Treading the Path to Memory

Memorising music is a topic we could talk about for roughly the rest of time. Everyone has thei own way of doing things. I’ve had a few teachers over the years and they have their own ways to memorise music. Of course, the older we get the harder it is to memorise. In fact, several professional pianists have reported that they remember more of the repertoire they learned in their teenage years and 20’s than they do anything after that.

What actually happens to our brain when we start learning a new piece of music?

It was once explained to me in a way that makes a lot of sense. Think of a well trodden path near where you stay. An example for where I live would be the walk to the sun dial. A path that has been walked by thousands of people over the years. This is a path that has formed up a hill near me. No pavements or roads, just worn down grass that makes it easy to find your way to the sun dial and back down again.

When we open a new piece of music, think of like a fresh forrest or local grassy area. Untouched and you have to find your own way to your destination. When you first play that new piece of music, you create a pathway in your brain. If you walked a similar path across a field where nobody had been then you wouldn’t leave much of an impression.

If, all of a sudden, you and loads of other people started to walk the same path across the field then it wouldn’t take long before the route would become visible. The more times it’s travelled the clearer the path will be.

Your brain will work in a similar way. When you first play your music, it’s unlikely you’ll remember it unless you’ve got some sort of photographic memory. Play that piece again and it will feel more familiar. Continue to play it over the course of a few days you will start to have thatwell worn path forming in your brain, making it easier to remember your music.

Of course, some people will take less time than others. I, for example, must have some extremely thick woodland for a brain because it takes me ages to memorise and retain music. Other people can play a few times and it just sticks forever.

The key thing is, keep playing over your music and at some point you’ll remember your repertoire for a very long time.

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