How to memorize all your guitar stuff

One of the best skills you can develop is to memorize what you are doing on guitar. Whether it’s a chord progression or a lead solo. When I learned these methods I really start being able to play much better and learn a lot quicker. I remember at one point people hearing me and saying, what are you doing, your playing really sounds great. Even other guitar players commented on my “new” sound.

A great way to get started is to break a song into parts and number them. Then play each part slowly and separately over and over. I’ll work on Part 1 for a few minutes, stop, then start working on Part 2. Then when I get them going real well separately I’ll slow down and play them back to back. Here’s a great example of a Jimi Hendrix song.

For example, just the intro guitar lick in Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix I break down into 4 parts. Part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4. And sometimes if there’s difficulty I’ll break a part into sub parts. You want to be able to play a few notes or a couple of chords right each time at a slow speed. Make sure you fix or clean up parts that give you difficulty. Stop, isolate and figure out how to fix it.

Visualization-Closing your eyes and picturing the guitar neck and what your hands are doing. It takes a little getting used and be sure to do in short periods. See the neck and picture what you are doing. Really know what fret and string you are playing on and what scale you are using if it’s a solo. It’s also helpful to know the note you’re playing by name and more importantly is it a Root, or a 3 or a 5. That’s called Scale degrees. Is it a 1, 2, b3, 3, 4, b5, 5, 6, 7, b7 or whatever scale degree is being played.

Another great song that you can break down into smaller parts is Hotel California. 8 Chords on the verse. Break it down to the first two chords and test if you can change them easily and quickly. Then start adding chords. If you come a chord you’re unfamiliar with or it’s hard changing from the chord that precedes that, stop and work on that change. Don’t keep playing through it hoping it will get better.

It also has 4 solo sections. I’ll play Section 2 or Part 2 without playing 1, 3 or 4. I don’t want to just always be able to play in sequence. It really tells me if I know that section or not. I won’t get lost.

Play the piece for a friend or relative to try it out. Or record it, can even use your phone or a looper to hear what you’re doing.

Have a list of songs and review them enough to be able to pick up the guitar and play without thinking about it. Repertoire, Review and Repetition is key to being a great musician.

One of the big ideas is to pay attention when you practice. Watch what your hands are doing, do you feel tension in your shoulders or are you holding your breath? When making chords watch where your fingers are coming from and going to. Can I play it 5 to 7 times with no mistakes. Ask questions while you’re practicing. Paying attention while you’re playing will help tremendously. You’ll start to fix problems you didn’t notice before.

Muscle memory alone is not enough to guarantee that you will play it right every time, we also need a couple other types of memory..

1 Muscle memory-playing something physically correctly over and over so it’s almost automatic and you don’t have to think about it much.

2 Auditory memory- knowing what the part sounds like. So if you do play something wrong you hear it and can correct it.

3 Mental memory-Knowing all the note names, the scale degrees and location of the string and fret which is visual. There’s more ideas than this but this is a great start;

Playing from memory allows you to play with emotion rather then playing in a robotic way. Can you close your eyes and see your hand playing the part on the guitar neck?

Using and applying these pro level guitar practice methods will help to get better and better on guitar and you’ll learn to play things faster. Practicing this way starts to have a sort of a snowball effect and the result is you will become the guitar player always wanted to be!

Keep playing and have fun,

Sid