Musician Memory – It Takes A Long Time

In a room full of teachers I at our annual teacher meeting I asked the following question. “What does term Musician Memory mean to you”. A few people look at each other and one teacher raises their hand and says, “did you mean muscle memory” to indicate I possibly used the wrong phrase. “No” I said. “Musician Memory” I said, have any of you private music teachers heard of that.


Musician Memory

Musician Memory
Kayla Practices her Guitar Outside, Photo by her mom.

Musician Memory isn’t a real thing but to me it’s very real. I define it as the ability to forget how long it takes to learn a piece of music well enough for it become repertoire. We might be able to play through a piece music quickly enough, maybe even play it at the next recital but how long did it take us to learn a piece so well that we can sit down at our instrument and start playing it?



Answer, It Takes A Long Time…

It takes a long time for a piece of music to become so ingrained in you that for sanity purposes you need to forget how long it actually does take. I was bringing this up to our teaching staff because we, as teachers, need to know we forgot how long it takes. We need to remember so we can have empathy and respect the journey our students are on.


Musician Memory
Our Music Teacher Seminar

Why can’t he play that yet? Why did he not play well? Is he just not a musician? The answers to these questions simply are it takes time to learn to play, master, and have a piece of music ingrained inside you. It’s a lot different then passing a test at school. It’s a lot like writing a book. You have to not only know what to say but also believe in what you’re saying to make the connection we need to learn a piece of music.



18 Months Are You Kidding Me

As I was developing this term “Musician Memory” I glanced back at some of my own practice logs. I honed in on a few of my favorite pieces that I can still sit down and play today without much work and found one of those in particular that was on my practice log for 18 months. Within the time it took for it to float off my practice log, I preformed it for my teachers master class 3 times and concluded with the piece being a piece I used for an audition for a small local piano guild competition. As I looked back I would have never expected to see 18 months but that’s what it was.


Why Musician Memory Is Valuable for Teachers and Parents to Understand

If it’s not obvious, Musician Memory is important to understand so that you can be patient with your students and children. In addition to an 18 month encounter with a piece of music there were also times where specific pieces were on my practice logs during multiple time periods as if to have me get a taste, tastes it again, and then learn to enjoy the meal.

We all keep learning and no musician is ever done. So the purpose, the calling of this article is to stop looking for “done” in your students and focus on the where it is now because it will surely be somewhere else in the future.

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