Using the GPS Dulls Your Sense of Direction

When we first moved to a new country, GPS was a lifesaver. By “GPS,” I’m referring to Google Maps or Waze. 

See, Costa Ricans are famous for giving directions like this: 

“Once you pass the town of San Miguel, keep going straight until you get to the red house. Then turn right for 300 meters. When you get to the Pulpe Los Angeles, you’re about there. You’ll see a little break in the fence. Park in front of it, and that’s where you go in. From there, you walk about 1500 meters, and you should see the waterfall. It’s beautiful. You’ll really like it. Pura Vida!”

I mean, gratefully, these days, if you’re looking for that waterfall, they have the Waze coordinates on their Facebook page, and your GPS will take you right to that break in the fence. There still aren’t any signs that say “Waterfall, this way.” :)

Now that we’ve been here for about a year and a half, I often only use my phone to listen to music or an audiobook, not for directions. I’ve learned the general routes, the common destinations. Sometimes, I’ll put them in to get a route suggestion based on traffic.

I’ll definitely use it when going to the beach later today. (True story)

But some folks never wean themselves off the GPS. They mindlessly follow the turn-by-turn prompts.

It might sound like “Chorus, 2, 3, 4” or “Intro, V1×2, PC, C×2, V2, PC, C×2, Inst, Vamp, B×4, C×2, B×2, C, B, E.” They get used to scrolling down chord charts that require nothing more than mindlessly reading down the page(s). If the chorus gets repeated, it’s listed twice.

Sorry if I lost you on that last turn. Arrangements and sequences are helpful, like GPS in a new town. But they are not the end destination. You want to get to know the lay of the land - you want to understand the parts of the song.

If you don’t notice where you’re going because you only look at the GPS, you’ll not truly know how to get there. It’s unlikely you’ll want to do the same arrangement the 7th time your team leads the song. The song will evolve. You’ll want to omit that extra bridge, or you’ll want to start at the pre-chorus because you’re doing a medley, and that’s the best place to jump in. Or you’ll notice that the congregation is deeply resonating (or sitting down), and you need to call an audible in the arrangement.

My challenge is to take steps to need the metaphoric GPS less and less, so your sense of direction (your musicality) gets shaper. For new songs, have a clear plan for sure. But don’t get stuck thinking that staring at your phone is the same as adventuring to new pla