Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thank Goodness For Muscle Memory

Fifteen years ago, I got my A.Mus.A - my Associate diploma in Music, Australia. It was a BIG deal to me and recently, I was reminded that an A.Mus.A is still a big deal. (Yay, I do have something worthwhile under my belt). Unfortunately, I don't feel at all like a musician. In fact, I get worried about admitting that I play the piano in case I'm asked to play something. EEK!

Its a horrible feeling. This used to be something I was good at. Playing sonatas by memory was an every day thing! Its easy to mentally categorize this as yet another part of my past (y'know, like work and anything engineering or marketing related). But, why be so lazy? This is something that I can work on from home, at a time that suits me.

So, I've started making time in my day for some piano practice. The aim is for short bursts of practice, focusing on short sections of whatever piece I have chosen. Small chunks - I'm no longer the student that had to put in the 2 hours every day.

The most surprising thing I have noticed is that even though some of my hand and finger muscles seem to have shrunk, muscle memory seems to have stuck around. I can't play any of the old pieces from memory but the strange thing is that I can still play them if I have the notes in front of me. I'm not exactly reading the notes because I tried sight reading new pieces of similar levels and I can't read fast enough. Through some of the faster passages, my fingers play automatically and as soon as I try to read the notes, things fall apart. I'm using my old books so they have all the familiar markings and notes that my teacher had put all over the place. My hands seem to know exactly when to reach and turn the page and I even stumble at the areas that I used to worry about fifteen years ago!

I am grateful for muscle memory because I don't think I would be able to persevere through learning these pieces note by note again. At least I can have some satisfaction from fudging my way through a piece, knowing its far from perfect but still getting to the end.

I'm very interested to know how long muscle memory lasts. Its been around these past 15 years so will it still be around when I'm 60 or 70? Some articles simplify it to be like how children learn to walk - well, most of us remember how to walk right up to the end!

So, just in case muscle memory fades, I'm going to hopefully, practice enough from now on to give it the boost it needs to last until I'm in a nursing home and need to entertain myself.


Mike said...

You need to get A & a interested in playing.

Bilbo said...

Muscle memory is great for dancing, also. It's the only way I can remember a lot of the bronze-level patterns I learned many years ago. In any case, I may as well have muscle memory, since my REAL memory is going away fast...

Amanda said...

Mike - Yes, I'm trying not to force but get them to like what I'm doing and want to do it too. After all, they want to do everything else I do.

Bilbo - Yes! I'm hoping I'll get some sort of muscle memory for clogging. I read that in some cases, you need to have a a break of several hours for the muscle memory to consolidate otherwise, the sequence you do last will overwrite the earlier ones.