When is the best time of day to work on memorising your piano pieces?

04 August 2022
By Robert Estrin
First thing in the morning? Right before bed? Concert pianist Robert Estrin discusses the options

The question of when is the best time of day to work on your memorising is a great, thoughtful question. And, in reality, the answer is going to be different from person to person. However, there are some general guidelines that apply to all of us which can be helpful to everyone.

Personally, I like to start memorising music early in the day while my mind is fresh. After I get up in the morning and have a nice meal, I like to warm up and refresh the music I worked on the day before. After that, I will delve right into memorising music. This is not to say that this is the only time to memorise music. 


Late-night practice vs early morning practice

Studies have shown that if you memorise things right before you go to sleep, you will retain more information. Your mind will assimilate what you’ve memorised as you sleep! This is not to say that either method is correct or incorrect because one size does not fit all.

Some people might have their minds working best in the evening while others will be scattered and unfocused later in the day. Personally, I can work late into the night as easily as early in the day, but starting early allows me to learn more. This brings us to the subject of how much you can attempt to memorise during the course of a day. You really can’t overload yourself with too much information at once. For example... 

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Let's say you're moving house, and you're attempting to take all the boxes and furniture at once without stopping. What's going to happen? You're going to become completely exhausted and likely won't finish the job. However, if you were to take your time and take frequent breaks, you would be much more productive in the long run. 

The same thing is true for your mental work. Learning to pace yourself and work a little bit at a time is much more beneficial than trying to cram memorising all into one session. 


The middle-ground option

Try consistently coming back to memorising your music throughout the day and you will be amazed at how much more you are able to retain over time. Each time you sit down, first you refresh what you have learned previously. Then, forge forward learning more of the score each practice session. If you have the energy, refresh things just before going to bed, and your mind will keep assimilating the music as you sleep! 

Try out these suggestions in your practice and see how this increases your productivity. You can watch my lesson on the topic below: