Memorizing the exercises is an important aspect that will help you tremendously. Unfortunately I found many students reluctant to put in the extra effort to memorize and get stuck following the charts or playing along with the videos.
There are two important benefits to memorizing:
- Once you’ve memorized the exercise you can put your full attention on working out the details like relaxing, playing smoothly and not pausing between chord changes. As long as your attention is divided between looking at something else and trying to pay attention to what you’re doing it will be very difficult to really play it properly.
- When you start using your memory muscle your mind becomes sharper and it becomes easier to memorize exercises and songs in the future.
The thing is it’s not really as difficult as you might think. Here are some tips that will help you.
- Chunk it down. Memorize small sections at a time. For example if you’re trying to memorize an exercise that is eight measures long start by memorizing four measures. Then memorize the next for measures. Finally put the two parts (chunks) together.
- Look for repeating patterns. Many times you’ll see sections of an exercise or song actually repeat. You don’t have to memorize everything as if it’s all new and different. Look over the entire song or exercise first to see if there are sections that just repeat. Then look over the material again and see if some sections are very similar to each other. It’s easier to remember what’s different if the sections are almost alike.
- Work on memorization when you’re fresh. Don’t try to memorize when you’re tired at the end of the day. You’re really swimming upstream. Work at it when your mind is fresh. For many people that’s early in the morning. I find my best times are early in the morning and after a break in the afternoon.
- Be consistent. Try to work at memorization a little bit each day, or at least several times a week. It will become less difficult much faster if you come back at it over and over consistently.
- Listen first. If you have an audio version of the song or exercise listen to it several times to get a clear audio image in your mind of what you’re aiming after. If it’s only written at least you can look it over and get a clear visual image of the entire material.
- Look for standard chord progressions. One of the benefits of learning common chord progressions is that it makes it much easier when the song or exercise uses one of those progressions.
These are just a few tips that have really helped me and my students. Different things work for different people and I encourage you to experiment and see what really works for you.
Here’s a link to a wiki article that I like that puts the memorization process into a step-by-step system.
Memorize Sheet Music
Here’s my lesson on Common Chord Progressions with even more resources.
Play the Guitar Faster Using Common Chord Progressions