Dropping the habit: Memorization

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.”

“The what?”

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.

3 thoughts on “Dropping the habit: Memorization

  1. Even a few days ago, I wouldn’t have understood what you mean about memorization, but I think I do now. If I don’t understand the difference between a pentatonic scale and a blues scale, I will never “get it.” I will just be performing by rote. And when I change keys, I’ll have to figure it out all over again.

  2. BTW, I see that you’ve changed your blog name, obviously going for something more positive. Arpeggio is one of my favorite musical words, and happens to be something I’m trying to learn at the moment.

    • Thanks! And yes, I realized the more I wrote the less my style of writing fit my former blog name. I needed something positive and upbeat like my personality.

      Have fun learning arpeggios 🙂

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