Good Repetition

first published Septmber 17th 2012

Have you heard the phrase “repetition, repetition, repetition”?

Of course, this means that by repeating something you can commit it to long term memory, which is useful when we want to remember lyrics or melodies.  Sometimes though, when performing technique for example, ‘brain memory’ just isn’t fast enough and is prone to forgetfulness so we need to employ something I call ‘finger memory’.

‘Finger memory’ is really another name for muscle memory, which suggests that your muscles can remember certain actions they perform very frequently.   As musicians, this means that if we practice something often enough we should eventually be able to start doing it without having to think about it anymore – it’s like our fingers seem to know where they’re going on their own!  This can help us with fast phrases, scale runs, chords… nearly every aspect of guitar playing.

I’D LIKE YOU TO MEET… YOUR BRAIN

There is a catch – the reality is that because you have done the same movement often enough your brain assumes that’s how you always want it to be done.  It will always take the path of least resistance and follow what seems to ‘feel’ right… even if it’s wrong. It’s not your brain’s fault though, it’s only doing what you told it to do!  In other words, it’s important to practice your movements on the guitar slowly and as technically perfect as you can manage.  If you make a mistake your brain will record it as part of the process and therefore you will be prone to making the same mistake.  Start again, slow down and take your time. ALWAYS be consistently correct.

This approach to learning can be very frustrating but can yield HUGE results in a relatively short period of time.  I’ve had students who have been playing something the same way for 20 years and never improving at it but after a couple of weeks of slowing down and using ‘good repetition’, they find that they start to make real progress again.
Next time you see anybody who is a master of their profession, maybe a chef chopping vegetables really quickly , watch their technique and how they make it look easy.
This is because with good practice, it is.

Until next time…

JW