For any of us who learn songs by reading sheet music or rhythm charts, it can be tough to trust our ears and look away from the chart.
But when we do, we can focus all our energy on delivering our best performance. Emotion, dynamics, articulation, conviction. All these aspects of a great musical performance come much easier when the music is memorized.
Imagine someone reading a story from a newspaper. Now imagine someone intimately familiar with the same story retelling it in their own words. Who would you rather listen to?
Ok, so I should memorize the songs I play. But how?
A couple tips:
1. Look for common chord progressions. If you're playing jazz, look for 2 5 1's, 6 2 5 1's, dominant cycles, blues progressions, etc. For rock/pop/country, look for 1 4 5, 1 6 4 5, 6 4 5 1, etc. This would be a good time to look into the Nashville Number System if you haven't done so. Memorizing sequences of numbers is much easier than memorizing chord progressions by their letter names.
2. Memorize small sections at a time. You could make it a goal to have the chorus memorized by the end of your first practice session. That's all. Keep reading the verses, solo section, bridge, etc. But the chorus you will own. After 2 or 3 practice sessions you'll have the whole song down.
Those 2 tips alone will get you moving in the right direction.
Testing your progress is simple...just hide your music and see how far you can get before your memory slips. Chances are you already have a lot of music memorized. Learning to trust yourself may be the biggest lesson to learn.
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