How can putting down our music make us better musicians?

Sonoro Women’s choir was reorganized in 2011 and has spent the last eight years dedicated to growing as musicians and performers. We began as amateurs with varying degrees of musical skill and have become an auditioned choir dedicated to making exceptional music. We’ve drilled our tight harmonies, our difficult rhythms, our emotive singing and now we comfortably sing in mixed formation. Still, perhaps the most important–and subtle–of steps we took toward growth was memorizing our music. All of it!

Memorizing means we can do extra stuff with our music, like play some chimes!

Alaina Hagen, Alto, is a returning member who remembers what it was like before we memorized our music and saw what we were like after we started memorizing. She says,

I was amazed when I sat in the audience for two separate concerts when I was away and all the music was memorized, it was very impressive and seemed to increase the quality of the sound exponentially! And now being in the choir since then, I feel that without being tied down to looking at music when performing it helps me connect to the meaning of the music, the director, and the audience in a very positive way.

Memorizing our music does several things for us:

  1. It keeps our eyes up on the director! As he’s fond of saying, he can’t help us with our noses buried. 😀
  2. It makes us KNOW our music. No more being sloppy about harmonies and rhythms.
  3. It let’s us clap, play other instruments, or hold candles while we sing.
  4. It allows us to develop a “group mind” where we feel the music together. The audience notices the difference.
  5. It allows us to focus less on the words and more on the meaning.
Elysium memorizes their music so they can do awesome body percussion.

We highly recommend memorizing music. It can be a hard, but it’s worth it. We’ve developed a few tips and tricks over the seasons that can help. There’s something here for every learning style!

  • Listen to rehearsals while driving,
  • or, for the kinesthetics in the group, listen while walking!
  • Once your familiar with the song, start working it backwards a phrase or page at a time. Run the last page, then run the second-to-last page through to the end and so forth. That helps if you have a habit of learning the start really well, but not so much the end.
  • We also highly recommend practicing in sectionals. Helping each other really works!
  • Run a few measures over and over until you can do it without looking, then add some more!
  • Use tons of mnemonics, especially when the words aren’t English. Think of a silly picture that the phrase sounds like.
  • Depend on the other parts to prompt your memory. Don’t memorize in a vacuum! Listen for key changes, repeats, helpful harmonies, understand how your part fits in the grander work.
  • Write cue cards with just a word or two to help you remember the start to the phrase. (Careful, don’t rely on this crutch too long!)
  • And MOST IMPORTANTLY, once you have it memorized, review it again! You’d be amazed at how quickly your memory can decay. (But don’t worry, it’ll come right back with a little review.)

Do you think memorizing music is worth it? What did you do to make memorizing easier? Share your tips below.

Watch Sonoro Choral Society’s Facebook and Instagram pages for news about the next time you can see them perform sans scores!