In addition to your regular guitar practice, here’s a quick and easy way to learn faster, sleep better, and enjoy more guitar.
It doesn’t take but a few minutes. And you may find yourself remembering new music more easily and getting smoother and faster with less effort.
It’s not magic, it’s……
The Power of Your Subconscious
To play classical guitar, we need to keep track of many different movements and bits of information.
To play even one note, we
- Use the left hand fingers
- Use the right hand fingers
- Determine or remember what notes to play
- Determine or remember which strings to play
- Determine or remember which fingers to use
- Determine or remember how loud or soft to play
- and more and more.
Luckily, our subconscious creates habits over time so that our conscious minds can pay attention to new material. At first, we have to consciously move each finger and find each note. Over time, some movements become ingrained and that attention can be spared for something new (such as tone quality or bodily awareness).
The more efficiently we train our subconscious, the quicker we learn and gain comfort and competency.
Learning Happens During Sleep
When we first learn something new, it enters our short-term memory. If we revisit that new information often enough, it will eventually enter our long-term memory.
The switch from short- to long-term memory happens largely during REM sleep.
This is why it’s so much better to practice a little each day than to practice in one big chunk on the weekend. We get more opportunities to “sleep on it”.
Create a Before-Bed Review
One way to make the most of this natural tendency is to spend a few minutes in the evening reviewing your guitar practice.
By focusing on what you’d like to retain from your practice, your mind will prioritize that information. The information or movement patterns will more readily go from short- to long-term memory, helping you to learn faster.
How to Practice Before Sleep
Any practice you do before bed is great. But you can optimize this time by slowly practicing and reviewing specific information.
Recall Pieces You’re Memorizing
If you’re currently memorizing music, you can play slowly from memory. This forced recall will activate that information in your mind and you’ll be more likely to recall it the next day.
You can also use this time to review any tricky spots in your pieces.
Big shifts, weird fingerings, strenuous passages – move slowly through these and verbally describe how you’d like it to be when you master it.
Review Patterns and Shapes
If you’re learning scale shapes or chords, you can use this time to briefly review these shapes and patterns. Just a time or two through the patterns with great focus and attention will be enough to nudge that information forward in your mind.
If you play with excess tension, you can use this time to create ease in your playing.
You can strategically ignore some of the regular issues you practice (rhythm, phrasing, even notes), and instead focus on using appropriate tension.
While it may not sound all that good, you can get the feeling of playing with ease and freedom in your joints. Over time, you may find more of this entering your regular practice and playing.
The goal of regular daily practice is to solve problems and build skills.
We can loosen up on the before-bed review. Here, we can just enjoy some relaxing time on the guitar.
Feel free to turn down the lights and relax. It’s just a gentle reminder of what you’d like to ingrain and train yourself to do.
Let this feel good, so that it’s a rewarding end to the day (and a positive anchor). Even on days you don’t get in a full practice, a few minutes before bed can make life that much better.