Priming yourself for guitar practice

bigstockphoto_The_Brain_1713803In a university research study a class of students were instructed to look at the lecturer with interest when he was standing on the left side of the room and with disinterest when on the right side of the room. The lecturer was unaware of the experiment but gradually he spent more and more time on the left side of the room. Follow link for more examples.

Understanding the unconscious mind

This experiment demonstrates the power of our environment and the role our unconscious mind plays in our own behaviour. It was the lecturers unconscious mind that directed him to favor the left side of the room.  Apparently our conscious brain can only process a very small amount of information opposed to our unconscious which takes in massive amounts of information. The understanding of the brain in recent years has come a long way and now brain researchers know that our unconscious mind controls much more of what we do then previously believed. So the question is how can we use this information to help us learn guitar?

Priming students to do more practice 

Priming the unconscious brain is basically anything that sets the stage for an action. Priming doesn’t guarantee an outcome but increases the chances of it occurring. Is it possible to prime ourselves for guitar practice? The above experiment gives us clues as to how it may be possible. Firstly I will apply it to teaching. Over the years I have noticed that teachers who focus positive attention on even the smallest of efforts from students in a particular area will usually see the student’s confidence and therefore attention increase in that area. The best example is the ‘Practice Log’. (Visit our G4 Downloads page for a free copyG4 GUITAR teachers ask students to use the Practice Log to record their daily practice. Those teachers who diligently checks the Practice log each week and praise the efforts of their students find the majority of their students increase their practice times. The more positive attention from the teacher the more practice that gets done. Negative attention by the way usually works in reverse. “Why haven’t you practiced?” results in less and less practice.

Give it time

Focus your attention on even the smallest of efforts and you will almost always see them grow.  Avoid being negative or berating yourself for not doing enough practice. Just keep filling in your times in your Practice log and acknowledging your effort. This doesn’t mean you should delude yourself. Be honest of course. For example lets say you are doing 20 mins practice a week knowing that you should be doing at least a few hours to make any real progress. In this case just sit down and work out a schedule that will see you gradually increase your amount of practice. You don’t have to suddenly do an hour of practice a day. Just add  a little each week until you reach your target. The key is to measure your practice time.

Focus on something. Anything!

Studies show that people who weight themselves daily are less likely to gain weight. By focusing on their desired weight they tend to stick to it. As a teen I began jogging in an effort to get fit. Initially I decided to go out one day and just do it but the result was always the same. I would last a few weeks and then get bored or distracted and stop. I would repeat this pattern every 6 months or so whenever I realized it was time to lose those extra kilos. It got to the point where whenever I began my jogging program I knew it was only a matter of time before I would quit. In my early 20’s I began reading books on coaching and teaching to become a better guitar teacher. The message was almost always the same. ‘You need to measure something. Anything.’ It didn’t matter what as long as it can be used to measurement growth. In the case of jogging I could measure time actually spent jogging, distance, speed or days jogged in a particular month. Once I began measuring I felt challenged to keep improving. It was the fact that I was keeping some kind of score that motivated me to go out and see if I could improve on my score. Without any system of measurement it just feels like another boring old pointless jog.

Pay attention to your unconscious mind

Our unconscious mind works much harder then our conscious so understanding this fact will give you an advantage to learning guitar. Everything from the music you hear to the images you see to the environment in which you practice will affect your long term success on guitar. Being aware of what your unconscious mind takes in may just make all the difference.

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