- Start from the end. This way, you'll feel stronger and more secure as you go through your piece.
- Start early. The first day you are working on a new piece, play a phrase twice with the music, then once without. Plan to memorize as you learn the piece.
- Identify patterns and sections so you know both the large-scale and small-scale architecture of the piece.
- Memorize in small pieces - start with a phrase, then add phrases together to make a section - rather than playing through the whole piece a lot and hoping the big pieces will fall into place.
- Know the levels of memorization: aural (how the piece sounds), kinesthetic (how it feels to be playing the piece), and visual (what the piece looks like on the page).
So, you think you have your piece memorized? Well, can you...
- Play through your piece with NO memory slips or hesitations?
- Play your piece first thing in the morning, as soon as you wake up? No warmup, no breakfast, no teeth brushing, just play your piece.
- Play your piece from memory in your concert shoes? Many of my students like to practice and have lessons in bare feet or socks, so practicing with the feeling of shoes is new.
- Play your piece with your eyes closed? No looking at your fingers, or at your music.
- Write out your piece on staff paper?
- Sing your piece while playing air violin? You still have to do all the right fingerings and bowings!
- March a steady pulse while playing your piece?
- Sit in one place, without moving your hands, close your eyes, and feel what it is like to play your piece from start to finish? Hear the sound you want your violin to make, feel the fingerings, feel the bowings, and imagine yourself playing.
- Play your piece after watching an episode of your favorite tv show? It can be challenging to switch your brain from relaxed-on-the-couch mode to focus/performance mode.
- Play your piece with distractions? Ask your family to make noise by coughing, whispering or talking to each other, unwrapping snacks, and making noise with their phones. If you don't have some distraction assistants handy, try setting timers on your mobile devices to go off at random intervals while you're playing.
- Play your piece before you go to bed, when you're completely exhausted and feel like your brain doesn't work anymore?
The reality is that very few of our performances will take place in ideal situations. We need to make sure that our pieces are so deeply ingrained in our ears, our memories, and our bodies that we can perform under any circumstances!