Memory: How to use it.

Memory is actually quite simple in its use.  There is short-term memory and long-term memory.  The short-term memory is for what we need to remember for a short period of time, such as: going to the kitchen for …well, something or other.  We don’t need to remember for years why we went to the kitchen; we only need to remember for a couple of minutes.

Sometimes I find that challenging.

Long-term memory is used for our name, phone number, address, parent’s names, sibling’s names and other things of that sort.  I still remember the first address and phone number that I memorized when I was in Kindergarten: Route 1, Box 274A, Caldwell, TX, 77836 and 409 567 7502.

Weird, huh!

So why do I remember such useless information?  Well, I think that it was one of the first few addresses where I lived for more than one year.  I moved from there when I was ten years old.  All of the other addresses are a bit of a blur.  I had to use this address for about five years.  I used it much more than any of the other addresses.

That’s how our memory works.  Short-Term memory becomes Long-Term memory.  The greatest source of frustration for most folks is relying on the short-term memory to do the job of the long-term memory.  Trying to remember something that we have spent little time using.

Keep in mind that some stuff will fall out of the long-term memory anyway; it is not a steel trap.

Other times, though, one’s mind is like a steel trap; clamped shut.  That is another subject though.

The best way to build long-term memory is to continually feed the mind information over a long period of time.  This is why it is so important when you are learning something new to have the information written in some way.  This is so you can read it over and over again.  If you are playing a part in a theatrical production, you will need to read the script many times to start building a longer memory of it.  At the same time, we want to remember it correctly, so, it is important to read it correctly each of the many times we repeat it.

Learning music is the same way.  This is why I have nearly everything written for my students to take with them.  Certainly, I do not write absolutely everything that the student needs to know.

There is a reason for this: I am lazy.

Actually, the reason is that I get a chance to observe how and what the student remembers with little stimuli.  The question in my mind is: What sort of things do we cover that the student not need written.  This is important for me to know so that I can remember what is difficult for the student.  Sure, it might be something simple that the student easily understands, but it is the memory of the point that is important.

How else can the student be successful during their week of practice?

The conclusion is this: Do not try to remember; act as though you are unable to remember until you notice that you do not need to look at the page or listen to the recording to play exactly what you should play.


Band Members II

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of working my first theatrical production for the Renaissance Theatre in Lynchburg, Virginia.  The gig was: Always, Patsy Cline.

Now before you think that playing this music was a learning experience let me tell you that I have been listening to all sorts of ‘Country’ music since I was a child.  I really felt at home playing the music and the folks on the stand with me played so well that I was really comfortable.

No, these were not professional musicians with years of performance experience.  Frankly, these guys probably had the least experience either with this music or performing in general compared to other player with whom I have worked.

The drummer had not played in years and acquired a set of drums just for this gig.  The bassist was just getting back into playing after quite a number of years off.  The ‘Rhythm’ guitarist was a student and had probably just played a couple of times in church.

These guys were preparing for what ended up being a six week, three nights per week engagement.  This was after a number of weeks of rehearsal.  We were not playing in between scenes; we were in the scenes and sometimes the focus of the program.  I even had a line myself: ‘How ‘bout a Texas song?’

Wow!  I pulled it off beautifully every night.

Sometimes my timing wasn’t so great though.  I probably had a case of the nerves.

Anyway, these guys did such a wonderful job and with such little experience up to that point that I wanted to mention that one never knows who will do the best work.  It is important no matter how far along you are in your career as a musician, to take the time to find out if someone can do the job.  A dedicated, moderately talented person will usually outshine the ‘I am so good I do not need to practice’ type.  Just like the hare in the ‘Tortoise and the Hare’ story.

Remember to include yourself when you are considering who is capable of doing a gig.  I have given away gigs before that I did not think I was ready to do and I really kicked myself about it later.


Band Members

Over the years I have needed to choose band members for many different gigs.  The first band I was in, I joined after it had been formed for a while.  I was 20 years old and I had been playing guitar for about two years.  It was a southern rock/classic rock band and I hadn’t really played much of that then.  What I learned was that I cannot expect everyone to learn at the same pace.  I also learned that there is a great difference in ability between those who learn an instrument just for fun, and those who are interested in becoming professional musicians.  That difference is time.

With this group, we had to hire new drummers more than any other member.  As a matter of fact, the vocalist, bassist and I left the original group that we were in together and found another guitarist and drummer to join us.  The guitarist stayed for the life of the band, so the drummer saga starts here.

