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I've been playing piano for 5 months and have been having tremendous success (it helps that I've played clarinet for years and can read music).

By the time I can play a Level 4 piece from start to finish (albeit with a lot of rough edges to work on), I will have memorized the notes and the sheet music is really just there for reference and some help remembering dynamics. Takes maybe 30 hours of practice over a month to get to this point.

Is there anything wrong with this? I seem to be growing as a pianist. I am enjoying myself. I just worry that I'm tricking myself and am "brute forcing" the piece and not actually developing generalizable skills.

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    level 4 in what? Feb 16, 2022 at 22:05
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    It depends on how long it takes you to be able to play the piece. If you've spent a month on it, having it memorized by then wouldn't be unusual. If you can play the piece at sight, then you might not even recognize it the next day.
    – PiedPiper
    Feb 16, 2022 at 22:25
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    A month is not that long. You get opera singers who spend a career only to learn 8 - 12 roles in total.
    – Neil Meyer
    Feb 17, 2022 at 10:24
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    When I was a piano student (age 7 through 16) everything I performed at a recital had to be memorized.
    – Duston
    Feb 17, 2022 at 14:03

2 Answers 2

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Yes, it’s very common to have memorized a piece by the time it can be played with moderate proficiency.

As you progress, you may discover that your “piano learning style” tends toward leaning on memorization or on reading, but at this early stage, lots of people tend to memorize.

The primary danger of early memorization is that something in the score is learned incorrectly or missed altogether. These kinds of errors can be hard to fix once memorized. But that’s not to suggest you change anything just yet about how you learn.

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    I appreciate the feedback. I intuited your point about learning the wrong details so I record and watch myself play (something that’s feels incredibly uncomfortable but I’m learning to be okay with.) Feb 17, 2022 at 2:04
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Pianist sometimes have an eidetic musical memory. The ukranian born pianist Valentina Lisitsa has this.

What is interesting about this is as she mentions in interviews is yes she can recall scores easily but if she has comitted a piece to memory she can never look at a other score of the same piece again or risk loosing the recall ability.

It is also why the suzuki method has a habit of producing soloist of high quality because the emphasis on memory is done from a young age.

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  • Thanks for sharing. That’s fascinating! Not that this is the same phenomenon but when I’ve memorized a piece, if I think about it while playing I will immediately grind to a halt and forget what comes next. Feb 17, 2022 at 14:02

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