Memory: How to use it.

Memory is actually quite simple in its use.  There is short-term memory and long-term memory.  The short-term memory is for what we need to remember for a short period of time, such as: going to the kitchen for …well, something or other.  We don’t need to remember for years why we went to the kitchen; we only need to remember for a couple of minutes.

Sometimes I find that challenging.

Long-term memory is used for our name, phone number, address, parent’s names, sibling’s names and other things of that sort.  I still remember the first address and phone number that I memorized when I was in Kindergarten: Route 1, Box 274A, Caldwell, TX, 77836 and 409 567 7502.

Weird, huh!

So why do I remember such useless information?  Well, I think that it was one of the first few addresses where I lived for more than one year.  I moved from there when I was ten years old.  All of the other addresses are a bit of a blur.  I had to use this address for about five years.  I used it much more than any of the other addresses.

That’s how our memory works.  Short-Term memory becomes Long-Term memory.  The greatest source of frustration for most folks is relying on the short-term memory to do the job of the long-term memory.  Trying to remember something that we have spent little time using.

Keep in mind that some stuff will fall out of the long-term memory anyway; it is not a steel trap.

Other times, though, one’s mind is like a steel trap; clamped shut.  That is another subject though.

The best way to build long-term memory is to continually feed the mind information over a long period of time.  This is why it is so important when you are learning something new to have the information written in some way.  This is so you can read it over and over again.  If you are playing a part in a theatrical production, you will need to read the script many times to start building a longer memory of it.  At the same time, we want to remember it correctly, so, it is important to read it correctly each of the many times we repeat it.

Learning music is the same way.  This is why I have nearly everything written for my students to take with them.  Certainly, I do not write absolutely everything that the student needs to know.

There is a reason for this: I am lazy.

Actually, the reason is that I get a chance to observe how and what the student remembers with little stimuli.  The question in my mind is: What sort of things do we cover that the student not need written.  This is important for me to know so that I can remember what is difficult for the student.  Sure, it might be something simple that the student easily understands, but it is the memory of the point that is important.

How else can the student be successful during their week of practice?

The conclusion is this: Do not try to remember; act as though you are unable to remember until you notice that you do not need to look at the page or listen to the recording to play exactly what you should play.



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