Last month we shared tips for memorizing a traditional tune by ear. This month, we’ll lay out a plan for memorizing using sheet music.
#1. Choose a tune at your skill level. Pick something in a key you’re familiar with, that’s fun and not overly long or challenging.
#2. Learn the tune slowly, using your music. Once the notes are familiar, be sure to choose the fingerings and bowing which are best for you, and stick with them. Learning to play your tune with music can take from a week to a month. (Optional: Listen to/view your tune being played – if you can find the same version and key; it’s too confusing if it’s different.)
#3. Memorize 4 bars at a time. Beginning with a different starting place at each practice, and playing just 4 bars at a time, use the following approach:
a. With eyes firmly on the notes, loop the section 6-8X.
b. Without the music (out of sight completely!) play the section 2X. ONLY 2X!
c. Repeat that sequence 4X, then move to the next section.
#4. Combine sections, bit by bit. When the shorter sections are sinking into your memory, combine two of them to make 8-bar sections, and use the same learning sequence of playing with music 6-8X followed by without music 2X.
#5. Play all the way through. Finally, play the whole tune 2X with music and 2X by memory.
I have always had great success with both the “by ear” approach we shared last month and with this one for using sheet music. There are lots of ways to work on memorizing, however, so feel free to branch out to whatever works for you. FYI, a classical music piece, unless very simple, would require a very different approach, mainly because there are so many layers to classical music.