Above are two short videos discussing some invaluable insights into the ’performance effects’ vs ’learning effects’ of practice.
This refers to comparing the short-term benefits from high repetition of a task, for instance a ’guitar riff’ in our case, to the longer term benefit you may receive when returning to the same task the next day.
One of the key points to take away is that, provided you’re identifying and tackling ‘trouble-spots’ along the way, you’ll often be considerably better at a given task when getting to the end of a series of repetitions of that task (over a 5-10 minute period for example), than you will be when you return to the same task the next day. The next day, you’re likely to be only a little better than you were before you started practicing in the first place.
This is normal, and it’s important to be aware of it early on so you don’t become disheartened by perceiving this as a ‘lack of progress’. It’s just how muscle memory and long-term memory works.
It is the act of performing these repetitive tasks 2 to 5 days per week over a number of weeks (don’t worry, not all tasks take weeks to conquer!) that will really train it into your muscle and mental memory so it becomes second nature.
When you understand this pattern of learning, it puts you in the commanding position of being able to monitor how long each thing you learn on the guitar takes you to get comfortable with.
This is not meant to imply that you should only be learning one thing at a time and drilling yourself on it intensely. As the 2nd video above discusses, learning and practicing multiple things, with shorter time-frames devoted to each, can actually be more beneficial in the long term, although your ‘perceived progress’ will generally be slower when working this way.
Different people respond to practice regimes in various ways, so working out a balance that suits you and keeps you interested is advised.
!But, it is very important during the process of repetition, that you try your best to identify trouble spots and come up with strategies for working through them. Writing them down is a very good starting point, so you remember the areas to tackle specifically next time and can add new ones to the list, without forgetting the initial issues you encounter.
Lots of ‘trouble-spots’ are easy to identify early on, like ‘remembering chord shapes’ or ‘picking the right string’, but as you progress to more complex things on the guitar, identifying trouble spots becomes more obscure.
A big part of a guitar teacher’s role is to help you develop awareness of where trouble spots are, and come up with clear and effective strategies to deal with them.
Remember, just repeating something for 10 minutes a day on a regular basis will not necessarily make you improve at it. Only focused practice that identifies problems, analyses them and comes up with specific ways to overcome them will make you improve in all areas of guitar and music that you pursue.
This understanding will give you ongoing insight into whether or not you’re actually improving at any given task over time, and if you’re not, you can then discuss the road-block in your progress with your teacher and seek out other methods for tackling and practicing the same task.