What in the world could I be suggesting here – that you should NOT memorize your song or solo? That I think that it is possibly better to have that darned music stand in front of you forever?
No. That is not what I am suggesting.
Memorizing your lyrics, chords, and/or solo (for instance) is great! Do it!
But when you play and perform, don’t simply push the “start” button and go into automatic mode.
Be present – listen, and play from the heart.
I have heard bands playing where one person has practiced their part and is playing it “correctly”, but isn’t playing with the other members.
The result is often times a slight drift in their rhythm and timing – the “autoplay” effect, or a tunnel vision effect where they are unaware of what the rest of the band is doing. Worst case scenario (that I have seen happen) is that sometimes the player is not even on the same beat as the band, and doesn’t realize it.
So what am I suggesting?
I suggest that you memorize your music to use as a road map to get you where you are going. Use that map to remind you of the lyrics and arrangement of the song you are playing. Follow that path you mapped out, but don’t do it blindly.
Be in the moment – perform that song from your heart with feeling, not robotic replication, and be engaged not only with the audience, but also with the rest of the band.
This reminds me of an episode of “The Office”, where Michael had a GPS system in his car that directed him to turn right and he did so – right into a lake. Had he been aware of his surroundings, he would have realized that the road conditions had changed since the GPS data was created.
Playing music is like that sometimes. Even though you know where the music is supposed to go – sometimes it varies slightly, and you have to be aware – all the time – for when it does.