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Arts & Entertainment

Memorization and Practice: Student Q&A

Itzhak Perlman

Lesson time 18:18 min

Mr. Perlman and students from Juilliard discuss their personal tips for improving memorization.

Itzhak Perlman
Teaches Violin
In his first-ever online class, virtuoso violin player Itzhak Perlman breaks down his techniques for improved practice and powerful performances.


[VIOLIN PLAYING] - What I'd like to talk about right now is memorizing. Ha, ha, ha, your favorite subject and mine. So any problems, or offer any solutions that you may have, I would love to hear it. What about you and memorizing? - I find that I haven't really ever practiced with the intent of memorizing something. It's always just once you practice it enough, you've done it so many times. - That's a good point. That's a good point. Not to practice for the memory, but just to think about it, just to practice to know the piece. And so do you feel most of it, then, just stays there? - Pretty much, yeah. I mean, as long as I keep the music in front of me when I'm practicing. Even once it's memorized, I kind of keep it there for reference to make sure that-- - That's another point that I'd like to make. Whenever you practice-- and I'm not blaming anybody but, I just want to say this to whoever is watching this. When you practice, practice from the music. It's very important, especially if you have a lesson and the teacher tells you do this, do this, do that, and you know the piece, more or less, and then you write something down and then you practice without the music. So you forget what the teacher tells you. So always practice with the music because it also helps with the memory, that when you're actually playing, you actually see the page. I can see page 2 of the Brahms Concerto. Now, it's the edition that I always practice. I'm sure they didn't put a different edition and they put it on a different page. I can see the edition to that practice when I first started that. I can see what's page 2 and what's page 3. Page 3 is always dam da dam, dam da, in the middle of the page. Always see that, because that's what I've done. So memory, anything? - Well for me, what I like to do is I really like to study the music, just mainly making sections of it, because you can break it up into different sections. So that's the exciting part. That's the contemplative part, whatever. And that helps me a lot with the Bach fugues, definitely not overthinking, trusting your muscle memory, that it's going to work. Sometimes it helps if you fall asleep in the performance because then you really know everything. - I think what you just said was very important. Trusting your muscle memory is very important, because sometimes when we play something at the house, to practice to see if you can do it by memory, and you sometimes concentrate on something else and you can play it with no problems. Then you come on stage and you start to do the business about, what comes next? Disaster. So that's, as you said, trusting the memory. What about you? - Well, when I was younger, I actually had a lot of trouble with memory. I would really get primarily nervous for memory, actually. And it was because I had a couple of major memory slips that really kind of traumatized me, and so I would always be very scared about that. I've gotten over that an...

Play with passion

The world’s reigning virtuoso violin player, Itzhak Perlman performs for presidents, royals, and classical music lovers around the world. Now the beloved Juilliard instructor and 15-time Grammy Award winner brings his passion for teaching to a wide audience for the first time. Learn fundamental techniques, practice strategies, and how to add richness and depth to your sound. Give your most dynamic performance yet.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

This collection of Master Classes has been a marvelous companion during the days of Coronavirus isolating. What wonderful lessons.

Actually I'm not a music student and to start at my age - nearly 70. I was really interested in getting a more in-dept understanding of what it takes to become a master musician, as well as the opportunity to get to know Mr. Perlman as a person. It was a GREAT masterclass ! Thank you so much for the opportunity and for so generously sharing your knowledge.

Great Teacher! Hope to meet him some day. I have a lot of work to do, but It's so much fun. Thank you Mr P

An amazing class. Speaks volumes to the Master Class series as a whole with such a passionate and humane personality. Thank you.


Tia H.

Thank you Mr.Perlman for being a real human being not afraid to talk about your successes and your failures. This makes the rest of us non famous violinists feel like we are all in the same boat and the music is accessible to us all

Kenneth R.

Where did the young man with the extension (raised) shoulder rest get his shoulder rest. I have the same problem.

Alexander S.

I enjoyed listening to these young violinists and how they cope with the stress of memorizing music. I get the feeling that Mr. Perlman does not really have a method for memorizing, though I totally agree and appreciate his recommendation of practicing "musically." Being a great violin soloist like Mr. Perlman requires so much more than just attaining absolute mastery of the violin. You need nerves of steel, a photographic memory, the guts to get on stage and endure all kinds of adverse conditions outside of your control, and the rare ability to derive joy from performing in front of an audience. Though many hear the call to becoming a successful violin soloist, but few area chosen.