Do This Every Afternoon - Virtuoso Memory!

If there was one time of day that you could do your practicing to insure the best memorization of the material (even on your off days), then what I have to explain to you in this video would be worth more than gold...

In this video, I’m going to show you and explain to you the number one time of the day that you should get some practice in - every day. If you do follow this, it will help you improve your ability to memorize information on a much deeper level.

The best part is the methods that I have to share in this post cover everything from interest level, to incorporating visuals, to using Learning Maps and memorizing through association.


Today we’re going to cover several methods for helping to improve your guitar playing memory. If there’s one thing every single guitar player hates, it’s forgetting how to play something – especially when it happens live up on stage – it can be incredibly frustrating.

A world famous memory expert who's name is; David H. Roth, (not to be confused with David Lee Roth from Van Halen), used to say that your memory is like a muscle and the more you use it correctly the better it gets.

But, he also was highly aware of the value of VISUALIZING everything that you want to remember. In fact, one of his most famous quotes was, “You have to visualize in your mind what it is you are trying to remember.” 

That really is the "secret key" to a better sense of recall. So, let’s get started here with a collection of ways that you can start using right now - to build what the experts call a “Magnetic Memory,” for anything that you’re studying on guitar.

Our first idea will center around being sure that you always consider your level of interest and amalgamate that interest level alongside of a defining visual characteristic related to what you’re studying.

This area is very important because, if you’re not interested in a certain topic you won't absorb the information very well.

For an example... if I said to a student that we were going to spend the next 30 min. talking about intervals, and the student had no interest in learning about intervals, the chances are that the student would not remember very much of what we would talk about in that 30 min.

In fact, those 30 min. would probably end up being pretty boring for both of us, because the students lack of interest would affect my presentation.

When interest levels are low, the learning levels are low.

However, think about what it would be like if you were highly interested in a certain topic like acoustic finger-picking patterns. And then, as your teacher, I said we were going to learn a very popular and very easy to play acoustic finger-picked riff.

Two things happen right away. You get motivated to comprehend the possibility of learning something of interest and you start to prepare for what you'll do with those types of ideas.

At this point, the chances are that you’ll have a ton of interest in doing the work on those topics, and you’d get a lot more out of it. Plus, it would also mean that you’d commit those ideas to your long term memory more quickly and more easily.

As we just discussed, “Interest-Level” is the first motivating factor, and it truly helps support your concentration and thus memorization, but also remember that I did mention that there’s a defining visual characteristic related to what you’re studying.

When I went to music-college they didn’t show us our scales on a music staff, they handed-out work-sheets with visual diagrams showing the geometrical layout of the scale.

That approach works extremely well with guitar training because it keeps a visual shape in your mind as your primary method of recall. Visuals promote a far better future use and application of your scales, licks, riffs, and basically anything you’d ever play on guitar.

In fact, you’ll notice that most of the guitar lesson books over the last 40 years have used this exact system to help relate lesson material.

In the video for this post at [03:25], I show viewers one of my old Jazz Licks method books (Guitar jazz licks - Paperback – 1979 by Jay Friedman), and how it uses a diagram system for relating each guitar lick.

This book was published way back in 1979! And, every example uses fingerboard diagrams to relate the layout of each lick onto the fingerboard.

So, again this visual referencing system works fantastic. Try using it next time you’re learning something, and draw things on blank fingerboard diagram sheets. That extra visual reference is incredibly powerful for deeper memorization. 

The next idea is excellent for building a better connection to anything that you’re learning which is composed of a larger learning task.

In fact, I’ve used this method here in the studio for decades now. Whenever I’m creating my curriculum for the courses that I teach here at Creative Guitar, the concept of the program is mapped first. Memory experts will tend to call this system a Learning Map, or sometimes it’s called a, “Learning Tree.”

The system focuses on how the material that you’re working through will be related to both the progression of topics, and how each topic relates over to other ideas as well.

If you get into the habit of treating everything you study like this, you’ll find that you won’t just learn things at a deeper level, you’ll better understand how the subject matter relates to other topics.

Let me explain this further by using a popular topic like “Key Signatures and Scales” to demonstrate this within more of a context.

The Musical Keys /Scales

1). When most students who are studying music theory will have a music key related to them, they will most often be given a staff indicated key signature like this.

However, this does very little for teaching a student what a key is on the guitar.

2). When it comes around to the fact that a key is actually a scale, the student will get this shown to them.

This layout is helpful for learning about the key as a scale, but it unfortunately doesn’t help a guitar student understand what the scale becomes on their guitar fret-board.

3). The next diagram (below) begins clearing things up a lot more in relationship to the actual guitar neck. In this fingerboard layout, we can clearly see the shape on the fingerboard and we start to gain a better understanding that this is the pattern of the scale on the guitar fingerboard.

However, we are still getting the scale as a very linear idea and it would be difficult to play this in solos or melodic lines without a lot of lateral movement of the hands.

4). Here's where a new learning limb is extended to the student so that they can understand a more useful and manageable way of seeing what the key and the scale can provide them with.

By taking this key signature topic from a basic key signature indicator located upon a music staff, to an "in-position" neck scale pattern, a student can more fully comprehend the idea of the key as a scale and they can finally start to apply it in more useful ways.

That "Learning Tree" procedure took four steps along a road-map to our eventual placement of the key as a scale pattern in position onto the neck.

But, every one of those steps was valuable and each step progressively lead the student to a greater understanding of the concept and that will take them to eventual application of both the key signature theory and the scale itself.

The next area that I want to cover is referred to as learning through “Association.” This area of memory building is all about relating everything new (that you’re learning), to something older that you already understand.

For example, take that “Bb Major” scale pattern that we had just seen in our previous example off of the 6th guitar string.

Here’s the 6th-string pattern on guitar:

This geometrical design of the "Bb Major" scale pattern can also be performed off of the 5th guitar string. It is the same shape, but it is located in a different region of the neck.

The 5th-string’s layout is directly associated to the exact same shape from the 6th string. They’re identical to what we had off of the 6th string.

Through association, we can take this idea one step further. We can also associate that original geometrical shape off of the 4th string.

And, with a small modification, (on 2nd string), it can work in the same key, as the same scale quality but now it would be located with its root off of the 4th guitar string.

 Association is a powerful memory tool that works quickly to link older well know information to new less familiar ideas.

The final idea I want to pass along to you is really the very best one. This one’s made the biggest difference in my own studies and if you apply it I’m positive it will work wonders for you too.

It has to do with the time of day that you decide to commit your music and your guitar work to memory.

Now, even though you may identify yourself as a "morning person" or an, "evening person" there have been several studies that suggest that a human being’s ability to memorize isn't influenced as much by what time of day that you perceive yourself to be most alert.

Rather, it’s actually based upon the time of day that you do the work. One of the biggest studies was done through the Federal University of Rio Grande, Brasil.

They (along with other researchers), have done extensive science based research on this subject, and they’ve clearly determined that the AFTERNOON appears to be the best time of the day to build deep memorization.

So, be sure to try and incorporate at least some time during the afternoon (through your week) to work at things which will require solid memorization.



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