I just remembered something I want to tell you…
Let me let you in on a little secret.
Lately, I’ve been completely obsessed with studying books by memory masters – you know, people that can memorize the order of 5 randomly shuffled packs of cards in the space of 10 minutes.
Why this strange fetish, you may ask?
Because a lot of jazz guitar isn’t so much about improvising, as it is about remembering.
People often complain (rather dramatically) that when they improvise it’s like being ‘a deer in the headlights’ or having ‘a big blank canvas’, with no idea where to start.
Here’s the thing:
If you haven’t learned jazz vocabulary (i.e. the specific ‘sounds’ in a melodic line that gives it the jazz sound), you won’t sound jazzy when you go to improvise.
But there’s something I would consider even more important than this:
If you can’t remember the jazz vocabulary you’ve learned in the past and how to make it end up on the fretboard…
All that hard work you’ve done learning vocabulary has been largely a waste of time.
Even if you have 8 hours a day to practice, if you can’t remember what you’ve practiced, it will just be like pouring water into a leaky bucket.
Turn your back for one minute, and then look back – lo and behold, the bucket is empty again.
People often complain “I have a terrible memory!” – in fact, most people seem to tell themselves this.
They give the excuse they are ‘getting old’ and becoming forgetful.
But what I’ve been realizing through my fanatical obsession about memory masters is that being able to remember isn’t so much about innate ability.
Case in point: memory masters generally score no higher in cognitive or IQ tests. They have simply acquired the skill of memorization through practice.
It’s all about technique. Learning to memorize things like jazz vocabulary requires that you not only develop your guitar technique, but your memorization technique as well.
The great thing about being able to memorize jazz material faster and easier in the practice room?
Elementary, my dear Watson:
You won’t need to practice nearly as much to remember the same amount of music.
One book, in particular, I’ve gotten a lot out of when it comes to memory training is Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer – a fascinating look not only at very clever memorization techniques, but also an eye opening journey on how memorization has gradually become a lost art in modern culture.
Over to you…
What techniques, books or resources have YOU come across when it comes to developing the skill of memorization, in particular for remembering musical material?
Leave your reply in the comments below.
It would be great to get your input, as I’m currently experimenting with some memorization techniques and thinking about the best way to apply them to jazz guitar. I’ll let you know how I go.
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