I’ve always found memorizing music scores difficult – even when I was a child and had an almost-photographic memory for anything else. Since my heart attack 14 months ago and time on a ventilator, my memory is definitely worse – though it was even poorer when I first became conscious again.
My present tutor is very keen on me memorizing music so i can watch my hands and improve my technique, instead of looking at the music all the time. I spent several wasted practice hours trying to memorize Mendelssohn’s Venetian Boat Song / Barcarolle Op. 19/6. By the end of 30 minutes i would be able to play the first 17 bars he set me, but the very next time i sat down I’d forget some of it.
As I’ve said before, I like playing Czerny exercises, so my next task is to play a couple of these very simple 8-bar exercises by heart.
it should be good for any incipient dementia too!!
I like playing scales as well as Czerny studies. I find them soothing. You can play them while thinking about something else.
The scales on the white notes are much easier -the fingering is the same for the major and minor scales and for all the scales except for the scales on F in the right hand. For ages I played the 21 scales on the seven white notes – major, melodic minor and harmonic minor and the major and minor arpeggios – and only attempted the scales on the black notes occasionally.
I am now making a determined attack on scales starting on the black notes, where not only does the fingering vary between them but sometimes in the melodic minors the fingering is different going up from coming down. I suppose I should regard it also as a brain exercise – very important when you are 84.
I don’t play my acoustic piano before 8am or after 9.30pm – though the neighbours say they don’t hear me. The advantage or disadvantage of practising the scales on my Yamaha electronic keyboard is that it is so easy to record and playback. No chance of saying to my tutor – ‘Sorry, but I played them perfectly before you arrived!!’
Robert Schumann wrote ‘It would be difficult to find a failure of imagination greater than that of Czerny’ , but I find the exercises soothing. They are straightforward enough for me to sight-read without having to puzzle over discordant chords or unexpected accidentals. I put on my timer for 15 minutes and use my clicker to count how many times I repeat each hand using different rhythms, and end up feeling virtuous.
Czerny (1791-1857) was an Austrian of Czech descent. As a 10-year old he so impressed Beethoven with his playing of his Sonata Pathetique that the composer took him on as a pupil. Czerny in turn taught a number of well known musicians including Liszt.
In the past I have played his simpler Op 261 exercises but find his School of Velocity Op 299 daunting. I never was able to play very fast and at almost age 84 it’s too late now.
Excerpt from my memoir Woman in a White Coat Josh and I bought a piano when our youngest, Jane, was five. The children all had piano lessons – until they complained it was too boring. Both Simon and Bernard learned to play the acoustic guitar and all of us, Josh included, could play the recorder. We sang and played nursery and folk songs and had a great time. When Louise learnt to play the clarinet and Jane the flute, I played duets and trios with them. Once all four had left home to go to university, and I was working full time, we sold the piano. I didn’t play again until I retired. I used part of the £500 legacy from my Aunt Jenny to buy an electronic keyboard and applied to enrol in a piano class. I didn’t realise I was meant to bring some music to my audition, so I had to sight-read my way through one of the piano tutor’s pieces. ‘A bit rusty aren’t you?’ she said rather disparagingly. ‘I’ll sign you up for level 3.’ It was a class in which fifteen of us played on electronic pianos. Over the years I gradually progressed to a class in which we took turns to play on a grand piano. No class could match the wonderful introduction to music I’d had from my first piano teacher, Mr Lawson, (see my blog Memorising Piano Music from May 9th 2015) though my present dishy young private tutor is very good.