10 Important Memory Tricks for Pianists

Guest Article by Sofie Kay

Have you ever suddenly forgotten your PIN? It happened to me once. I was standing in line with a friend who said something to me just as I was about to enter my number, and it suddenly went out of my head. I couldn’t remember those 4 digits until about a year later! It was a bizarre experience.

The same thing happened with a piano piece I loved, too. I was 16, attending a residential piano school and in a group lesson where we were being critiqued by an expert in the field.

I played Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1, was told by the professor to play something at the beginning a bit differently, and suddenly found I couldn’t play any of the first page any more. I needed to sight-read the page to work out what I needed to do!

The commonality between these two situations is that while I was preparing to do something I expected to be second nature to me, something out of the ordinary happened, and in essence it caused a glitch…

In the case of the PIN, a friend saying something was enough to throw me off.

In the case of the summer school lesson:

  • I was performing,
  • I was intimidated by how wise and experienced the professor was, and
  • The professor had asked me to change the way I was playing the piece, and had pointed out I was playing a wrong left hand note near the beginning (after months of playing it this way…)

All situations that can throw a nervous teenager off. I did my research and found out that this phenomenon can happen with anything we’ve learned, but there are ways to combat it…

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