You know how during a song the drummer will roll across a number of drums then come back in at the beginning of a section?  Well, the first drummer would always end up backward: kick, snare, kick, snare, roll, snare, kick, snare…  That used to drive us nuts.

The second drummer was one that I had chosen.  Oops.  I chose him because I thought that he played interesting things when we auditioned him.  One note about auditioning other players; give them a week or two to learn some of the songs your group does.  Then, setup a rehearsal and see how it goes.  What you are looking for is: did this person learn the tunes, or are they just following along poorly?  Did they show up in time to setup all of their stuff to be ready at hit time?  Are they sober?  Did they bring their girlfriend or boyfriend?  Did they bring all their friends?  Did you have to go pick them up?  Do you have to take them home and stop at four different places on the way?

I learned all of the above warning signs from the same person.  Live and learn.

The third drummer I met at a ‘Come be a millionaire selling our air purifier (vacuum cleaner) to people who cannot afford it’ pep rally.  He is a great guy named John who moved away.  I arranged a meeting with John, and I took our bass player to hear him play.  Well, the first scary moment was when we asked him to play he picks up two trimmed tree branches.  He picked up two trimmed tree branches!

Let me tell you, drumsticks, tree branches, chopsticks, whatever; John showed us what we were missing in our group: time, tempo and feel!  Wow!  You’re Hired!

I miss John.

Right now I am getting a group together and I am remembering some of the nonsense that I have dealt with over the years and nothing changes but the faces.  Here is my solution: I will have two sets of each instrument I need played.  Yes, two bassists, two drummers and eventually two sax players.  Maybe I will use some people to play trumpet.  I like trumpet too.  I even thought of finding a sub’ for myself.

This should solve the greatest problem of all: Scheduling.  Scheduling rehearsals and gigs grows exponentially more difficult relative to the number of musicians in a group.  I figure if I have two of everyone, someone can make it to something.  Plus, it will give me a leg up if I need to fire someone.  I will take wagers on who is going first.

I will keep you all up do date on our progress and gig schedule.



P.S.  I am sorry I did not complete an article for last week.  I do have a subject for another article because of that missed week though: Success and Failure.


I find this concept very interesting.Think about what ‘Freedom’ means to you.Without getting too deep into non-musical territory, I think that each person is completely free in every way imaginable.Too often though, we trap ourselves with all sorts of thoughts and behaviors.Usually because we are concerned about what others will think of us.

Newsflash: People don’t think about us as much as we might imagine.

Even so, I have wasted a lot of time not getting a group together to play regularly.There are other reasons, but I really have not done much in the way of performing because I had a difficult time deciding what to put on the setlist.I am too concerned about what other folks are going to like, and since there is so much music available, I just cannot choose.Well, I have finally decided to not care what anyone else thinks of my songlist.(OK, maybe just a little.)If I can get enough players on board and rehearsed, we should be gigging by Spring of 2008.

Pay attention to your thoughts this week in regard to music, and discover how many thoughts you may have that are influenced by what others say they like.I am sure the problem is shared by many of us.Yes, it is a problem if you don’t choose your music according to your own likes and dislikes.

Several years ago, I stopped playing for nearly four months.I did this because I was bored with playing.Specifically, I was bored with my playing.I had been teaching for about four years at that time and I had been working on a number of technical aspects of playing.I was bored with my playing because I was not playing music that was exciting to me.I was playing in a band that did what a lot of people call ‘Classic Rock’.Now, I like nearly everything, but there are some things that I just get tired of and this is one of them: Sappy Songs.Not Sappy as in goofy but fun; I mean Sappy – I’m so sad – Nobody loves me – The world is crashing down – Uggh!

This is one of the songs we played.We were good at it; some of you may love this song.

Good for you.


This is a rock song I find exciting.


Hear the difference?Feel the difference?

Playing or listening to music that I like makes me feel better.Maybe the same happens to you.

By the way, I find Dave way more entertaining than Eddie.


I am free to choose whom I find entertaining and guitar players are usually not it, oddly enough.You are free to choose the music you listen to and the music you want to play.I don’t have anything to do with it and I think my students are quite successful because of this approach that I take with them.

So, run down the street with a funny hat on, eat dessert first, and play your guitar behind your head.

I’ll show you how if you don’t know.