PIANO PLAYER BY MEMORY ONLY: I am 82. I play the... - Headway

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I am 82. I play the piano on memory only (I can't read music). Clair de Lune, Moonlight sonata, The Swan of Tuonela . . . . all the real music not simplified versions.

I've had a hernia burst out, and went to Leicester General (Monday). They have put me in the queue for attention. But my memory has suffered. I play a few bars then I can't get further. Loss of memory? Will it return? My piano is my life, I can play classical music anywhere (such as on St Pancras Station). Will it be permanent?) I have been testing my memory, and it hasn't come back . . . even though I am not in pain now.

Can you help me?

14 Replies

You might try playing the piece of music on a computer with the internet tuned onto Youtube with someone playing Clair de Lune, Moonlight sonata, The Swan of Tuone. You could watch their fingers on the piano, pause it, play it, copy them, and it may force through the blockage in memory. Hope you can give it a try as piano players have a special skill of taking people on a journey of imagination and magic. Good luck and I hope you receive NHS attention very soon. I love your wooden panel walls, very cosy.



Thanks for the help. I left it a few days, then sat at the piano again with heart in mouth . . . . and most of it was back! Even the bells tolling under the sea in Debussy's Engulfed Cathedra!. By the way, those wooden panel walls are now faintly golden after 15 years. Thanks again for your kind support (KAPOK)

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Hello Kapok. I'm guessing you've had a burst aneurism ? It might depend on how much damage has occurred already and whether the doctors intend to perform a coiling/clipping procedure.

You really need to discuss this issue with the doctors when the time comes because they will view you as an individual with your own specific needs.

It's possible the doctors will adopt a 'wait & see' approach if they feel the bleed is under control but, either way, I doubt they'll commit to any kind of long-term prognosis.

We've all lost areas of our ability through brain damage, but yours is particularly poignant. I hope with all my heart that any damage done is limited and that your ability for mastering your piano playing will eventually return.

Have hope dear Kapok, and please come back to tell us how you get on. Love Cat x


Hello Cat3. Yours was the only reply that seemed to deal in depth with my pessimistic view of my problem. I don't know about burst aneurisms, only that I have two hernias awaiting repair.

However, I will tell my doctor what you have said today, and also write to the Leicester General to ask how long I will have to wait for my treatment. I will be 83 on Feb 2 (Candlemas Day) and had been hoping to give CDs of me playing my piano to my 7 grandchildren (the only number I'm admitting to!)

By the way, Kapok is Malaysian for cotton.

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Oh dear ; I really hadn't intended to convey a pessimistic view Kapok. I meant to reflect the general opinion that brain injury is unpredictable.

My family were warned that I might not survive............and later that certain brain functions might be severely impaired. But things were nowhere near as serious as even the doctors had anticipated, and I was constantly reminded of how lucky I was.

So please hang onto the hope that you could be one of the lucky ones...................................... but any improvement can take months to achieve, and you are still at such an early stage.

I like RecoveringH's suggestion of prompting yourself with recordings ; that's just the sort of exercise which would help re-boot that affected bit of your brain !

My message was meant to convey that Anything's possible . xx

PS. thanks for the translation of your username ; so your name is synonymous with a fragrant, white, very versatile plant !! How lovely. xx

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Good news! Today I risked it . . . and it's almost all back! A stiffness in my neck has almost gone. I've played bits from everything I know, even the bells tolling under the water in Debussy's Cathedrale Engloutie. You gave me the reassurance I needed. I put it out of mind for a few days, then took the risk. At present I'm waiting my turn for two hernias to be treated by keyhole surgery. I can't thank you enough for the support you gave me.



What wonderful news Kapok ! Your message has made me smile ; it's proof that we shouldn't always assume the worst when we see how your great musical ability is restored.

A magical development : I'm so happy for you.

Play some Grieg for me ! Love Cat x


Oh so sorry to read your post, I hope it is a short term thing and you are back playing asap! My husband and I have just bought a piano, not as fancy as yours tho, neither of us can play but I'm trying my best! I don't read music either but so far I've mastered the first part of Amazing Grace....albeit a little slow! ;) Best wishes to you, I hope you don't need to wait too long to be seen. xx


Bless you for sending those very kind thoughts.

About three years ago my daughter Zena came to see me from Seattle with her two daughters Lynzee and Chloe. She could only stay long enough to take a video of me playing Debussy's Clair de Lune with granddaughter Lynzee looking on. Since then I have learned many more, including Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, which I have been playing once a week to test my memory.

This week I had a hernia burst out and was sick. The pain must have affected my mind, because afterwards I found I couldn't remember more than the first 8 bars and some other bars toward the end!!

When I go for the hernia repair I will be crossing my fingers, hoping for success. I will still be trying to play that piece by Beethoven because I want my seven grandchildren to have videos of me playing that and many other pieces, including The Girl with Flaxen Hair, which I was learning when the hernia erupted.

IfI can't play Amazing Grace, but I have a favourite. It's the piano version of the tone poem The Swan of Tuonela by Sibelius.

Thanks for writing to me. [By the way . . . Kapok is Malaysian for cotton].

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Thank you for your lovely reply. I too will keep my fingers crossed for you that your repair will be a success and that you are then able to make the videos that I'm sure will be treasured by your grandchildren! I will take a look at the music pieces that you enjoy so much! Best wishes to you Kapok, what a lovely meaning your name has! xx


You can uncross your fingers! I left out playing the piano for a few days, then sat down, held my breath . . . . an Lo and behold it was nearly all back, even the difficult pieces like the bells tolling under the sea in Debussy's Cathedrale Engloutie (The Submerged Cathedral). Keep memorising a little at a time, and you'll find it gets easier. Thanks again for your friendship. I won't forget it. (KAPOK)

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Oh that is fantastic Kapok, I'm so pleased for you! You must be thrilled! Now you can play those precious pieces and have them on video for each of your seven grandchildren! That was lovely news to waken up to this morning! I will keep trying to memorise a little at a time, thank you and enjoy playing again! xx


how soon since the hernia? Brain will take a while to recover, and its possible to recover function, I have lost and recovered large portion of my balance systems.

I was very keen and driven which I'm sure helped.


John Whitehead (age 82)

I have lost around 70%. My habit was to play Beethoven's Moonlight once a week. Then I suddenly lost my way. I tried again and again with no result. I'm currently waiting to have two hernias attended to. I'll have to see how I come out of that and any other problems.


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