Guitar muscle memory

Muscle Memory In Relation To Guitar

By Darren Powell
In Oct 5, 2017

Muscle Memory has been defined as the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought, acquired as a result of frequent repetition of that movement. In relation to guitar playing, this either helps us get better quicker or makes learning very repetitive which can quickly lead to boredom. So how can learning about muscle memory and being aware of what it, benefit us as guitar players?

Memory is learnt through a lot of repetition over a period of time. It is a specific type of skill that has been practised so long that it becomes innate. The same as driving a vehicle or walking without having to look down all the time. So, by continually playing a phrase or sequence of music, muscle memory helps you to get your hands around it from a memory standpoint. This also gets your hands to follow certain patterns on the guitar. This is very helpful as muscle memory is an unconscious learning. It is not like learning new words where you have to keep remembering. It is a memory that becomes innate.

Practice Makes Perfect Muscle Memory

In the beginning, it could feel monotonous to practice the same tricks over and over, but you will soon realise that the guitar becomes repetitive and the muscle memory activation then aids forward progress and makes it much easier. So there are a few things to keep in mind whilst practising guitar which will help build and activate muscle memory. For starters, practice slow. Never attempt new riffs or ideas at full tempo. Play them slow and let them sink into your fingers, whilst being fully aware of what you are playing.

The misconception of muscle memory is that it does not reside in the muscles. It lives in the brain. Muscle memory is memory for the muscles, and not memory in the muscles. Repetition of licks and riffs creates neural pathways in the brain. This then literally becomes hardwired to perform the practised licks and riffs with ease. The brain then no longer has to focus on it to make it happen, so the playing feels easy to you. You can then start playing things without thinking about it.

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Profile photo of Darren Powell

* Over 4000 teaching hours * Graduated from Tshwane University of Technology 2016 Degree in Music * Has the ability to watch a TV series whilst practicing guitar * Plays as a session musician locally and abroad

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