RESEARCH ON MEMORIZING AND IMPROVISING
Researchon Memorializing and Improvising Music
Theart of improvisation have been neglected for many years, yet it wasthe core tool of the composition of great musician and virtuoso inthe halcyon days of classical music (Woosley, 2013). Manytraditional lions such Liszt, Paganini, Mozart, Bach, Ives, andBeethoven, among others improvised brilliantly in each and everypiece of their work. Most of the improvisations included Cadenzas andlong elaborative music performances which lasted only up to start ofthe ninth century. However, in the current days, most composers andemerging musicians have overlooked the ability of inventiveness andtherefore they have suffered a lot in their performances. There arefive levels of improvisation which include starting, apprentice, andintermediate, active and advanced (Khoury, 2010). The first tierinvolves learning basic chords, scales, and keys. It is where onebegins creating and developing creative improvisation skills. Thesecond level includes learning how to improvise using original jazztunes such as melodic shapes and swing rhythms.
Inthe intermediate level, more strong improvisation skills are createdthrough deepening rhythmic variety, patterns and development skills.In the fourth level, musical tools are used with ingenuity andconfidence to build excellent solos. It involves learning how tointeract robustly, develop innovatively and execute modestly fromslight ideas to the voyage of fancy. The last level requiresmastering more complicated strategies such as outside playing,rhythmic freedom and integrating them effectively in solos. Jazzimprovisation comprises seven elements which include melody, rhythm,expression, development, chord progression, performance and analysis(Khoury, 2010). The improviser should also utilize the followingskills to improvise entirely. They include music reading, masteringscales, and arpeggios, working on sounds and techniques, recognizingand playing intervals and having the desire to improvise.
Whena musician is able to play or sing every piece of music correctly inabsences of the written music, he or she is said to be performingfrom memory or barely had memorized the music before playing it(Chaffin et al., 2016). The act of playing from memory is veryattractive and inspiring however, it requires lots of practice andsacrifice, which has scared most of the new performers. Forinstance, this act of playing from the heart is associated with fearof forgetting what have been memorized and therefore giving anxietyof whether the music is going to end well. Thus, most modernmusicians have disregarded the act of remembering due to the fear ofmemory failure or lack of self-confidence to perform the music infront of the audience without the written music. Even thoughperforming from memory can be hard and anxiety-infuriating task, itgives fluffing musical justifications (Aiello & Williamon, 2002).As a matter of fact, it allows the performers to observe their handpositions and postures among other performance’s aspects. Moreover,the advantage of memorizing is portrayed through expressing andcommunicating the ideas of the musicians freely to the audience.
Learninga piece of music to perform it in front of the public requires theperformers to integrate two types of memories. They includecontent-addressable and associative chains memories (Noice et al.,2007). The associative chain memory develops when learning a newpiece and it signals the memory what to follows next. This kind ofmemory is usually unconscious or implicit and involves methodologicalknowledge of how to carry out something. Despite the fact that, thismemory alerts the performer on what to come next, it has a majorweakness of starting afresh when one requires getting to anyconnection in the chain. Thus, it gives the composers a hectic timein case of something going wrong during the performance. In additionto feeling embarrassed of starting all over again, it is not certainthat the memory will not fail again in a different place or in thesame location.
Thecontent-addressable memory is applied to solve the above problem.This memory gives a safety network that allows the mind to think ofthe relevant piece to use in case the associative chain split out andthus making the performance to continue without the audience’snotice (Chaffin et al., 2016). The reason that makes thecontent-addressable memory to save the performance is that it isconscious or explicit which involves declarative knowledge of knowingthat this and that should be the case. Associative chain forms in thesame way as the oral traditions such as the folk songs and children’srhymes. They are passed on from one generation to another for manyyears without any written records. On the other hand, developing anexpert memory requires several years of training as well assuccessfully using the recovery schemes. With time, retrievalstrategies are developed to content-addressable which allows theperformer to use the required information when needed. Thus, there isa clear distinction between how an experienced artist can memorizecontrary to simple learning of a new piece. Memory strategies dependon the difficulty and style of the the music as well as theperformer’s skill to memorize (Aiello & Williamon, 2002).Studying and analyzing the music theory in details significantlyenhance the ability of the artist to learn the music.
Differentpianists have discovered three separate kinds of memories includingkinesthetically, visually and aurally that enables them to play thepiano by heart (Aiello, 2001). Aural is also known as auditory memorywhereby the individual imagines the sounds of the piece as well asanticipating the upcoming events of the score and evaluating theprogress in the performance. Visual memory enables the pianists tovisualize the images of the playing environment including those fromthe written page. In that case, they can memorize the position of thefingers and the hands, the look of the chords when struck, and thepatterns they make when played. The kinesthetic memory includestactile, muscular or the finger memory which enables the performersto execute different motor succession automatically. This memory isonly achieved through extensive training of the arms, wrists, andfingers which occur in the form of sensing the key resistance,movement and position of one note to another. The success of thethree memories is only achieved through knowing the musical structureinvolving the form, counterpoint, and the harmony.
Themost challenging part of memorizing the performance is that mostteachers do not teach their students on how to memorize (Noice etal., 2007). Therefore, the students find themselves suffering a lotwhen remembering their performance. Some students opt to apply rotelearning in their memorization, but this strategy usually becomesinadequate when thorough understanding of the materials is needed.Thus, it is highly recommended that teachers and students shoulddevelop an active dialogue concerning various memories strategies andhow to improve them to have a reliable and long-lasting memory.Whereas most professional musicians utilize the musical structure’sanalysis to memorize a piece, it is normal for the students to beginlearning the composition without even analyzing the overall piece’splan.
Additionally,knowing how to improvise can greatly assist to learn the musicefficiently. Improvising just requires one to internalize theuniqueness of a particular style of the music in such a way ofcreating a novel piece automatically (Khoury, 2010). There is a bigdifference concerning the expectations of the presents and the oldpianist improvisational skills. In the past, the musicians wereexpected to improvise well while in the current age, only a fewperformers are supposed to learn advanced improvisational skills.There is usually a positive relationship between improvising andstrengthening memorization skills. However, to improvise, thestudents are expected to know various memory strategies which can beeither be based on the piece’s performance or analysis. Thusmemorizing and improvising music are the keys to excelling in themusic industry.
Aiello,R., & Williamon, A. (2002). Memory. In R. Parncutt, & G.McPherson (Eds.). Thescience and psychology of music performance (pp.167-181). New York: Oxford University Press.
Aiello,R. (2001). Playing the piano by heart: From behavior to cognition. InR. Zatorre, & I. Peretz (Eds.) Thebiological foundations of music.New York: The New York Academy of Sciences, Annal vol. 930, pp.389-393.
Chaffin,R., Demos, A., & Logan, T. (2016). Performing from memory. In S.Hallam, I. Cross, & M. Thaut (Eds.) TheOxford Handbook of Music Psychology,(second edition) pp. 599-571. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Khoury,S. (2010). Musicalimprovisation: Art, education, and society. Critical Studies inImprovisation / Études critiques en improvisation,6(2), . doi:10.21083/csieci.v6i2.1311
Noice,H., Jeffrey, J., Noice, T., & Chaffin, R. (2007). Memorizationby a jazz musician: A case study. Psychology of Music, 36(1),63–79. doi:10.1177/0305735607080834
Woosley,K. D. (2013). Thelost art of improvisation: Teaching improvisation to classicalpianists.