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Piano pupils play exam pieces from memory which takes a lot of time. Is it necessary for me, an adult teaching myself, to memorize exam pieces when I don't intend to sit for the exams? As well as chord progressions, I am keen to use my left hand more.

  • That depends on the exams. For example there is no requirement to play pieces from memory for the ABRSM exams and you don't get any extra credit for doing so. Of course this doesn't apply for exams at "beginning professional" level since professionals are expected to play from memory. – user19146 Jul 31 '18 at 16:36
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I think this is a question that only you can answer. We can help guide you, but ultimately the decision will be yours. Ask yourself:

  • Am I comfortable carrying all of the necessary sheet music with me whenever I want to play?
  • If I'm ever on vacation and run into a piano, am I happy with only playing if I've brought my music along with me?
  • If I ever give a recital, am I okay with not playing anything memorized?

And so on. If you answered no to any of these questions, you may want to consider memorize some pieces.

There are also at least two other benefits of memorizing music:

  • You simply know the piece better. This deeper knowledge often leads to a better understanding of the piece, which ultimately will inform and change your interpretation of how you perform it.
  • If you have any intentions of composing, memorizing pieces will help, because you'll have an instant memory bank of compositional techniques as opposed to constantly having to refer to scores.
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It is not universal, or even usual to memorise exam pieces. Whether you're going to take the exam or not!

I don't understand what you mean by "As well as chord progressions, I am keen to use my left hand more".

  • Used to play left hand block chords but added exam pieces to develop LH playing. I love M7ths and am using Jazz Piano books by Kent Hewitt. I am playing for my own pleasure. – user33981 Aug 1 '18 at 10:02

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