Well, you are not alone. Most pianists feel the same way as you do.
But don’t give up just yet:
There is an easy way for you to conquer this problem, and it’s guaranteed to work.
The 3 x 5 Method
Part 1: Creating Your Tool In 5 Simple Steps:
All you need is a 3 x 5 index card to get started.
1. Mark off 4 empty measures evenly spaced across your index card (from left to right)
2. Place the chords for each measure between the bar lines.
3. Continue doing this for the entire song: always staying with 4 measures per line.
4. Use repeat signs as well as 1st and 2nd endings to save space as well as to simplify.
5. If the song has a bridge (middle section), draw a horizontal line below the verses and then place the chords in the same way as you did for the other measures.
Note: Many songs have 3rd verses that are the same or nearly the same as the 2nd.
No need to write these chords on the card.
Part 2: Using Your Index Card as Your Ticket to Success
1. Put the index card on the piano and play the chords with your left hand in time (slowly) as you look at them on the card instead of on the sheet music.
2. Next, focus exclusively on the first 4 measures. Look at the index card as you play the chords with your left hand and the melody with the right hand. You will surprise yourself at how easily you’ll be able to play the melody without music after a few minutes.
3. Repeat step #2 without the index card this time. Even if you need to refer to the card a couple of times, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll be able to memorize this section.
4. Every time you practice, review the part of the song that you have already memorized. Once you can play this with confidence, follow the same process to memorize more of the song—always concentrate on 4 measure sections.
5. Carry your index card with you in your pocket or purse at all times. Anytime that you have a free moment—standing in line at the grocery store, sitting traffic, waiting for your meal to be served—pull out the card and review the names of the chords in order.
Remember to focus on 4 measure sections before moving ahead.
Part 3: Free at Last
1. Once you have the first song memorized, play your newly memorized song on as many pianos and keyboards as possible. You may need to refer to the index card occasionally. That’s okay. You’ll still be building up your confidence.
2. Start working on another song and follow this same method. This will actually help you play your first memorized song better because you’re now developing this habit.
3. Set a goal such as: “I play 5 songs beautifully and confidently from memory by…pick a date.” Review this goal 2 or 3 times every day.
4. Use visualization to help you: picture yourself playing the piano effortlessly a concert stage, as the center of attention at a party or just sitting in your living room alone.
The instrument is clear of all traces of music, and you are smiling from ear to ear.
5. Listen to recordings of your memorized song by great performers to inspire you.
Here are three things you can do immediately to put these ideas into action.
First, spend part of your daily practice sessions working on your songs to be memorized. Your investment of a few minutes every day will yield powerful results.
Second, copy the chords onto an index card for each song you want to memorize. The act of writing alone helps to imprint the chords into your memory.
Third, review the chords on your 3 x 5 card every time you have a free moment. Your time away from the piano will become a turbocharger for your time at the piano.