Way too many drummers (and bagpipers) complain about having to perform a tune without the sheet music – they moan about how difficult it is to commit the tune to memory. But honestly, it’s not difficult at all – it’s all about discipline and repetition.
Whether it’s your first 4/4 march or perhaps your newest medley selection, the method remains the same. It’s not rocket science (like my previous post about what us pipers and drummers can learn from an Astronaut) – it’s just a matter of hard work and perseverance.
In a nutshell here’s what you gotta do :
1) Learn one phrase (that’s two bars of music) and then play it by memory – just turn the page over and test yourself. Join all the phrases together until you have one part – that’s actually only 4 bite-sized chunks and shouldn’t take you very long at all. Turn the page over and play the whole first part – flip the page and check that you got it. Do this 10 times.
2) Put your sticks (or chanter) away and go do something else for 10 minutes – make a coffee, grab a snack, watch Keeping up with the Kardashians (or maybe not!) then return to your instrument and see if you can still remember the part. If you can, great. If not, then repeat step one.
3)Come back first thing the next day and make sure you can still play it by memory. If you can, joy! If you can’t, repeat steps one and two. Do this every morning for 5 days and you will have the tune going no problem at all.
You can top-up your memorising speed by playing through the score in your head (visualisation) – or tapping the tune out with your fingers. I think young students often do this in Mathematics class!
Bottom line is, there’s no shortcut. But it’s worth it in the end. Once you have committed the tune to memory, you can really start having fun with it and moulding it with musicality and feel.
If you have any memorising tips, please share them!