How do you memorize organ music?
A. I learn in fragments of 4 measures. This is a system that the French master organist Marcel Dupre used in his playing and teaching. Basically, you have to subdivide the piece into many fragments each having 4 measures. Then you memorize measures 1, 2, 3, and 4 of this fragment separately always starting and finishing on the downbeat. Repeat each measure as many times as you need to master it.
Then learn 2 measures (1-2, 2-3, and 3-4), 3 measures (1-2-3 and 2-3-4), and finally, 4 measures (1-2-3-4). After you master these 4 measures, go on to the next fragment, memorize it in the above manner and so on.
B. I learn in separate voices and voice combinations. The famous German blind organist Helmut Walcha was fond of this system. This approach is especially valuable for learning polyphonic organ music, such as fugues, Baroque chorale preludes, music of Bach etc.
You first learn soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, separately from the beginning until the end. Then memorize combinations of two voices (soprano-alto, soprano-tenor, soprano-bass, alto-tenor, alto-bass, tenor-bass) and three voices (soprano-alto-tenor, soprano-alto-bass, soprano-tenor-bass, alto-tenor-bass). Finally, play all four voices from memory.
C. I learn by memorizing a piece in fragments of one measure and later doubling their size. With this system you start by learning a piece and stopping every measure. Then play two measures at a time from the beginning until the end. Then master your piece in fragments of four measures, one line, two lines, one page, two pages and so on.
D. Depending on the difficulty and style of the piece any of the above.
E. I don't use any particular system for memorization. I just play my organ piece many times over and over and somehow naturally the music sinks into my memory.
F. I am scared to death of memorization and believe that only geniuses can play the music by heart.
If your answer was A, B, C, or D it means that you have a system for memorization and this process is more of a science than art for you. If your answer was E, I suspect that sometimes you might struggle in playing the piece from memory not to mention the process of memorization.
If you answered F, then you could give it a try and discover the strengths and weaknesses of each approach by starting to memorize an organ piece of your choice today. Having a system of some sort will make this task much easier than you might think and you will have a lot of fun in the process.
Do you have your own system in memorizing music? You can share your answer in the comment section below.
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