Playing from memory

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by hicks, Dec 16, 2008.

  1. hicks

    hicks Member

    Would you, or have you ever played a solo from memory?

    It looks impressive, and do you think it leads to a better musical performance by not having to concentrate on reading the notes?

    I've heard people say that to overcome performance anxiety, you should concentrate on the audience. Would playing from memory allow you to do this.

    I'm going to attempt to play the Rimsky-Korsakov trombone concerto from memory.
  2. LilMissFlugel

    LilMissFlugel Member

    I think looks better, especially at entertainment contests.

    ROBTHEDOG Member

    Good luck great choice - maybe just have the part on a low stand as back up to relieve worries !!
  4. scotchgirl

    scotchgirl Active Member

    Playing from memory does enhance a performance I feel. I've done it a couple of times in the past, and whilst at uni. I've found that learning a piece so well that you can play it from memory, allows you to focus on the 'performance' rather than hiding behind a stand, and having the emotional crutch of the music in front of you....

    It can be daunting though, you really need to know the music well...really well.
  5. ian perks

    ian perks Active Member

    West Midlands
    Not played a solo from memory but about 20yrs ago the band i was playing for were going to Leicester Contest playing Force Of Destiny (2nd Section) the conductor said on the friday night before the contest.
    "Right put your parts under your seats and play your parts from memory on a run through"
    The band did a few mistakes but the confidence it gave was very good when the band went to the contest and came 2nd.
  6. hicks

    hicks Member

    Yes, part of me is thinking why add an extra level of risk to the performance. But in the past I've still been very nervous, even having the music there to read. I don't have the best memory in the world, so this will be a challenge!
  7. Di B

    Di B Member

    Dudley UK
    I have heard of this backfiring on people who if they have had a panic attack before they play!

    I suggest you ask the sop or cornet player to keep a copy on their stand. If you run into a blank a quick look over should be enough for you to pick it up again without many problems - best to be safe than sorry and it will still look good!
  8. David Mann

    David Mann Member

    Athies, Pas de Calais, France
    It would scare me to death! I have tried to learn to play by ear / memory but can't do it (so far). Yet I know people who play instruments - brass, guitars, accordions, piano, really well and prefer not to have music. That always made me wonder if there is an innate skill or whether it's the environment in which you learned to play.
  9. a_szafranek

    a_szafranek Member

    From Memory

    I just back for Christmas to my home town and decided to go and listening to Enderby at their annual Christmas concert. Principal cornetist Ian Dickman played Napoli from memory - note perfect! Although, I've never seen him look at any piece of music more than once - the guy has the unique ability of a photographic memory, which I'm sure helps! :)
  10. themusicalrentboy

    themusicalrentboy Active Member

    I always try and learn solos because A) it looks better and B) if you're not looking at the notes you can concentrate on adding some musical elements to your performance. Plus, I think if you need to read the music you aren't ready to play it in public (hypocritical seeing as I did just that yesterday but hey :p )

    The worst thing I can do whilst playing from memory is to think. Disengage brain from everything else and just let it flow - the second I think about what I'm doing next I mess up because those thoughts are 'in the way' if you like.
  11. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Some people can do it, others can't....and the problem with it is that you can't really 'practice' in a live environment.

    The only time I really spannered something up was La Belle Americaine in a concert with Middleton Band in about 1993....Mr Brain went AWOL in the last variation and I missed 4 semiquavers out...

    I've had it the other way as well when a pianist accused me of adding a bar in Napoli which, er, didn't happen.....but then the accompaniment for it does need 13 fingers playing 6 in a bar quavers like hammers....

    I think it looks good, but if it's not for you then don't sweat too much about it.
  12. Blagger

    Blagger Member

    Preston, Lancs
    Yep i always try to as well.
    I think it doess help - also gives you the opportunity to move around the stage a bit which I find helps overcome any nerves.
    Quite often when the band stops "mid flow" during a rehearsal I cant remember the notes to pick it up again- if you get what I mean :sup
    I find that it all just falls into place on stage - you probably know far more pieces off by heart than you think - go for it - dont put any music out as a "panic button" - as you will just rely on it which misses the point somewhat.
  13. adrian90s

    adrian90s Member

    South Yorks.
    Yes, playing from memory is the only way to go if you are serious about standing up. If your band has nominated you to do the solo at an entertainment contest (Butlins perhaps!) you should reward their faith by memorising your piece. Do plenty of gigs beforehand as runouts- It all adds to gain entertainment points.
    Air varie type pieces are best done a varie at a time and other stuff 20 bars or so, played a million times every day. It's very daunting but, you have an element of freedom to be a little more creative.
    It's someone to count me in that I need! (Liz)

    Adrian on a newly repaired Sterling.
  14. dawny

    dawny Member

    Burton on Trent
    My personal experience of this is that being quite a nervous soloist at times, i found that playing a solo from memory really helped me overcome certain anxieties that i had. Solitaire is one of my favourite pieces to play without music. As for the nerves, perhaps it is the concentration level required to play without music that outweighs the fears that you get when you know what is coming next, plus you can make eye contact with the audience. It seems to help for me anyway.
  15. andyp

    andyp Active Member

    Southport, Lancashire
    Yes, it's just a question of playing it over and over again until it sticks. If it's one you really like/enjoy you usually find it much easier to learn!

    Causes some fun when rehearsing with the band though, conductor says "go from letter F" - Where's F? Didn't memorise any letters!

    Plus there's no stand/drape/music between you and the audience.
  16. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - good call! This happened to one of our top UK soloists at a brass open day in Glasgow this year when it was suggested by Jimmy Gourlay that solo playing is best done without music. The poor guy had to go to the score to find the starting point.
  17. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Hadleigh, Essex
    I don't like playing without a copy, although if there is a copy there I may not look at it :-?

    There can be problems with an air varie style solo, and I've known a soloist come in with the wrong variation where the tutti intros were the same :oops:
  18. Andy_Euph

    Andy_Euph Active Member

    I've played the Karl Jenkins Benedictus from memory before, as its quite easy to do as it's more or less the same thing all the way through...i've also had to do standy up things as part of a section loads of times too. To be honest I actually find it better playing from memory because I never get any kind of nerves, don't know why though.

    Good luck with your solo though :D
  19. brassbandmaestro

    brassbandmaestro Active Member

    Burgess Hill West sussex
    i havn't played many solos in my time but I have played one solo from memory and sang to. I would say that if you had the confidsence in the knowledge that you know the piece really well, then play from memory. Soemone said earlier have back up, like a music stand nearby set low, this is quite a good option. Just in case of panic attacks on stage. You never know when that is going to happen.
  20. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Brighouse, Yorkshire
    Never played one from memory by choice....

    Concert on the bandstand in Lister Park, Bradford, with YBS Junior band, probably six and a half years ago. Stood up in the second half to play Sandy Blair's "Tijuana Tuba," and about twenty bars in, a sudden gust of wind catapulted my stand off the bandstand, the music flew off in the general direction of the duck pond - where it presumably still is.

    Thankfully I'd beeen playing it as a solo since the preceding christmas so knew it pretty well. I missed a few G-sharps in the key change in the middle, but emerged relatively unscathed.

    However I've never dared attempt a stand-up solo since. (Chicken I know)

    Good luck pulling it off mate. If I can make a half decent fist of playing from memory when forced to, I'm sure it can't be enormously difficult!!
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