We have to be constant learners, because that is the only way how to keep growing as a musician and guitarist.
In order to maximize our potential for learning, we need to optimize our learning and practicing methods, so we can learn faster. Not only we want to learn something fast, we also want to remember valuable information for as long as possible. How can we do this?
Today I want to share with you simple little strategy that can help you accelerate your learning.
If you are like me, you spend a lot of time learning new stuff. The problem is that sometimes we get so caught up in learning new stuff, that we forget to take breaks to renew our energy. It happened to me many times that I stopped practicing guitar only when I felt mentally totally exhausted. This was usually after 90 minutes without taking a break.
There were 3 problems with this approach:
- Last 20 – 30 minutes of my guitar practice session were usually quite unfocused, I missed the sharpness and clarity of thinking.
- It took me long time (30 minutes to an hour) to gain my clarity back.
- The next day I had hard time remembering information that I have learned in the middle of my practice session. I could remember what was at the end ( in spite of the fact that my attention was not optimal when I was learning it) but the middle parts were for some reason always the toughest to recall.
And then I learned about the serial position effect. The serial position effect refers to the finding that our recall accuracy improves with the information that we have learned in the beginning or at the end of our practice session. This term was coined by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus who found out, that the position of an item affects recall.
If we want to memorize a list of 50 items, our recall might look something like this:
The same applies when we practice guitar or study something. If we have 90 minute session, there will always be this middle-dip. That means we will have hard times remembering the material covered in the middle.
So, what is the solution? How can you use this?
When you are learning a new song or guitar solo, try to break down your practice sessions into smaller pieces.
If you have hour and half for practicing, don’t spend whole 90 minutes learning. Work for 45 minutes, then take a little 5 to 10 minutes break and then work for another 45 minutes. This way you are taking advantage of the serial position effect and your recall will improve.
Another way to experiment with this is to break your practice session into 30 minutes chunks, followed by quick 2 – 5 minutes break to refocus. Not only will this boost your productivity and attention, but also recall.
For a long time I’ve been using 50 minutes practice sessions followed by 10 minute break, right now I am testing 30 minutes sessions with shorter breaks.
What is the optimal length of a practice session for you? Let me know in the comments.