminiscenza, Enrique Rangel

This week we’re posting our final video from Enrique Rangel’s December performance of Forgotten Melodies. Listen to Forgotten Melodies, Op. 38: No. 7: Danza silvestra & No. 8. Alla Reminiscenza above.

Check out our YouTube channel for Enrique’s lecture & previous videos from this series:

Op. 38: No. 1. Sonata-Reminiscenza 

Op. 38: No. 2. Danza graziosa

Op. 38: No. 3. Danza festiva

Op. 38: No. 4. Canzona fluviala

Op. 38: No. 5. Danza rustica

Op. 38: No. 6. Canzona Serenata

Enrique Rangel Performs Forgotten Melodies, Op. 38: No. 5. Danza rustica

Enrique Rangel Performs Forgotten Melodies, Op. 38: No. 5. Danza rustica

This week we’re posting Enrique Rangel’s performance of Forgotten Melodies, Op. 38: No. 5 Danza rustica!

Check out our YouTube channel for Enrique’s lecture & previous videos from this series:

Op. 38: No. 1. Sonata-Reminiscenza 
Op. 38: No. 2. Danza graziosa
Op. 38: No. 3. Danza festiva
Op. 38: No. 4. Canzona fluviala

Stay tuned for more every Wednesday!

Enrique Rangel Performs Forgotten Melodies, Op. 38: No. 4. Canzona fluviala

Enrique Rangel Performs Forgotten Melodies, Op. 38: No. 4. Canzona fluviala

This week we’re posting Enrique Rangel’s performance of Forgotten Melodies, Op. 38: No. 4. Canzona fluviala! 

Check out our YouTube channel for Enrique’s lecture & Op. 38: No. 1. Sonata-ReminiscenzaOp. 38: No. 2. Danza graziosa & Op. 38: No. 3. Danza festiva!

Stay tuned for more every week!

Enrique Rangel Performs Forgotten Melodies, Op. 38: No. 3. Danza festiva

Enrique Rangel Performs Forgotten Melodies, Op. 38: No. 3. Danza festiva

This week we’re posting Enrique Rangel’s performance of Forgotten Melodies, Op. 38: No. 3. Danza festiva!

Check out our YouTube channel for Enrique’s lecture & Op. 38: No. 1. Sonata-Reminiscenza & Op. 38: No. 2. Danza graziosa!

Stay tuned for more!