Playing from memory

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by timbloke, Jun 6, 2005.

  1. timbloke

    timbloke Member

    It was announced at last weeks rehearsal that all soloist should play from memory from after the next concert, and preferably at the next concert (less than 2 weeks away).

    As one of the aforementioned soloists, do any of you helpful lot have any hints and tips on memorising Blue John. (or any future solos for that matter)?

  2. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    Practice it without the music... What I usually do it play through as much as I can do without the music, and any point I get stuck I try and work it out without resorting to reading the music. That way you get it down to just a few tricky bits to learn and remember and suddenly it's a much less daunting task.

    Looks much better to play without music anyway.
  3. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    If you play the euphonium or bass, you can tape a small photocopy of the part on your instrument. At least that's what our principal euphonium does ;)
    sevenhelz likes this.
  4. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    Well the best of luck, is all I can say. As far as I'm concerned, no music, no play! I can't play anything at all without music. Not a thing, unless you count scales. :)
  5. EflatTenor

    EflatTenor New Member

    I have to play from memory, I can't read, so maybe I've got some help. Try to 'think' the band's playing when you practise at home. If you can't remember, just write above the music who's playing, or what instrument is playing the main theme. It helps me to write the notes that the basses are playing down, or (I don't do that often) the chords. Don't think - just play. Good luck.;)
  6. persins

    persins Member

    I agree that it looks far more professional if you play a solo without music. Our Sop player also says that he finds it easier because then he can concentrate on the other things rather than just reading the notes.
    I would suggest practicing it without music is a must. Once you have played it through a few times with the music while you are actually learning how to play it, you'll be amazed how much you can actually remember. Definitely try to use some of the rehearsals for dry runs so try not to use the music in them as well once you have got used to the music. Just think how often you catch yourself playing a few odd bars from a test piece without the music once you have got it "under the fingers".

    It sounds scary but often the reality is that it is not as hard as it sounds to just play from memory. You may even find that you produce a better musical performance as you are listening to the ensemble much more than just concentrating on your own bits of it!


    I think that's pretty cruel, you could end up looking a fool if your mind goes blank on the day, mine would!! It looks good playing without music (if you can do it) but surely it should be the soloists choice whether to do that or not?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 6, 2005
  8. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    Actually, I have another anecdote about that. In our big concert last year, we played Windows of the World, and our conductor told during the rehearsal that all soloists had to stand up, wlk to the front and play their solos by heart. Of course our euphonium player was complaining again :rolleyes:, so he said to the conductor "why should we be able to play by heart, you don't conduct by heart either". So they made a bet, our euphonium had to play his solo by heart,a nd our conductor conducted the entire concert by heart! :eek::eek::eek: Amazing...
    Actually, I tought ot worked quite well, you could notice that the contact between the conductor and the band was much better then at other occasions...
  9. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    Not everyone can play from memory, just as not everyone can play "by ear". It may look more "professional" to play a solo without music, but it isn't if the player can't do it. Confidence is an important part of solo performance, and it the player isn't confident that he's going to remember the solo part then he's not going to be confident about any part of the piece.

    I have an illustration, drawn from personal experience. The National Capital Band was on tour in Australia in 1989. My father, who was a professional musician (23 years in a top US military band), was playing a solo on one of the concert programs. He had memorized the solo, and had played it at least 10 times on the tour (over three weeks) without any problems. The solo was on the program for the last concert of the tour. He stood up to play it and drew a total blank. Fortunately, it was a piece that begins with just the soloist playing, and he was able to improvise until the band started and then he remembered and was able to continue.

    In short, while it is an admirable goal to play a solo (or any other part) from memory, I do not believe that it should be legislated by the MD for the soloist.
  10. ian perks

    ian perks Active Member

    Some years ago now the band i was playing with were going to Leicester Festival Contest on The Force Of Destiny.
    Our conductor said 1 week before the contest
    "Right put your music away, we are going to play it through with no MUSIC"
    We did and it was very good, the odd little mistake here and there i.e: forgot the the odd < and > but all the right notes were there and it was together as well.
    We came 2nd on the day of the contest, to the national champions of that particular section Marple during that year.
    We were well pleased with the result.
    The same conductor the band who im with now GRESLEY ,in 2003 a week before the Midlands Area Contsert 1st section said the same thing, this was on the test piece Passacaglia on a Theme of Brahms,and once again not much wrong with it we came 3rd on the day of the contest and qualified, the same thing for the National Finals that year as well Kensington Concerto day of contest 8th.
    So at the end of the day i think it just comes down to practise and you will be able to play any piece from memory you have been practising, or it might be just luck.
    That i will leave to you.
    But all the best anyway:tup
  11. FlugelD

