Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about whether you have to analyze a piece of music in order to memorize it. It’s interesting, because in some ways I think that you have to memorize a piece to analyze it! But do you have to analyze a piece at all to memorize it? There are aspects of the composition you certainly need to understand such as the time signature, the key signature, things of that nature. The truth of the matter is, when you’re learning a piece of music you’re absorbing the sound, and you’re absorbing the tactile feel of it. You’re developing a deep understanding of the composition. You should know whether you’re in a transition to a second subject or recapitulation, or a stretto in a fugue. These are all interesting things to observe. But it’s not essential that you understand the inner workings of a composition before learning it.
I think it’s somewhat impossible to delve into a piece and have a deep understanding of what makes it tick without committing it to memory.
If you’re learning a sonata movement you certainly want to understand where the exposition ends and where your themes are. And once you’ve memorized it you can go back and figure things out so you don’t take a wrong turn. You might find that you go to the exposition when you should be in the recapitulation or vice versa. So, some analysis is really important for memorization. But to a large extent, just like you can learn to sing a song without necessarily thinking about the pitches or the rhythms, you just sing it because you can hear it. A lot of music can be approached that way.
Having the intellect to back it up is really important.
As I said, you can take a wrong turn. You might not quite understand something, and once you delve into the score it will make more sense to you and make it easier to remember. So analyze important aspects of the piece you’re working on, but then get to work memorizing the way I’ve described, small chunk by small chunk, connecting as you go. Starting with hands separately, one phrase at a time. I have videos on this subject which you can explore at LivingPianos.com/blog. Analyzing is to your benefit, certainly, but you’re going to understand a piece much better after you learn it! And you will be able to analyze it on a much deeper level after you memorize it. I hope this is helpful for you!