The final post in this memorization series is about learning large chunks of music or big pieces/programs quickly and efficiently – without needing the printed music. If you have been following the last few posts on the topic and trying them out, this post should feel like a logical extension.
While a student at University of Miami, I wrote an original jazz tune for one of our ensembles that I was very excited about. I felt the tune captured the vibe of the famous Miles Davis quintet from the ‘60’s… That was the theme of the ensemble. The tune had unpredictable harmonic rhythm, harmony based on modes of melodic minor and a lot of suspended chords, and romantic-influenced melodies. It wasn’t extremely complicated but it wasn’t simple either.
For many students of music, performing without the printed music in front of them can be a stressful venture. Over the years I’ve eliminated the word “memorized” from my teaching vocabulary – at it has helped my students tremendously. However, for the sake of honoring the tradition I’ve included the word “memorize” from time to time in the post – this is the first of a series of posts on playing without the printed page.
Several years ago I had an adult student who was a great jazz player. She felt all of her issues in playing music came from not understanding the circle of fifths. She came in with the diagram and explained it to me perfectly. I said that it sounded like she knew the information really well. But she insisted that I help her use the information within the context of a performance/piece, rather than in a theoretical sense – and especially not restricting it to key signatures.
It took me a while to wrap my head around what she was looking for, but I’m glad she was so adamant about this. Because the series of exercises we worked through and I later refined has become a staple for all of my students from and intermediate level and up. It helps with learning and memorizing large volumes of repertoire (in any genre), improvisation, composing, ear training and reading… Just to scratch the surface.