Oh, boy. Could the title of this blog entry sound more theoretical?! Don’t worry. This practice tip is actually simple and incredibly valuable.
What I mean is basically this: LEARNING MUSIC is a coordination exercise that involves three things: your HEAD, your HANDS, & your HEART. Read more >>
Now if you are like me you know right away that the HEART is by far the most important part of performing music. Practicing music, however, begins when we focus on just the HEAD and the HANDS working together.
In order to perform a new song or learn a new skill, a musician must first study notes written on the score sheet. Studying effectively takes the notes, exercises, or other musical information from books and deposits it in the musician’s HEAD. But musical information in the HEAD doesn’t do anyone any good. For a guitarist this musical information must then literally pass through the HANDS. This is why we practice. We must learn the information from the HEAD into the HANDS.
Really, once the HEAD has finished reading and understanding whatever is on the paper, the HEAD’s job is done. You want to use your HANDS (not your HEAD) to remember songs and exercises. Your HANDS have a better, faster memory than the one your HEAD. I’m talking about anatomical phenomena called MUSCLE MEMORY. Every time you repeat an exercise or replay a piece of music, the nerve cells inside your HANDS are slowly rewiring the muscles to repeat those very specific and complex motions. Slowly, with each repetition the nerves help make the exercise a little more automatic. With adequate practice, you will find that you no longer need your HEAD to remember anything. This is because the music is learned into your HANDS.
REPETITION literally passes the musical information into the HANDS, and the HANDS REMEMBER!
Mental effort is what makes people tired and frustrated when they are first learning to play music. The mental memory gets distracted, forgets, and hits wrong notes. The HANDS don’t.
So my advice to my students in private lessons is always to focus hard during practice. There is no way around mental effort. There is no other way to get the musical information written into your hands other than mental focus over repeated exercises. But the good news is, the more consistently you practice the sooner the music will be transferred into your hands. Once you learn it in your hands you can drop all the mental effort, play from the HEART, and it all gets much MUCH EASIER!