Recording thoughts as an aid to memorization: a case study

Lisboa, T. and Chaffin, R. and Demos, A. P. (2013) Recording thoughts as an aid to memorization: a case study. In: International Symposium on Performance Science 2013, 23-31 August 2013, Austria.


We describe how an 18 year-old piano student (Grade 7, ABRSM) learned to memorize. The student, who had previously ignored suggestions that she play from memory, decided to learn to memorize, selecting Schumann’s “Der Dichter Spricht” for this purpose. Rather than explicitly teaching the student to memorize, the teacher taught her to record her thoughts by marking them on copies of the score, a technique inspired by studies of how experienced soloists memorize. Over a seven-week period, the student recorded her thoughts while practicing (5 times) and while performing from memory for the teacher (3 times) and video-recorded three weeks of practice and three performances. Her thoughts were relatively stable over time and occurred at locations where playing started during practice. The student was able to perform from memory after four weeks and to reconstruct the piece from memory after a four-month break. The speed and durability of her memorization inspired the student to perform in public and use the same technique for new pieces. Recording thoughts appeared to aid memorization.

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