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Memorize and Polish - A Musicians Guide

//At the Songbird Rising Suzuki School's Violin Studio and Summer String Camps, we use two terms to describe the landmarks of learning a piece of music. First students memorize a piece and then they polish it. But what does this mean?

Many of our students may already know and there are many who may still need clarification. Its is exciting and empowering to be able to tell for yourself when you have a piece of music complete and are ready to move on.

Each student has a ‘Check-Off sheet’ where we record their progress with each song, see the picture above. The left box is for memorized songs the right box is for polished songs.

Its memorized! This means the student:

  • Knows ALL the notes

  • Knows ALL the bowing (up and down bows in the correct place)

  • Can play through without hesitation

  • Feels confident and calm when they play through

Its polished! This means that the student has:

  • Perfected the piece to the highest level that can be achieved with their current skill set

  • A sound understanding of and can execute all the dynamics and different bow articulations

  • Considered and cared for every note in the piece by giving each note as beautiful a tone as possible.

  • Has the ability to perform the piece musically and confidently.

Why do we like to define and celebrate these two steps? It is important to define and acknowledge these two steps for a few reasons:

  • One, because memorizing a piece is a much different task than polishing it.

  • Two, It’s motivating! Some students find memory more difficult than polishing and vice versa, it can even change from piece to piece, knowing you have done something of value along they way to polishing can serve as a great moral boost!

  • Three, because you can see your progress on your ‘Check-off Sheet’, you know where you are heading and know where you have come from.

It is a GREAT feeling when I can tell a student that they have memorized or polished a piece or even better when they know it for themselves and can tell me that it is memorized or polished. It is a proud moment for the Suzuki triangle (Student, Teacher and Parent). All the parts of the triangle have worked together to produce beautiful music, stretch and broaden the ability of the student to find a new level for their playing, it is an example of excellence that we can all find in ourselves.

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