Playing a piano piece when you have the sheet music right in front of you is one thing, but what happens when you don’t have the sheet music?
For many people, the ultimate goal when learning the piano is to be able to play pieces by heart, or in other words, to memorize them and to be able to play them without the need for the sheet music.
This is easier said than done, but still doable. Today we want to go over some important tips on how to learn a piano piece by heart.
A Solid Understanding of Sheet Music
Before you can start memorizing a song and playing it by heart, you first need to master it with the sheet music in front of you. If you cannot play the song with the sheet music, there is no chance that you will be able to play it by heart.
Therefore, you need to go through the process of learning how to read sheet music, how to interpret the musical notes, which fingers hit which notes on the keyboard, etc. In order to start learning a piece by heart, you first need to know how to play it from sheet music.
The reason for this is not only because knowing how to read sheet music is important for learning the piano, but because it will make it much easier to visualize it when you don’t have the sheet in front of you.
Learning how to play a song from start to finish using sheet music will take time and repetition. This will become engrained in your head, and you will learn the basics of any song. Repetition is a big part of learning to play by heart.
Already having played it several times over from sheet music will help you get the hang of the song in question; it will help you visualize the sheet music, and it will help you get a basic understanding of how the song is played.
Do it Line by Line
Another tip for learning to play a piano song by heart is to play it line by line. Once you have mastered how to play the song with sheet music in front of you, you can start removing the sheet music from the equation, but not all at once. Just start with a single line, or maybe two lines if you can manage.
Play those few lines with the sheet music several times over and really pay attention to what you are playing. Memorize every single note that both hands need to play. Repeating this with the sheet music several times over should do the trick.
Now you can remove the sheet music from in front of you and play those few lines by heart. Once you master the first line, increase the number of lines, repeat the song from the beginning; master that extra line, and then keep adding more lines until you have memorized the whole song by heart.
Listening to the Song
Something which seems to help many people memorize songs, so they can play them by heart, is to actually listen to them.
You can try just listening to the song several times before you attempt to play it by heart and see how far you get. Listen to that same song 20 times per day if you have to. You can also try having the song play in the background as you play, as this will make it much easier to play by heart.
No, when you go to actually play by heart, you won’t have the song playing in the background, but it definitely helps for the learning process. Being able to play along with a song makes it much easier. Start by playing along with the help of your sheet music and then begin not using the sheet music.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Finally, the best way to learn to play a piano song by heart is through pure repetition.
It might take 100 or 200 times, but the more you work through it, the easier it will get and the more you will remember. A lot of this has to do with your subconscious and with muscle memory.
The more you practice, the better your muscle memory becomes. Eventually you won’t even have to think about which notes to hit and when; your subconscious will remember and automatically do it.
The key to playing a song by heart is to choose a song you like, learn to play it using sheet music first, and then slowly remove the sheet music as you learn the song by heart, line by line. Of course, the more you practice, the easier it will become.