From the Archive: How to memorise solos


The art of memorising can be mastered by even those who believe they have no aptitude in the area, wrote Edwin H. Pierce in The Strad's December 1894 issue

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Every violinist who makes any pretensions to being a soloist realises the advantages of playing without notes. The absence of the unsightly music-rack, the freedom from turning pages, the greater attention to the instrument itself, and the increased sympathy with the audience, are certainly a suficient recompense for the drudgery that must be undergone to memorise a concerto.

To some, indeed, this is by no means a difficult task? As soon as they have practised a piece sufficiently to overcome the technical difficulties they find it already well fixed in their memory, from the first note to the last; but there are others (equally good musicians, and, indeed, often the best at sight-playing), to whom memorising is so arduous and uncertain a task as to be dreaded and avoided wherever possible. For this latter class this article is written.

Now, though there is much in natural aptitude, it is possible for anyone to acquire the art of memorising, provided they know how to set about it. The writer speaks from experience. Too many find it hard to memorise, because, having heard that moss-backed old saw 'repetition is the law of memory', they imagine it to be the only law, and set about their task like a schoolboy learning a spelling-lesson. A true, and far more important law is this: Nothing is ever forgotten wholly. We need to not memorise so much as acquire the art of recalling past impressions...

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