Forget Memory Lapses and Performance Anxiety – Here’s a Guitar Tab Song Technique for Total Recall

Has This Ever Happened to You?

You play a guitar tab song, and suddenly you can’t remember what comes next.  It’s almost like hitting a mental brick wall.  When this happens you have to go all the way back to the beginning of the song.

Now here’s the funny thing: As you play it from the start, you’ll usually play right through the part that you had difficulty with.

Why Did This Happen?

The reason this happened is because you originally learnt the song in serial.

A great way to completely master a guitar song and eliminate memory lapses is to learn the song in parallel after you have first learned it in serial.


Learning a guitar tablature song in parallel will allow you to master each individual section of the song.  This allows you to build additional memory pathways for the song and therefore exponentially improve your recall.

First Things First: Serial Linking

Chunk 1 –  Chunk 2  –  Chunk 3 –  Chunk 4 –  Chunk 5 –  Chunk 6 — etc.

To learn a guitar song in tab, standard notation or by ear, you need to take the song and break it down so that you can easily remember the section you are working on.  In other words, if you try to learn a massive section of the music all at once, you will probably end up very frustrated and not knowing the song very well.  If you learn a song one little piece at a time and then move on to the next piece, you will learn the song in a timely fashion.

In a serial approach to learning a guitar song, you learn the song from beginning to end, starting with the first part (chunk 1), then the second part (chunk 2), the third part (chunk 3), etc.

A chunk is a piece of information that forms a single meaningful unit.  The size of a chunk can vary dramatically depending on:

  1. The complexity of the piece of music.
  2. Your familiarity with the musical style.
  3. Your familiarity with the guitar player’s style.
  4. Your level of expertise on the guitar.

Depending on your guitar skill level, you may find that the chunk may be as small as 2-4 notes, or it could be an entire phrase.

For simplicity, let’s say that each chunk happens to be one measure of music.  This means that for you to play by memory the music in measure 5, you must remember the music in measures 4, 3, 2, and 1.

For a good example of something you know in serial, think of the popular mnemonic for remembering how many days each month has:

30 days hath September, April, June and November.  All the rest have 31 except February…

If you are trying to determine how many days are in July, you have to go through the whole thing in order to discover that July falls under “all the rest have 31”.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

broken chain link

When you learn something in serial, you learn it chunk-by-chunk.  So if you forget a part of the guitar solo in measure 89, you may have to go back to the beginning of the guitar solo and start the solo again to remember what comes next.

Now let’s look at parallel:

Parallel Linking

Chunk 1

Chunk 2

Chunk 3

Chunk 4

Chunk 5

Chunk 6, etc.

In parallel, each song chunk is mastered as an independent piece of music that does not depend upon what precedes or follows it.

3 Steps to Parallel Chunking

Step 1. To learn a guitar tab song in parallel, first play through the song in its entirety.  Next, play the song starting at measure two and play the song to the end.  Now start the song in measure three and play it to the end.  Repeat this process starting the song at each measure and play through to the end.

Step 2. Once you can play the song starting at any measure, the next thing to do is isolate each individual measure.  Play just the music in measure ten, then play just measure four, then play measure seventeen, etc.  You may want to create a list of random numbers and then play the appropriate measures.  What about playing only the even numbered measures or just the odd numbered measures?

Step 3. Divide the song up by chunks or phrases instead of measures.  For this you can write out the music by hand, or photocopy it, and then circle the notes in each chunk or phrase.  Next, number the chunks.  Now you can play chunk 7 and then chunk 15, etc.  The order is up to you.  Can you see how powerful this is?

Now you do need to understand that learning a song in parallel does take some extra time and effort.  The question of course is:

“Is it worth it?”

Well, how good do you want to know that song?  For real simple songs you won’t need this technique.  For challenging songs and songs that you really want to nail down, you will definitely want to use this technique.  You might want to use this technique for the entire song, or maybe just the guitar solo, or perhaps just a section of the song that is giving you trouble.  The great thing is this technique is flexible.  You decide how and when you want to use it.

The best way to use this technique is for songs that you absolutely must know cold.  In other words, if you are going to be performing a song in front of others or at a gig, learn the song in serial and then in parallel.

When you learn songs in parallel, you create additional signposts in your memory for the guitar song.  This way if you play a song and forget the next part, you do not have to go all the way back to the beginning—you just need to go back to the last signpost.  In other words, you will be able to recover faster and not have to go all the way back to the beginning of the song if you should have a memory lapse.

Good Riddance to Performance Anxiety…No More Fear!

Another great benefit to knowing a song in parallel is that it will greatly reduce performance anxiety.

Performance anxiety like fear of public speaking is usually caused by the fear of being seen or heard by others as we make a mistake.  If you know what you are going to play inside and out, you can play like the guitar master you are.

By learning a guitar tab song many different ways, you will create multiple files in your brain and make it easy for total recall.

Think about it like this:

If you leave ten sets of keys in different parts of your home, chances are very good that you will always be able to at least find one set of keys.  The same is true for music.  If you have multiple files and sub-files for a song, you have many places to retrieve the contents of the song.   When you do this you make it hard to forget how to play a song.

This just scratches the surface of techniques you can use to learn guitar songs in tab, standard notation or by ear. Want to learn guitar tab fast?  Visit now to discover 21 powerful ways to learn guitar tab songs fast.

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