Memorizing music requires planning ahead doesn’t it? A challenge for all church pianists.
Many pianists like myself, serve as a volunteer pianist for their church. I enjoy every minute of it…but…it does takes time to adequately prepare for offertories and other special music.
One of my goals this coming year is to spend more time planning/preparing my offertories. I always know at least one month in advance when I’ll be playing my next offertory. I want to be as effective as I can for the Lord by being prepared. There are times I just have to play an offertory on the spot but for the most part…I know ahead of time.
Memorization should be a natural outcome of consistent practice on a particular piece over a long period of time. Yeah…like a year! No 🙂 Memorizing a piece can easily happen in a month to two months time with daily practice.
Choosing an offertory arrangement within your capability is of upmost importance. Choose an arrangement well within your level so you can focus on the message and not struggle through it. It’s ok to choose a challenging piece…but be realistic 🙂 I like to find arrangements that clearly communicate the message of the hymn without too much frill. Occasionally, I’ll play a more involved piece such as: “Saviour Like a Shepherd Leads Us’ arranged by Roger House, “Onward Christian Soldiers” arranged by Duane Ream or maybe “Blessed Assurance” arranged by Marilyn Ham. I really enjoy these particular arrangements because each one of them conveys the meaning of the text with little deviation from the main melody of the song; allowing the listeners to follow along in their minds or in some cases (out loud) 🙂 Personally, I like hearing those in the congregation singing along with me. It means they are focusing on the message instead of me.
I”m getting off track. (Sorry about that). Back to memorizing…one of my piano teachers from high school days gave me the following memorization tip that has really helped me. He told me to “find several escape hatches” (easy places in the arrangement) that I could return to in case I got disoriented when playing from memory. To this day, I still use this tip when playing from memory.
Joy Morin, of Color in My Piano website, offers practical memorization tips (including my favorite tip mentioned above) in the following article: