I recently posted a video on Facebook and YouTube about Musical Opposites. It was a really basic introduction to some common musical terms, the ones which I know well because I’ve seen them hundreds, thousands, of times. But there are many more which I don’t remember so well; I remember the word, but I don’t remember the exact meaning. Certainly at present too, as I’m spending a lot of time teaching at a basic level where these terms just aren’t used, I’m not being forced to use them. But does it really matter if I can’t remember them?
(I have also never had much talent for remembering a piece of music ‘off by heart’. My choir will recall the time we performed in the pub at acoustic night without music and I (hilariously) got completely lost, despite having just come from a rehearsal and despite having practised the song many times previously. I have met some who can play by ear and recall long stretches of music on request and they never fail to impress me.)
A good memory is something I am just not blessed with but I don’t believe this affects my ability to play. My lack of reliable memory is something I am forced to contend with on a daily basis - past conversations or events from my childhood can be a bit hazy at times. But equipped with my extremely well-thumbed dictionary of musical terms I don’t struggle on in ignorance. And I’ve thankfully never really had the need to play from memory since being very small (I memorised Golden Slumbers for a piano competition when I was seven years old). So no I don’t think it matters. And if you were ever thinking you couldn’t take on a new instrument because you don’t have a good enough memory, please just go for it. You can do it.
Are you a musician with a talent for memorising works? If yes, please share your tips on how to learn pieces ‘by heart’. I’d love to be inspired by your ideas.