Why playing from memory can be terrible!

Look at the video HERE, then try not to laugh. But is this really funny? Not if you are “that guy”. This never needs to happen! Playing from memory takes special preparation, which involves playing from multiple places, not just from the beginning. Never ever play from memory until you have several positive experiences performing with music.

When do you want to play from memory?

First of all, is there even a reason to memorize? In fact, there is, because some music goes so fast that you can’t look at the music and track your hands at the same. But there is a caveat here. Even if you have a lot of the music memorized, you can always have the music in front of you, then just play the parts from memory that are really tricky

Below are videos of some of the best players in the world playing solo but with music:

And these are soloists in a venue where most pianists play from memory. But if the best in the world can play with music, obviously memory is absolutely not necessary. Unfortunately the average person is impressed by memory, and ignorance always rules the world.

How much of the time do professional musicians play without music?

The answer: almost never if they are not playing solo concerts, because it is harmful to the other musicians. If you are in a group, and you are playing music that has a written score, you have to use music – always. Otherwise, if you have a memory lapse, you ruin the music for the other musicians. Since most of us are not famous solo artists, we generally are accompanying or collaborating, and we also have to learn new music really fast, sometimes in minutes. So most of the time playing without music is impossible

2 thoughts on “Why playing from memory can be terrible!

  1. It shouldn’t even need by said, yet it has to be. There are arguments that using the score quashes “expressiveness”. I think they’re confusing reading with prima vista sight reading, and if the arguers are poor readers themselves that’s another thing. I don’t think the performer reads note for note. For me, this cluster over here reminds me of that expressive thing I practised – so it aids expression. In fact, with worsening eyesight I’ve had to memorize more, and had to find aids at times to replace the visual cues.

    I’ve heard that it was one pianist who started the trend by being admired for playing without a score, and then it became a standard. Like – why?

  2. I wish my previous teacher had seen this before she made me play from memorization in a recital. NONE of the preparation mentioned here was followed.

    I was delighted to see the videos of some of the greatest pianists using the music score as they played.

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