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Learning to Memorize Piano Music

We all have our psychological, emotional, mental and physical barriers when it comes to practicing and/or performing. One such particularly difficult challenge is that many pianists simply cannot remember a piece. However, it is the emotional reaction to not remembering a piece which is the most painful. In fact, what it creates is stress. And, that is a huge problem and very difficult barrier that pianists need to overcome.

Knowing what stress is however can completely change your perspective. Here’s the real definition of stress;

Stress is the amount of energy you put into resisting your situation.

This will help to change your behavior and therefore, if you change your behavior, you change the results. The first step is to become aware of your internal dialogue when you approach the piano. What is your little voice telling you? Is it saying, “I feel guilty for not doing what is expected of me?” Is it saying, “I’m not good enough, talented enough, smart enough, disciplined enough?”

What you focus on expands. If you focus on what you cannot do or are not able to do, that will expand. If you focus on what you can do, that will expand as well.

When you are sitting at the piano, your thoughts become reality. Your thoughts instantly take form as you are creating. Your barrier may be that you are focused on what once was, instead of focusing on the now! If all you do is focus on the fact that it was once easy for you to memorize, you are not focusing on the now. Present moment awareness is the key to learning to play the piano or any other instrument. It is also the key to learning anything in life that’s worthwhile learning.

The next time you practice just sit at the piano and meditate on what you are feeling. Don’t play, just feel. Does it feel stressful, joyful or painful? Are you anticipating stress or anticipating pain? Are you looking forward to playing or are you hearing little scripts in your head saying “you used to be great, now your not, you are not this, that, etc?” What are you feeling?

The next day, sit at the piano again and turn your attention to the now. Feel the joy of playing. Feel the joy of what it is to make beautiful sounds. Just let your hands explore over the keys, and listen to every note like it was the most beautiful sound you ever made! You are in the now! No one can steal this moment and pure joy from you. Feel the joy and the freedom in the now.

Once you have gone through this little exercise, and you are in the now, and every note becomes beautiful…even wrong notes. Now, in the present moment, without any negative thoughts to the contrary, you are ready to learn one thing at a time.

I teach the 10-24-7 Paul Tobey method! This means that you learn one thing at a time with 100% of your energy, learn it again in 24 hours and again in 7 days. Your retention rate for this one thing will go up 85%.

There’s a term we use for this type of learning and it’s called “accelerated learning techniques” or “advanced learning techniques.” It’s what I teach in my seminars because it’s what works best for me and for the hundreds of people I’ve taught it to.

Your barriers are not in the brain. It’s not a malfunction of your intellectual or physical ability. Your barriers (self-perceived limitations) are our little voices that constantly speak to us from deep within in our brains. You can eliminate it but, first you must understand it. You must stop feeling like a victim. You must stop focusing on the past (who you were), and start focusing on who you are (in the now). Your passion for the piano is evident. Your passion is living in the now.

The question is, how long is your past going to control your present? If want to experience freedom at the piano, all you have to do is sit on the bench, let your hands feel the notes, and listen to every note like it was the best note you ever played. Then, without judging yourself, or any note you play, just learn one thing in the now. Do it again in 24 hours, and again in 7 days.

Remember, don’t judge what you can or cannot do. Just feel, and be aware of the little voice inside your mind. And when it says to you “I can’t memorize this piece,” just say to your mind “thanks for sharing,” and go right back to the joy of playing.


About the Author: Paul Tobey has written many articles about music related issues. As a pianist he has performed to rave reviews worldwide and continues to develop his touring and recording career.




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