Techniques by Tony Morris


Grammy-winning guitarist David Russell has often said, "I never play a piece in concert that I first can't play all the way through in my head."

This is technique of memorization that I have gleaned from many sources over the years, and use with all my students. It is a very fast way to memorize, but it takes a little self- discipline.

1. Play the piece, (or section of a piece) on the guitar while reading the score.
2. Visualize it (play the music mentally) while reading the score (without touching the guitar)
3. Visualize it without the score while looking at the fingerboard of the guitar. Imagine where your fingers go on the guitar in order to play it.

4. Visualize it without the score, and without looking at the guitar. That is, create the guitar in your mind, and where your fingers go on that imaginary guitar in order to play the piece.

5. Test it. That is, play it on the guitar from memory, without looking at the score.

If you do this, you will probably find that you played it from memory perfectly on the first attempt. I use this technique with all of my guitar students, and it consistently works well for beginners and advanced players.

It is difficult to do this in the beginning, so you will probably have to start with a very small fragment. But, it gets easier. I sometimes demonstrate this technique to students by memorizing a piece in their lesson just by visualizing it quickly and then playing it from memory without error on the first attempt. Those who are unwilling or unable to maintain a focused, sustained concentration will find this agonizingly difficult.

Most people memorize by repetition, that is, they do step 1, and then skip to step 5. That is a very inefficient way to memorize. It takes too long, and is too error prone. Memorization by repetition is for those who have time to waste- and that's no one I know!

Good luck and have fun!

Tony Morris

Memorization Techniques Taught by Aaron Shearer
(as related by Jeff Carter)

1. 'Ta' the rhythm.
2. Solfege the phrase.
3. speak the left hand fingering.
4. speak the RH fingering.... See More
Once these steps are complete, pick up the guitar and play without looking at the music.

The process does seem more difficult, but you are essentially moving all of the memorization work to the beginning, and in the end it is actually more efficient and more thorough than the old practice of memorization through repetition. If you look at guys like Barrueco, who can play for instance, the right hand part of a piece by itself, you can see how thorough this method of visualization is.

© 2010 Terry Muska