On Memorizing. Part Two

I will now elaborate on the concepts set forth in Part One of this examination of memorizing music.

Ultimate Guitar

I will now elaborate on the concepts set forth in Part One of this examination of memorizing music. In Part One, the essential point I wanted you to understand is that Attention is the foundation of the process of memorizing music, and you must be aware of the quality and quantity (intensity) of your own Attention. This is a very difficult matter, because becoming aware of the quality of our own Attention is like the eye seeing itself. You are being asked to pay attention to your in-attentiveness. Just as there must be special circumstances and devices for the eye to see itself (reflecting surfaces, ponds, mirrors, etc.), you must create special "mental circumstances", by using certain practice approaches, in order to become aware of your lack of awareness.

The Three Kinds Of Memory

There are three kinds of memory that musicians use: Finger Memory, Ear Memory, and Eye Memory. They are more precisely named Muscle Memory, Inner Ear Memory, and Mind Memory. Think of them with whatever description serves you best at your present level of understanding.

Finger Memory is the strongest, most automatic, and most primitive form of memory. Like a computer, your fingers faithfully record whatever information is input to them, and just as faithfully, use that information to "compute", which for us musicians, means play or perform. If the fingers, through Correct Practice, are only fed the right information, the exact information that will lead to the result we want (the right notes at the right time in the right way), they will give it to us. Of course, if they are given wrong information, or "mixed messages", sometimes right sometimes wrong, sometimes different degrees of both, then they will just as faithfully give that back to us. Through lack of Attention, players often input this faulty information, and wonder why they don't get the result they want. The power of finger memory is awesome, but it is not enough. I discovered this for myself early on, when I began giving concerts. I must say this only happened once to me, but it was quite a lesson. I have always played all my concerts from memory, sometimes up to an hour and a half of solid music from memory, (and when you play classical guitar, that's a lot of notes!) Well, once it happened that I got lost, could not remember, and had to go back to the beginning. Of course, it was quite a lesson in how to handle major embarrassment, but it was more than that. I came to realize that the reason I could not get out of the jam was because I did not have the other two kinds of memory going for me: Ear Memory and Eye Memory. The thing to realize is that Finger Memory is very powerful, but also very stupid! It is not intelligent. It can't think. I usually think of Finger Memory with an image. It is like a mole, burrowing underground. It keeps moving by instinct, and has an instinct for where it is going, but it is blind, in the dark. It has no awareness of the whole picture (the music in its totality as movement, sound, emotion). That is why, when finger memory is all you have going for you, and you get lost, you have to rewind back to the beginning, that is, start the music over, and hope for something better next time around (which often doesn't happen). Even though the fingers may know the moves to make, they, shall we say, ain't talkin'. The more intelligent forms of memory are Ear Memory and Eye Memory. Ear Memory is very interesting. Some people use it from the beginning of their involvement with playing an instrument. In fact, it is part of the natural approach of someone who has what we call "natural talent". Using it produces strong results as we develop our abilities through daily practice, and anyone can learn to use it, but it is amazing how many would-be guitarists don't! Ear memory is your inner awareness of the music as sound. Ear memory is the result of your awareness of each note as a sound, heard externally and internally. Again, it is developed simply through focusing attention on the music as sound sensation during the practice process. Very quickly for some, and sooner or later for everyone else, it develops into the ability to distinguish the important characteristics of sound, such as tone and pitch. It results in the ability (with practice) to reproduce the sound with our own "primary instrument", our body, by singing the notes. And let me make this abundantly clear. You Must Learn To Sing The Notes If You Want To Be A Musician! I always have my students sing, whether I have to force them to, or they do so willingly! When you sing the notes, you enter into a different relationship with the music, it becomes more real for you. One of the truest things ever said to me by a teacher was "if you can't sing the notes, you are not hearing them". I have found this to be absolutely correct. By learning to do so, I discovered that many times I thought I was hearing them, but I was not, not in the deep way a musician must be able to hear them.

When we play, the inner hearing of the note that is to come next, the phrase that is to come next, guides and prepares the fingers in their actions. Many students, especially in the beginning, do not have the inner experience of hearing the notes. For them, playing and practicing is just "moving the fingers around". The teacher must test them to see if they are having the inner experience of truly hearing the notes. This is done by asking them to sing. Often, a student will not be able to reproduce the pitch, and that's fine. Once you get them to at least make a sound, you have something to work with. You can refine it as you go along. It is my experience that all students are able to get with the program with a little practice. And anyway, what good is a guitarist who can't sing? The way I look at it, no self respecting guitarist would go through life only strumming chords, and having to find somebody to provide a vocal melody line every time they wanted to "make music". I believe all guitarists, even beginners, want to sing. They are just too "chicken" in the beginning. So, whether you sound like an angel, or croak like a frog, Start Singing! Eye Memory is your awareness and memory of the written music. Just as a conductor, standing in front of the orchestra, must know every note that everyone is supposed to play, so you must know, in a conscious way, every note you need to play (or every chord, if you are singing and strumming). This means you must know, and know that you know, as in being able to say each note or chord, and being able to visualize, in your mind's eye, the written music, be it tab, notes, or chord diagrams.

