Players like myself need to accept this: Memorization is not your friend. I’m still trying to accept this and last Sunday I realized how important it is to refrain from memorizing without understanding what you’re playing.
I highly doubt Alek intended to spark another revelation when he asked me to play a minor pentatonic scale. Mind you, I’ve never learned it but I do indeed know the blues scale by heart. So he gave me a hint, “avoid the blue note.”
After Alek’s detailed explanation about the flat 5th scale degree and additional theory that I’d rather not attempt to repeat, I accepted his challenge. But I’ll be honest, the theory went out the other ear because I figured I could simply memorize what he showed me. It shouldn’t be too difficult to skip over a couple notes, ya know?
As I attempted to impress Alek by playing a slow and sloppy variation of the E minor pentatonic scale, I felt as if it was much harder than it should be. It also did not help that he tricked me. Okay-not-really. But there was definitely more to it than I thought and my cleverness hurt me big time.
In retrospect, Alek’s elaborate scale degree explanation was the knowledge I needed to play the scale without a problem. Instead, I used memorization as a short cut that resulted in a messy line of notes reminiscent of the blues scale–what a headache. It’s very clear to me now: the further I delve into learning guitar the less I can rely on memorization. If you want to be a versatile player you gotta drop the habit or else your skills will be limited to your memory. And yes, this is the exact advice he gave me that very day.