The Oldest Musical Skill

Do you go through a battle during every new song learning process? Is it a difficult battle that can send you into fits of frustration with thoughts about how your personal ability is truly developing? Are you having too many negative personal feelings for how your success rate is going? 

This area is what many musicians call the "familiar vs. memorized.” In this video discussion I’ll go over what this means and how you can learn to control it so that you can become a much better student of the guitar.


I’d like to begin, by having us playing a simple “C Major” scale for you in the open position.” (Play 2nd string “C” to 5th string “C”).

"C Major" Scale:

This sound is one of the oldest musical sounds – so old that its said to date back all the way to 4000 BC during the age of the Egyptians when they had created some of the very first harps and flutes. I guess nobody really knows how old this scale sound is, but I think we can rest assured that it’s really, really old. It's a sound that's familiar to all of us.

Familiarity is King:
When musicians set out to perform a musical arrangement, we are largely in a battle with our senses. There’s auditory, (the sense of how the music needs to sound). There’s a visual component (to how we’re seeing the notes in respect to how they each sit on the instrument). And, there’s also a physical side, for how we feel (when we perform notes with our hands, our wrist and the angle and feel of the arm in alignment to the instrument).

The more that all of these components come together in the most familiar sense for us, the easier it will be to perform a musical part.

In the largest sense, this is basically WHY we practice in the first place. We want to build up these feelings of familiarity. The more that every “sound and sense” for a piece becomes familiar to us, the better that we’ll be able to perform any musical number.

Memorization Vs. Familiarization:
If we are handed a music chart for a piece (a piece that we already know how it sounds), then learning how to perform that piece just became a whole lot easier. We already have a musical memory for the song. We know how it’s supposed to sound.

There’s nothing to new learn with respect to the musical contour, or the flow of the rhythm of the beat in time, or where accents need to fall. We already know that stuff – because we know that song. We can sing it, and we can hum it, so learning to visually and physically perform it just became a whole lot easier.

But, things are quite different when we do not know how a song is supposed to sound. If we’re handed a chart for a piece, that we don’t know, it is extremely important to find a performance of the piece – right away. We’ll have to learn the feel and the flow and memorize the accents and learn how to sing it.

Be Patient:
If you can learn to be patient with every new piece of music that comes your way, and if you can learn to respect all of the physical barriers involved with learning any song, (regardless of whether you know it - or not), then you’re going to start down the path of developing music’s oldest skill.

The skill of balancing what is familiar to you with what needs to become added to your memory banks. The process of developing this skill is fairly simple. Just begin the study of every new piece with a self-check of deciding if the piece is familiar. Can you sing it? If not, you’ll need to learn to sing it.

You’ll need recordings, or a teacher to perform it, or some form of representation. And, once you learn to respect that crossroad of Memorization Vs. Familiarization, your sense of calm and relaxed study for every piece you sit down to work on will be met with a new sense of calm and self-control.

"Familiar" is the First Step to Perfection:
So, once again, if we were to go back to that basic “C Major” scale. It has a familiarity to it. It generates a sound that’s hundreds of years old. And even if I were to change around the order and sequence of those scale tones, (play the Spanish sequence below)...

 "C Major" Spanish Sequence:

The above sequence, is still simply using the notes of the "C Major" scale. So, there’s still some sense of familiarity as to what lies there from that original scale.

You might have to spend a little time on learning the new note order of the new sequence, but there tends to always be something familiar within every new song, something that offers a sense of recognition to us.

And, this is why we practice, this is why we tend to get better over time, (after playing many different songs, and scales and musical ideas in all kinds of different keys and time signatures).

The oldest musical skill is to have a belief that there’s always a unique balance that can be found between familiarity vs. memorization! The greatest musicians on Earth all believe this and use it upon the learning of every new musical piece.

The longer we play, the more experienced that we become in applying this concept.

Thanks for joining me, If you'd like to Find Out What You Should Learn on Guitar - take a look at the courses over on my website at

My step-by-step; Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced courses will cover what you need to know, along with how to be able to move forward and become the best player that you can be.

I've worked on these courses since 1992 and I feel that all together they're the best guitar program you'll ever find. The courses will help you learn to identify what's required to get you up to the next level of guitar playing, in a very organized way, that makes sense.

So, I look forward to helping you further at ...Until next time - take care and we'll catch up again on the next video. Bye for now!



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