Memorizing Tips

All information we learn - chords, scales, licks - is
preferably supposed to sink deep down into our brains
to improve the ability to understand and retrieve the
learned material. We do not want to forget most of the
things we practiced and struggled with for 25 hours a
day - we want to posess the ability to play anything and feel safe with everything we ever
studied. Yet, many of us realize how hard it might be;
once we forget something, it is hard to bring it back
to life again. One of the reasons we forget
information is because we let our brain think that the
material we learned is useless. How? Lack of both
repetition and usage of the material is one of the
main causes. Another one, which I chose to discuss in
this article, is an uncomplete understanding of the
information. Our minds works better when all stuff we
learn is clear and logical, rather than meaningless
and diffuse. If you read on, you will learn some
techniques to change your thinking process and
strengthen your talent for remembering musical and
non-musical things.

How can we make everything as meaningful as possible?
It is all about learning all new information by making
it familiar and understandable to you. The latter is
very important - anything can be remembered better if
you really know and grasp the material you study. For
example, if you read a music theory book, do not
disregard any information in it - rather read
everything, and after finishing reading some lines
make sure you understand everything. Try to explain
the new material to yourself (a very good learning
method!). Apply this material in any possible way to
your instrument or music score, depending on the type
of information you have learned. This is a real
brain-teaser, it makes your gray cells work hard and
force them to realize that the material you just have
learned is very useful and may not be forgotten!

I also pointed out that a good way to store the
information in your brain is by making it familiar and
meaningful. What is meant by that? Consider the
following example: you are about to learn a so-called
Coltrane progression and learn how to make it
familiar to be able to play it in any key. The
progression is: Dmi7-Eb7-Abmaj7-B7-Emaj7-G7-Cmaj7. On
the one hand you may see it as any random chord
progression probably generated by some bad music
computer software. You may not see any logic in it.
But you do want to learn it and want to make it
meaningful to you.

One of the tricks you can apply is
to relate it to something you already know. Because we
are all different and know a lot of different things,
let us base this example on a professional guitarist.
Any trained musician knows what an interval and
tonality is. Most of musicians also know what a V-I
cadence is. This is everything needed to know to make
the above chord progression meaningful. The tonality of
the progression is C major. What is the first chord in
the progression? It is a II minor 7 chord. So starting
on a IImi7 I go one half step up to a dominant 7 chord
and resolve it to its tonic chord - maj 7, which makes
a V-I cadence. Then a jump of a minor third interval
up to another dominant 7 chord and once again,
resolution to its tonic - another V-I cadence. Then
another jump of a minor third up to another dominant 7
chord and resolution to its tonic - a V-I cadence
again. This last tonic chord also turns out to be a I
maj 7 chord of the used tonality. A simple summary:
start on IImi7, up a half step, V-I, up a minor third,
V-I, up a minor third, V-I. The end. This is the way
it works, now I can easily use Coltrane progressions
in any composition and any tonality I want. I made
this progression familiar to myself by associating it to
something I already know. You may of course associate
this to something else, as long as you know what you
are doing and can easily remember it.

Try to make all new information as meaningful to you
as possible. Send a clear message to your brain so it will
remember everything better. After all, you might have
tortured yourself for hours learning all chords and
scales and songs and... The next article will continue
on this learning task. Until then, happy practicing!

I also urge you to check out my CD-ROM book for
guitarists. It is packed with lots of useful
information which will make your progress as a
guitarist very fast. Check it out on the publishers

Sebastian Kalamajski, a guitarist from Sweden, began his music studies when he was seven years old by learning how to play piano.

Sebastian is currently studying for M.D. as a biomedical scientist. His new, large (370 pages) digital book is just being published on his web site.

Sebastian Kalamajski

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