When defined as Mind Memory, this form of memory is your awareness of the music as a mental concept, as an idea. It involves your awareness and understanding of ALL aspects of the music, harmonically, structurally, and so forth.

A useful analogy for grasping the essence of the three kinds of memory I have been explaining, is to think of an actor in a play. 1)Memorizing the lines he needs to speak in a mechanical way, solely by repetition (like catechism in Sunday school) is like Finger Memory. 02. Being able to hear inwardly the line that is to be spoken next is like Ear Memory. 03. Understanding the meaning of the words, why they are being spoken by the character, and how they relate to all the other characters and the story as a whole, that is Mind Memory. It is the result of thought, and intuitive involvement with the music. If Mind Memory is strong, you can never really lose it on stage. Even if you forget your lines (the notes), you can "fake it", because, being aware of the whole picture at any given time, you are able to "think on your feet".

How To Start Using The Three Kinds Of Memory This is done by testing yourself.

Finger Memory: just sit without the music and try to play it. Can you do it? If not, you need more attentive repetitions of the music.

Ear Memory: play the music in your head. Sing the melody out loud. Can you do it? If not, keep trying! Play the notes, hear the notes, outside and inside.

Eye Memory: close your eyes and see the music. Say the first note to be played out loud. Say the next note. Keep going. If you get stuck, look at the music, and burn it into your brain. Say them out loud. Does it take a lot of effort to have all these kinds of memory working for you when you practice and play? Yes. Is it worth it? Only if you want to be the best you can be!

Copyright 2000 by Jamie Andreas. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

