STEINWAY ENRICHMENT SESSION “The Technique of Memorization”, Dr. Timothy Blair, Steinway Artist Friday, 21st of January 2022 | House of Piano

STEINWAY ENRICHMENT SESSION “The Technique of Memorization”, Dr. Timothy Blair, Steinway Artist Friday, 21st of January 2022

Dear Our Beloved Teachers & Students. Herewith we are provide you the written answers from our Steinway Artist, Dr. Timothy Blair for the questions that has not been answered during the Q & A Session.


How to Deal with panic attackes before hitting up on the recital stage or during playing the piece. (Mr. Rinaldo Linville)

Memorization is a skill to be practiced as much as practicing to learn a piece of music.  It is important for the eyes and mind to work together to get the notes off the page and to the keyboard in the memorization process.  And from the beginning. Not tacked on at the end relying only on tactile memory.  A student, before "the big performance" should then practice performing their piece from memory numerous times in front of family and friends in house concerts.  Once they have performed successfully from memory their piece half a dozen times, this builds confidence so panic has no reason to occur.


Are there any tips to make the thumb always curved, Thank you (Mr. Yakobus Patrick)

The thumb is a muscle and like any muscle needs to be trained.  I really encourage in the beginning for students to use the thumb rotation exercise I demonstrated in our workshop.  It works.  That's how my teacher from the Eastman School of Music got my thumb fixed.  And I was 13.  It should and could have happened earlier.  The focus is on the first knuckle turning in and the muscle at the lower knuckle being developed.  Don't forget the exercise of closing the key cover and having the student use the thumb as a finger.  Also, using a ball will reinforce the students hand to have the needed knuckle crown and proper thumb position.


I want to ask you about memorization for adults or people who start learn piano “too late”? are there any tips to avoid blackouts same as the tips that you shared before? Thank you (Ms. Yuniasri) 

I know what you mean by "too late", but it's really never too late.  It always comes down to focus.  Is the mind actively focused while performing from memory? Or, is it passively relying only on the tactile memory of the hands alone?  Some people have better reliable tactile memory than others.  But mostly nerves are caused by an uncertainty going on stage that the performance will or not be successful.  During performance from memory the pianist's mind must be totally focused and directing the hands at all times.  Slowest possible practice, at all ages, engages the mind on every note.  Rachmaninoff was once overheard practicing his own composition he planned to perform from memory.  It is reported that almost a second in time took place between notes played. Reason? On stage the mind must always be in charge of the hands.  The hands in charge of the mind causes memory slips at all ages.


How to deal with memory lapse (Ms. F-Christiana Albertha Widjaja, SE, BMus)

Memory Lapse?  Good question.  The best way is to prepare carefully to avoid them as discussed in my STEP workshop session.  However, all performers are human and from time to time a lapse can happen.  Two suggestions.  The performer must never stop playing and must improvise until they get back on track.  Next, the performer, in survival mode on stage must know the sections of the piece so well prior to performance they can jump ahead to the very next section and keep going.  


I was wondering if you could give extra advice for people who are going to do recitals. Before the holidays I didn’t have much time to practice, and in the holidays 1 spend 3 weeks in Bali with only 3 days of the holidays practicing. In less than 2 months I need to memorize 5 pieces, 2 of them 6 to 7 pages long. Do you have any recommendations for me? Thank you (Mr. Eomer Marlson) 

Always remember your artistry comes ahead of personal pursuits, including holidays.  In the future put practicing and memorization and everything required for a successful performance by you ahead of holidays.  Take your holiday after your performance to celebrate your artistic success.  If you do not feel prepared you may consider postponing your performance until you feel secure. However, having said that, with a full two months to work with, it may not be too late to accomplish your memorization.  I think if you spend six hours daily for two months you have a good chance of accomplishing your memorization.  An important point can be learned here.  If you began the memorization in the beginning of learning your pieces and not at the end, the memorization process is easier and better.  Best wishes for your success.


Are you suggesting the students should memorize all the songs from each lesson even when there is no recital and exam or just a few of the songs? Thank you (Ms. Stephanie Stephanie)

Memorization is a skill to be learned alongside the actual playing of piano.  Memorization must be practiced as much as practicing to learn the piece of music.  Not every piece must be memorized. But students must practice memorization without performance pressure for family and friends so they become more secure for the exams and the "big performance".


I have a question about memorizing modern music. Sometime we don’t only play classical pieces, but also modern music with unique tempos, different times signatures and chord. What do you think is the most important aspect of memorizing modern pieces? And how to teach students who first encountered modern music? (Mr. Christopher Jonathan)

 New music has its own unique challenges.  Many times pianists choose to use the score exactly for the things you mention in order to be sure of themselves.  It is our responsibility to focus on the best possible performances for our audiences of new music rather than placing so much emphasis on memorization of it.  Always remember memorization only came into fashion in the 19th century when many composers such as Liszt were performing there own compositions so they didn't need scores.  Much like jazz pianists don't either.  However, if you are going to be secure in the memorization of some new music, there is no substitute for lots of time at the keyboard doing so.  Perhaps six hours daily with a break every two hours.


Music is a very personal. Each person has their own mindset in interpreting a piece. In you opinion, what are things, that teachers should pay attention, in order to develop student’s musicality without “killing” a student’s imagination and interpretation. (Mr. Christopher Jonathan)

You are wise to want to nurture your students individuality.  As the teacher you can monitor the students work for all the basics and be sure the student stays within normal boundaries such as not using excessive rubato.  Also you can reinforce to the student that it's not all about him or her and how they feel but they must remember to be true to the composers intentions as communicated through the score.  Most importantly while as teachers we must demonstrate various aspects of the music to our students, at the same time we don't want students to try to just imitate their teacher's playing.  Every person is different.  In order to encourage imagination and interpretation, I always actively engage the student with an interactive discussion of the score.  I often question.  Why do you do that?  What do you think is important in this passage in the score?  That keeps the interest alive.  Otherwise students can feel programmed which causes loss of interest.