Friday, April 8, 2011

Does Color-Coding Help With Memorization?

     I've been doing this little experiment over the past 2 weeks.  I have 7 pieces to learn for my RCM exam. 5 of them have to be memorized.  I am a very visual learner.  So I've been trying to figure out some practical ways to help myself memorize and distinguish my different pieces.  In college, when preparing for an exam, I would color-code my notes. Then when I took the test, I could bring up that page on my mind's blackboard, and I could actually see what I had written on the page. It really helped me get the right answers!

     So with that idea in mind, I began to "think off the page" regarding my music.  "Why," I asked myself, "is music always printed black-on-white?"  Perhaps there is a really good reason- maybe our brains read and pick up the contrast better.  But I was too curious not to try something a little different for my own practicing. Here's what I did:
Bach's Prelude and Fugue in A Flat Major

     Yep, it's "yum yum yellow."  You should have seen my instructor's face when I opened my notebook at my lesson last week. I should have brought him some sunglasses.  :)  

      So far, this experiment has not yielded any astonishing results. In fact, when I started using it, it seemed that the notes were actually more muddled when I tried to recall them in my mind. But I am going to continue this for a full month and then decide if it is to be permanent.  I am considering using pastels instead of brights. If I color code each song, then when it's time to perform, I hope that I will see the distinguishing factors (and even my practicing notes) more clearly on my virtual blackboard.

     Another thing I advocate is the use of cardstock instead of regular weight paper. Especially in the event of needing to work on a piece for months, cardstock sure does hold up better then regular paper! I don't think I will ever go back to regular paper again. Now, for the pieces that don't have to be memorized, I will probably keep them on regular paper for the sake of easy page turning.

     What do you think of color coding music? What other "wacky" things do you do to help yourself memorize?


Unknown said...

I often use color to help with analysis and memorizing. Color pencil or highlighter help identify sections and repeating patterns. For example, I would mark the entries of the subject in your fugue in a color. Those visuals stick with me when it's time to memorize.

Leah said...

That's a good idea about highlighting...I will try that. I use stars to mark my emergency starting spots and practice sections.