Do you want to become a remarkable guitar player? Become better at making mistakes.

make mistakesIn our culture, we are not very proud of making mistakes.  We don’t like making them because it shines a bad light on us. It makes us look incompetent and unprofessional, so we rather play it safe.

But what if I told you, that you should make more mistakes? What if I told you, that in order to maximize your inner genius, you need to embrace them? What if I told you, that your improvement depends upon them?

Why learning and mistakes go hand in hand?

“The only sure way to avoid making mistakes is to have no new ideas.” A. Einstein

Let’s face it.

We are not perfect and we will never be.

We are human beings endlessly striving to improve ourselves. Our quest to become the best we can be is never-ending. Every single day, from the moment we are born to the moment we die, is an opportunity for us to get better. There is always space for improvement.

This can be scary, however. Acknowledging that we are a work in progress means admitting our imperfection. We are destined for struggles and setbacks and yet we fight it with all our might. In our quick-fix culture where everything can be solved in 5 minutes, there is no place for errors. We need to get things done as fast as possible.

In my previous article on successful learning techniques, we have talked about how embracing desirable difficulties enhances our learning curve. We have also mentioned that forgetting plays an essential part of successful learning.

All these techniques we have discussed have one thing in common. All of them come from belief that in order to acquire durable knowledge and skills, we need to make learning harder. In other words, we need to make more mistakes. We need to allow errors to happen so we can correct them.

Learning is supposed to be hard. We are supposed to struggle when we learn new things. Setbacks are not only expected, they are desirable and beneficial for us. The more mistakes we make, the more opportunities we have to correct them and improve ourselves.

If we want to make our guitar practice effective and efficient, we need to practice in a way that prepares us for real-world scenarios.  And for most aspiring guitarists that means live shows and performances.  We need to think about complexity, variety and unpredictability of live conditions in our practice room, so we can perform well when it matters.

If we rely on artificial supports that won’t be available during live performance, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We need to come up with a practice plan that forces us to make mistakes when there is still time to correct them.

How do we do that? Continue Reading →

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Forget what you know about practicing guitar. Unconventional truth about successful learning.

large_3355674016California Polytechnic State University baseball team got involved in an interesting experiment.

The goal of this experiment was to find out what kind of practice regimen would improve players batting skills the most. Players who participated were highly experienced individuals. To determine what kind of practice produces better results, they were divided into two groups and each of this groups followed different practice routine.

Why am I talking about baseball? Hold on, everything will become clear soon.

Hitting a baseball is a very complex skill that takes years to master. Not only you have to recognize what type of pitch is thrown at you and how the ball will move, you also have to time and aim your swing so you hit the ball at the perfect moment. From the time ball leaves pitcher’s hand, it takes only about half a second for it to reach catcher’s mitt. There is no place for thinking, everything has to happen almost automatic.

If your goal was to improve someone’s batting skills, how would you do that?

In the experiment, part of the team practiced in a way that many people would consider as the most logical one. Batters had to hit 3 different types of pitches, where each was served 15 times in a row and then they moved to another one. This was a form of blocked practice in action.

The second part of the team practiced in a more chaotic fashion. They also had to hit 3 different kinds of pitches, but this time they were randomly distributed across the block of 45 throws.  If you were a batter, you would have no idea what kind of pitch is coming next. As you probably remember from my previous article, this is a form of interleaved practice.

The whole experiment included two practice sessions a week, continuing for six weeks.

During the batting practice, players who practiced in a blocked fashion showed massive improvement. With each repetition they became better at making contact with the ball and it became easier for them to anticipate how the ball will move. The second group however didn’t show that much of an improvement. At the end of 45 pitches they still struggled to hit the ball. Anticipating the type of pitch and movement of the ball was much harder, since they didn’t know what kind of throw is coming.

The interesting thing is that at the end of experiment, players who practiced in a random fashion displayed much better results than those who practiced in a blocked practice. What seemed like a massive improvement at first, didn’t lead to a long-term durable learning.   The results are even more fascinating if you realize, that all of the players were skilled batters before the experiment had started. Continue Reading →

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