60 comments sorted by best / new / date

    antareus wrote: antareus wrote: You have added absolutely nothing to the discussion and I hope your post is deleted for taking up space. Why this sort of tripe is tolerated on UG I have no idea.
    Calm down? It's pointless but nobody gives a shit. Get over it maybe.
    gu1tar4lyf3 wrote: woah, first.
    You have added absolutely nothing to the discussion and I hope your post is deleted for taking up space. Why this sort of tripe is tolerated on UG I have no idea. Some of these concepts are in Jamie's book, which I highly recommend. Singing notes as you practice is really effective in learning what they should be. The combination of singing + playing the note on the guitar can do wonders for developing your ear and making it easier to tab something out really quick.
    Very good article. I'm just now running into 3 setlists of a combined 30 songs, and it's starting to become a bit of a job now. What I've found is the best solution is a combination of memory and improvisation. I know how the song goes, so if I know the scale it is, I can easily know the rhythm part. For solos, I usually stick the key parts into my brain (fingers), and improvise what I forget or stuff I find "filler" in the solos.
    Just recently, I've been putting more effort into my music (..practicing, composing, recording..etc.) after music took "back stage" to the rest of my lifes priorities. Technology has advanced so much over the years and its awesome to see how much is out there to help musicians. This UltimateGutiar web site is an example. And forums and articles like this are such a big help to amateur musicians.! This article really inspired me and gave me a better approach to my practicing.! Two thumbs up!!!!!
    very good article but, how are we surposed to learn to sing, when we (i) sound like something you really don't want to listen to..?
    Amusing, there's a Screaming Coach on YouTube doing the opposite; To train your voice to hit the right pitch he plays the note on the guitar. I myself can't sing, BUT I can tell if I'm not hitting a note and rectify it; I can't tell you that a particular note is a Bb, but if you sound a B I can eventualy reproduce that note via voice, guitar or whatever. If you can't hear pitches, you're in REAL trouble if you want to be a musician.
    voidSkipper wrote: What if you play instrumental? >.> Mogwai ftw.
    lol yep, singing sweeps just doesnt happen anyway, wow this opens up my musical mind.. haha
    i do all of these...except.....i see shapes. more than anything else i rely on the shapes i see when i look at my guitar. every song i know has its own shape, and thats how most of my memorization is done. i dunno about anyone else, but thats the easiest way it seems like to me
    Im an intermediate level guitar player, I got the rythm part down and Im starting to improvise solos, but I cant play and sing at the same time, my mind gets lost trying both. although i sing like crap, i agree thats more fun to do both (bob dylan, anyone?) so if you have any tips for me ill be grateful.
    I have a question.... ive been self taught for alomst 2 yrs now and ive tried using books and i just couldnt concentrate while using them so i gave up on that idea and just started to doodle on my guitar, i know some major chords and ive been told i have that natural talent in this article where u can hear music before its played and ive tried the singing while playing but for some reason while im playing i cant enunciate words or even play consistently... what am i doing wrong?
    I've always "played" the songs in my head when my mp3 player was out of battery (even before learning to play the guitar)... I never guessed it developed my ear skills lol Btw, nice article
    lockless7x wrote: so im guessing mind memory and eye memory are the same thing ?
    Not really. Eye memory is being able to see what you're playing without even holding a guitar, while mind memory is being able to remember the exact notes.
    gunther_sucks wrote: I never really though of practicing that way. Great article!
    Yeah, well it's great for telling me what different types of my brain does or whatever, but what is the f***ing point of this tripe. It's called trying to give nameless stuff names. If you want to call yourself a musician, be a musician rather than fannying about with crap like this. Getting playing, writing, performing and getting used to these 3 things is far more important than memorising fancy names for reflex and memory. Sorry if this offends anyone, but it's bullshit in my opinion.
    for all of those talking about playing and singing at the same time who are having problems, its all in practice. you have to know the song/lyrics so well you could sing them in your sleep, and when you're starting out on singing/playing at the same time, and you think you have everything down perfectly, if you're still having problems, you probably dont know it as well as you think. however, there are exceptions, such as if the guitar part is just a really unnatural one. all that must be taken into account.
    this memory does this whereas this memory does this whilst this memory does this. your limitless vanity will drown you.
    very good article, give yourself a pat on the back. i never looked at memorization that way and now that i do, i can now play songs way better. Ear memorization was the hardest for me to work on
    voidSkipper wrote: What if you play instrumental? >.> Mogwai ftw.
    thats what i was thinking about when i heard "every guitarist wants to sing" I play instruental also
    Eye Memory doesn't make sense to me. I don't know anyone who remembers all the notes or pictures the sheet/tab when playing a line.
    I've never really learned anything without memorizing it. I don't feel I've learned it if i have to have music in front of me...
    mistertomo123: uhm...I think this article has a place and particularly early in the process of learning something. Like learning a new lick or chord progression. The process of putting this new information in your "hard drive" can be a challenge. I relate this artilce to making you brain/fingers do something different. What is the most econimcal way fo doing this in terms of time. Are you a visual learner or strictly by ear. So I found the article very helpful in terms of saving time. Given I am a part timer, I don't have much time to sit and do it the slow way if you know what I mean. If it saves time, I like it.
    i think im ok on eye and can "hear" a melody (especially handy on bass), i just gotta tighten up my hand memory, and speed it up. great article i wouldnt've thought about that
    interesting article, I have started singing notes for a few months now...really helped, it has.
    Great article. I keep hearing about Aural Training but i havent been able to find much outside of memorizing intervals... this kind of elaborates on which aspect of memory that traing applies to. Thanks.
    when one says singing the notes.. can that mean hitting the melody with like "doo" or "la" or does it have to be words? because yeah i just wondering
    (when one says singing the notes.. can that mean hitting the melody with like "doo" or "la" or does it have to be words? because yeah i just wondering) Of course bro as long as you can make the proper pitch of sound using your voice that is good but singing is always much more fun and would be better for you to practice.
    Hmmm makes sense. I first picked up the guitar because I have naturally good "Ear Memory", and I tend to rely on this and a fair bit of "Finger Memory" when playing. However this article has made me realise my weakness in the field of "Eye Memory", and I know now I must improve this. Thanks.
    great article but wat did sum1 say about a book? It sounds gud, could sum1 plz comment back with a title? cheers
    antareus wrote: gu1tar4lyf3 wrote: woah, first. You have added absolutely nothing to the discussion and I hope your post is deleted for taking up space. Why this sort of tripe is tolerated on UG I have no idea. Some of these concepts are in Jamie's book, which I highly recommend. Singing notes as you practice is really effective in learning what they should be. The combination of singing + playing the note on the guitar can do wonders for developing your ear and making it easier to tab something out really quick.
    cry about it much?
    in fact, there are 7 kinds of memory that the guitarrist use, but well...as you wish.
    cool stuff To me its just seemed thhe way to do it naturally (well not the singing) like imaginbing seeing the music infront and where you are in it, what it souns like and just reeating it again and again with your fingers but now! it actually got sesnse behind it!