Today I am going to take you through a really powerful concept and one that will save you many hours, days, weeks and months learning and improving your guitar playing.
If you apply this simple method of learning the guitar you could make a couple of years’ worth of progress in much less time. It would be wrong and inaccurate of me to give you an exact figure but this method will save you time.
That is the possibilities of ‘Power Burst’ learning.
‘Power burst’ learning is a really important subject and one that I have not heard or read about anywhere else in the music world, not by any music teachers, let alone guitar teachers.
In this post you’ll learn what power bursting is, how to do it and why it can save you a lot of time. I mean it when I say it is incredibly powerful.
It is something I have touched on here and there but it is not something I have gone into detail with before.
‘Power Burst’ Learning
What is power bursting?
Power bursting is actually very simple. You use it when learning something new and you want to learn it faster and more accurately than before.
To do it, you simply apply the following:
- Spend up to 10 minutes learning or practicing a passage or technique
- Stop and do something else for at least 5 minutes
- Re-start the piece you are learning
- Rinse and repeat
“Is that all?” I hear you ask.
Yep, it is deceptively simple.
The basic premise is this: you start learning something and don’t spend all day on it.
I have heard stories of guitarists’ partners watching the whole Godfather trilogy in the background while they learned a piece. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the picture.
Somebody shoot me!
Many guitarists start learning something, and it goes like this.
- Minute 1 – “Oooh, this is tough”
- Minute 5 – “Okay, I have the first few notes/chords all in the right place and it is sounding a little like the song”
- Minute 9 – “Yeah, this is sounding cool, just call me Hendrix/Clapton/James Taylor” (or insert favourite guitarist here) – “I think I’ll learn the next bit”
- Minute 14 – “Okay, I am getting the next part down but ooops I’m struggling to remember what I learnt earlier
- Minute 27 – “Please shoot me”
Okay, that is a rather dramatic re-telling of a situation we have all been in.
For the above guitarist, the best place to have stopped would have been at minute 9.
At this point the information was all taken in, everything sounded good, the student was on a high and this is about the peak time of concentration for a lot of people. Remember, learning new things requires a lot of concentration.
Everything learned or played after this peak point starts to go downhill.
If I was a little voice in the ear of the above guitarist I would have advised him/her to:
“Put the darn thing down and go watch ten minutes of an episode of Veep or something”.
Just do anything to switch your mind off from this song for a short period of time.
Finish the little mini session on a high and either put the guitar down or play something else before coming back to this piece a little later.
Oh dear, bad student!
Instead of following my advice as above (bad student), he/she got bogged down, frustrated and started to struggle to recall what he or she learnt earlier.
There is a lot of evidence out there that power bursting or similar ideas to this has wonderful benefits for learning motor skills and memory skills which are both important when trying to process new information.
You may find that your peak time is about 10 minutes but it may be a little less or a little more.
The best thing to do is experiment…
Power burst learning vs conventional ‘slogging it’
Keep an eye on a clock or use a timer (better) to monitor how long into a mini session of learning something new before your concentration and playing starts to go downhill.
Then, take a small chunk (about 20%) off that.
For example, if you had a brain the size of Stephen Fry (not saying you don’t, you’re a GD reader, so of course you do), then he might find that after practicing for about 16 minutes his concentration might start to wane.
Therefore, if I was him, I’d take 3 minutes off that and call my peak time 13 minutes.
I would ensure that I didn’t practice anything longer than in 13 minute blocks especially when learning something new.
The information and motor skills would be much more ingrained this way.
Just think, if you are a busy person like Stephen, you might only get three power burst blocks of 13 minutes each in on one day (totalling 39 minutes), but doing it this way is much more effective for most than a solid 39 minute practice.
If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to try power burst learning vs conventional ‘slogging it’ learning (which is where you keep going until you are bored or you want to cry from sheer frustration!) and let me know which is more effective for you.
Let science light the way
Scientists are cool.
I just wish many more would play guitar. That way they could create all these super cool studies specific to the guitar. Imagine if Pavlov rocked the guitar.
By the way, do you know the name Pavlov?
It rings a bell. Haha (shwwwwwss, that’s the sound of tumbleweed by the way).
Anyway, the good news though is that there are a lot of studies out there that relate to learning – all of which are applicable to the guitar.
There’s a study that also shows the benefits of varying your practice. It states that practice should be varied to achieve great results.
In other words, do something different on the guitar and then come back to what you were previously learning.
According to the top book, Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning:
“Practice that’s spaced out, interleaved with other learning, and varied produces better mastery, longer retention, and more versatility”.
Too true, amigo.
The truth is most guitarists lack any sort of plan or focus when learning the guitar. They just hop from one thing to the next and not focus on mastering the basics with a set plan.
There is a small price to pay for using power burst learning.
This method of learning requires a little more focus, drive and effort at first but if you stick with it for a week or so, you can start to build a massively powerful habit.
That is the only downside to it. Even though most of you will see the benefit of it, old habits and the easy way will often take over.
You though, are a Guitar Domination reader, so I know you will take my advice and start practicing like a champ.
Power burst learning is the way to do it.