memorize music recall memory

Memory Tip: How to Memorize Classical Guitar Pieces More Quickly

Memorizing music gets easier with time. This is partly because we get better at the process of memorizing.

Like all else when learning classical guitar, memory is a skill we build with practice.

This leads to the question, “What can I do in practice to help my musical memory?”

Memory is Recall

It’s actually easy to memorize music. We do it already. The hard part is remembering it later. The input is easy – it’s getting the notes back out, and on cue, that’s challenging.

So to build our memory, we need to practice recall. Forcing ourselves to play from memory is like lifting weights for our brains. The more we do it, the stronger we become.

Play from Memory First, then Look to the Sheet Music

When we first sit down to practice a piece of music, we often open the sheet music and dive in. We start reading through the notes. We work on small sections. We practice. Then at the end, we try it from memory.

However, this routine is not the most effective. Instead, we’ll memorize music faster if we try to play it from memory first, before looking at the sheet music.

Playing first from memory can be extremely challenging. We often struggle. It is hard work. If we’re doing it right, we don’t stop when it first becomes difficult. Instead, we stick with it and strain our brain to find the next notes.

So challenging, yes. But this work does wonders for putting the music into our long-term memory. By doing this work, we both learn and memorize the music more quickly.

After we’ve recalled the notes to the best of our ability, we can then open the music and practice as usual.

Frequent Small Practices vs. Occasional Long Ones

As a next step, we can expand on this method of recalling music. We can create several small practices, instead of one big one.

We can first recall, then practice for a short time. Then we can move to another practice area (scales, other repertoire, whatever). Then, we can return to our new piece and force ourselves to recall it again.

Frequent efforts at recall accelerates the process. This also tells us where we need to review or re-learn. This can guide the next practice.

In time, this way of practice becomes familiar, and thus more comfortable. The work of recall may still be mentally challenging. But we get better at doing the work and seeing the results.

Further Reading on Musical Memory

For more on musical memory, see these articles and videos:

allen mathews classical guitar

About Allen Mathews

Allen Mathews learned guitar as an adult, and has been a full-time guitar teacher for almost two decades to students age 4 to 96.  He has taught classical guitar at Reed College and Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and has been a guest lecturer and clinician at schools and universities throughout the U.S.  Allen is often praised for his creative teaching abilities, and his dedication to helping adults learn classical guitar.  He has a popular Youtube Channel offering regular classical guitar tutorials, and has gained fans worldwide for his weekly emails and articles at

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