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Why Can’t I Memorize Music  

Too Much Thinking

These are my tips for those that have difficulty in memorizing music and suffer from anxiety attacks when trying to achieve their goals. ?  Anxiety of the consequence of thought so the objective of all my teaching will always be to feel, hear the music then think only a bit.

Sadly major Music Schools and Conservatories do not address the problem because they don’t know how as there are very few musicians that have been able to overcome anxiety and still be professional at a later stage of their career and relatively healthy.

This aspect of learning affects both adults and kids and is a very serious to not say one of the most crucial goals in music as it can be the tipping point between living life with your music friend or just looking at it as a spectator.

We all can play music as it is the most natural expression of any human mind so a guitar teacher must also have the necessary resources to train the how to learn with comfort and joy.

How to Memorize Music

Music is memorable mainly because of rhythm. You will remember a piece of music only when you are able to sing the melody of the composition in relation to the beat.

You will only be able to sing with joy to the beat if you have learnt the song in the original context. Therefore, you should learn a song by memorizing it´s melody only from the original recording and not a sheet of paper.

The harmony is a consequence. Don t worry about it. Once you have the melody the chords on the guitar will fit in very easily.

Thus first up is the pulse, then the when of the sound, and how we play that sound, is the technique.

Please note that I make no mention of muscle memory nor visual learning as this can involve many repetitions and probable frustration.

All my tips apply to any type of guitar, classical, acoustic or electric and any style of music as jazz, flamenco or blues.

Trust Your Musical Mind

Next time you need to remember a song, avoid going to your guitar and guessing the sound based upon where your fingers have been in the past. Instead, tap the beat and let the melody come to your mind. It will, it always does if you give yourself permission!

Trust your musical unconscious mind as it knows a lot more than what you are able to think. When you play music your thoughts are in the background and all you should hear is sound and rhythm. So do not think too much as this will cause confusion, frustration and anxiety.

In summary, if you can play and have fun, do whatever you want to but if you have difficulty in your learning then you need to reorganize your process to help you memorize music.

A String of Actions

This is an example where the goal is to learn all the closed triads of the C scale in one position.There are around 28 shapes.

Can you learn directly the shapes?

No way !

You must learn how to find the shapes based upon sound, tempo, process and some thought.

An Example

You will learn all the shapes but I assume you are not very familiar with the names of the notes on the guitar.

Follow these strings of actions during 7 days and afterwards you will have learnt the 28 shapes at a very slow speed.

Steps to Memorize

  1. Choose one of the 7 triads and write its notes on a piece of paper as: Dm = d, f and a
  2. Starting from the lowest string search for your starting note. Be aware that even though you may have a starting note on the sixth string you might not be able to create a closed inversion.
  3. Place the correct finger down on the note. Remember that the first finger will be assigned to the first fret, the second finger to the second fret,  3rd finger to the 3rd fret and the 4th finger to the 4th fret of the guitar.
  4. Ask yourself what the next note of the triad in closed position is?   Look at the three notes, choose and find it on the next string-
  5.  Not sure of the notes on the guitar? Then ask yourself:
    • What is the name of the next open string?
    • What is the next note of the C scale after the open string?
    • How many frets are there between these two notes?

 Place your corresponding finger on the target note only after you have  answered the questions. Do not memorize where the notes are but the process.

 Remember to keep your fingers on the fretboard if not you will have to                  start again.

So now we have one more note to find.


  1. Repeat the process for the third note of the triad. Remember that the next note will always be only on the next string.
  2. Play the three notes, one at a time and sing the sound.
  3. Lift up your fingers and repeat the process for the next inversion starting from the next string.
  4. Questions to ask yourself:
      •  On what string am I starting the chord from?
      • What is the name of the starting note on this string?
      • Where is this note?

Find it as a consequence of what you know, the open string and then go up the scale one note at a time asking yourself what is the next note and, how many frets between both

  5. Place the correct finger down.

6. Repeat the process until you complete the inversion and make sure you                do not miss a step.

Should you repeat this chord more than once on all strings?

No, but rather do the same with all the other chords in the scale and then give it a rest for the day.

The dm chord and shapes

The Bush Mind

This is a slow process where you are learning to follow a string of thoughts and actions that lead to a goal.

Repeat this slow process with all triads once a day during a week and afterwards you will have cleared a pathway that takes you directly to the result.

Consider the mind to be like a bush of dense trees and shrubs that are always moving around. The constant moving is how we feel everyday as we are alive and ever changing.

This string of actions will allow you to create the pathway which after a few repetitions will  train your mind on how to achieve the result.

We do not learn by focusing on the goal but by establishing how we achieve the goal.

After a while you will have created a pathway that will open up at the speed of light.

All trifas in closed inversions are  explored in depth on my online guitar course dedicated to songwriters

How many times do I have to repeat this process?

Play in this manner for four days, once a day.

After the 4th day, place your fingers in order in relation to a beat and sing what you are doing. Imagine the movements in your mind without mimicking and play the chord one note a time singing the notes.

Go through all the triads again slowly at the slowest speed of the metronome.

Now you are training to hear and think in relation to a pulse which is the final step in the process to memorize music.

You will Need a Guitar Teacher

It is very hard to do this on your own. Consider that when we learn something new we are like children and need guidance from a guitar teacher as we cannot see the bigger picture and will take shortcuts that will lead to frustration.


From my experience if you do not agree with such a detailed musical learning process then you do not have a problem memorizing music and have never suffered extreme anxiety.

Music Schools and Conservatories do not Address the Problem

I studied my career at Berklee College of Music, Conservatories and music schools dedicated to adult learning. Never in any of these schools where they able to take care of teaching students how to memorize music especially those who had great difficulty in learning as myself.

I hope these tips will help you as they helped me everyday in my music for over 50 years.

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