    FlugelD Member

    1. Practice. Play it again, and again, and again, and use the music only when necessary. Eventually, you won't need it... (hopefully ;) :)

    2. Have the music on a stand between you and the conductor, but face the audience. As far as the audience is concerned, you're playing from memory, and if you get stuck - well, the soloist should be looking at the conductor occasionaly, shouldn't they? ;) You'll probably also find that, if the music's there, you won't actually need it

    (I can still play most of my SCE 'O' Grade memory piece now - 2nd movement, Haydn Trumpet Concerto, and the practical was Feb. 1973! - However, I can't even remember what I played from memory for the Higher the following year... :confused: :)
  12. Sharpy

    Sharpy Member

    When I was in ttraining at the Royal Marines School of Music, we had two sessions a week of Parade Band rehearsals. One morning our dressing was particularly bad, so the Bandmaster said "Here are Five Marches I want you to learn for next week." The idea being that if we had no music to look at our dressing would be better.

    Im crap at remembering music but it was strange because on the day muscle memory took over and I actually played a lot more than I thought I would. Now I find that I dont need to look at my music as much when on parade, partly because Ive played a lot of the marches a lot(!) but also because I can hear where the chords are going and can use my ear to work out what note to play next.

    My advice is to play your solo and then take away the music and play it until you make a mistake. Go back to the part and see what you should've played then take away the music again. Repetition is the key to this exercise Im afraid!! (Im not very good at remembering music! Its taken me 7 years to learn the Queen and the Regimental Marches!!)
  13. drummerboy

    drummerboy Member

    I was taught to learn a few bars at a time. So you play say the first three bars, memorise them, then memorise the next three, put them together, and so on. I think this works better for 'technical' solos, rather than slow melody ones, but I guess the principal is the same.
  14. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    I can't honestly say that I have ever had to work hard to remember music. For most of my life I've been blessed with a good musical memory. However, now I'm approaching my dotage, I find I need the music there on a stand - even if I don't actually look at it. It's there as a crutch in case the remaining brain cell takes a nose dive.

    I suspect it has a lot to do with confidence - I was a cocky bugger at school. :rolleyes:
  15. HBB

    HBB Active Member

    I'm teribible at remembering stuff, I only just managed to memorise my french oral introduction, and even then it was really slooooow!
  16. Kerwintootle

    Kerwintootle Member

    I do nearly every solo from memory. I take about a week to rehearse with music. Then I sing it through in my head and go back to learn anything if necessary. Then from then on vow to rehearse with the band or piano without music or with it turned over on the stand.

    I find it a lot easier to play without music, but it can be very daunting doing it for the first time. You think you will forget but I have never forgotten the music, it magically appears in my head.

    I also find it helps with nerves. I just look at some point in the audience (generally the emergency exit!lol) and concentrate on playing the music.

    Hope this helps,

  17. Steve

    Steve Active Member

    i think this is either something you can do easily or something you really really struggle with. when conducting i was a big fan of occasionally telling the band to turn their parts over and play something and some did it with ease and some just gave up. The ones that could remember it played it twice as well though!!!! I guess i am very lucky that music just seems to stick in my mind, the only other option seems to be to play the peice over and over again. if you cant physically play it then practice the fingering / positions whenever you can and keep the solo part handy to keep checking. Good luck
  18. Crazysop

    Crazysop Member

    I'm not 2 good at playing from memory i have to work really hard to remember htings but once they're in theys there for life. Sterlingsop is good at playing from memory, good job really when she lost the dots a few concerts ago.........................................................................
  19. Gorgie boy

    Gorgie boy Member

    I play my solos without music but it just seems to be something i can do. Have never really had to work hard at it, but I appreciate that there are some people who just can't or won't do it. Solo work is all about coping with the nerves that come along with performance, and if you don't think that you can manage it then you maybe shouldn't risk it.

    I would always start with a solo that you know very well and perhaps take it from there.

    On a lighter note, while at primary school I used to take part in singing competitions at local festivals and the like. I remember one time that I was competing, I was so busy trying to remember the words of the song I was singing that at one point I completely forgot what the melody went like. Try making up a melody on the hop for a couple of bars. Not the easiest thing to do. This happened over twenty years ago and I still blush with embarrasment when i think about it!

    Paul Drury
  20. starperformer

    starperformer Member

    So... it would seem that having a photographic and audiographic memory with total recall does have an up side after all.

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