Brilliant simplicity

By Nicole Wilson  -  08 February 2016

I’ve always been a green-eyed monster when it comes to fellow musicians who have photographic memories. I am so envious of their ability to read a piece of music, sometimes even just once, and then be able to play it from memory. 

During my 36 years of playing the violin and piano I have sweated blood trying to memorise pieces of music, spending months getting concertos reliably from memory. I had tried learning them phrase by phrase, singing them, visualising them, using memory palaces, you name it I’d had a go and so when concert pianist Sam Haywood approached me with his invention Memory Stars , I was a little skeptical. 

Memory Stars are 3 sheets of clear plastic, one with small bronze stars, spaced widely apart, the next with silver stars spaced closer together and finally with gold stars almost completely obliterating the page. The idea is, it’s hiding just little bits of the music, then more and more of it as you progress so you don’t  suddenly have nothing to hang on to. They enable you to picture the music in your head and not feel all at sea without a life jacket which is how I usually feel when I play from memory.

I recently tried them out on my 7 year old son who was learning a short beginners piano piece. He is the kind of kid who is usually glued to the music and finds it challenging to memorise music.

The result - miraculous! I kid you not, within 15 minutes he’d memorised his little piece. Admittedly it was not a long piece - 4 lines of music to learn is no concerto - however, he took to it like a duck to water and loved the way he progressed up from bronze, to silver, to gold stars . It’s the little things hey…

At £9.50 for a set they’re not mega cheap however, they would last you a lifetime and we think well worth the investment. I wish I’d had these when I was at music college spending hours trying to memorise everything - I could have been out with my friends instead!


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About Nicole Wilson

Principal freelance violinist in London, ex London Symphony Orchestra and English National Opera, Nicole is also a CD producer, TV/Radio presenter and founder of Musical Orbit.

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