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Should Soloists Always Perform from Memory?

Andre Watts performs from memory with the Atlanta Symphony

“Performing from memory can be a beautiful thing.”
The Musician’s Way, p. 82

As someone who has performed countless solos, I know the upsides and downsides of playing with and without a score.

We musicians often hash over the issue of whether to memorize or not, and pianist Stephen Hough thoughtfully examined the pros and cons in a 2011 article in The Guardian. Continue Reading

The Four Stages of Memorization

Andre Watts

“I’m very mistrustful of tactile memory.
I think it’s the first thing that goes.”
–André Watts, pianist (The Musician’s Way, p. 82)

Have you ever been blindsided by a memory lapse? Maybe you felt secure in practice, but, during a performance, you blanked on a passage.

I suspect that every musician has felt the jolt of memory slips.

I also believe that memory glitches could be far less common because secure memorization involves concepts and skills that any musician can learn.

This post summarizes a 4-part framework that helps both singers and instrumentalists become masterful memorizers. Continue Reading

“Memories are Made of This” Published in The Strad

The October 2009 issue of the UK monthly The Strad features an article I wrote about memorization titled “Memories are Made of This.”

I was invited to contribute to the magazine by its editor, Ariane Todes, after she attended a lecture I gave on the subject of memorization at the 2009 conference of the American String Teachers Association in Atlanta. Continue Reading

Writing about Music

Why write about music and musical expertise?

Is it as abstruse as that old saw – “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture” – would lead us to believe?

Continue Reading

Sol What? Some Thoughts on Solfège

In The Musician’s Way, I encourage the singing of solfège syllables, scale-degree numbers, counting syllables, and letter names as part of the process of learning, memorizing, and interpreting music.

In my own teaching and playing, I employ the fixed-do solfège system, and I’d like to offer some reasons why. Continue Reading