muscle memory/speed learning. Any SCIENTIFICALLY bassed methods?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Pbassred, Jan 1, 2011.

  1. Does anyone know of any studies on muscle memory or speed learning ...... other than "play a lot"? That's not to say that Playing a lot doesn't have value, but there must be an efficient way of training the brain to acquire a new lick or technique.

    I'm hoping to avoid answers like " I play scales for 2 hours".
  2. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    AFAIK, mankind has not come up with anything better than the old reliable "practice regularly and as much as possible" theory ;)

    Constant repetition is what helps with muscle memory. Speed comes from starting slowly and building up the tempo gradually.

    If there are better ways ( and I doubt it ), then I too, would like to know them.
  3. A tempo

    A tempo

    May 23, 2010
    There must be one hundred threads on this subject, but in brief, practice slowly and focus intensely on what you are doing. Playing scales without focus is pointless. Take to heart what Victor Wooten said, there is much more to music than notes.
  4. If there are a hundred thread on what I am asking, it aught to be a sticky. I DO understand the idea of working and of slow repetition.

    What I was looking for was a study of how the brain acquires information. Should you practice the same thing ALL day, or take regular breaks. If so, how long. Should you practice different things and alternate or is that distracting? What a about the effect of sleep in memory retention?

    That's why I was looking for an answer with science in it.
  5. Joe Z

    Joe Z

    May 7, 2009
    For what it's worth, I majored in psych (a few decades ago) and I remember articles about "sleeping on it". If you have two hours to do something or learn something you'll have better retention if you go 1 hour, sleep (or do other things for a few hours) and then spend another hour. this is better than two straight hours. Also, there's sort of a "reboot" that happens when you sleep that seems to "save the changes".

    Also, and I've definately noticed this when I try a new lick, if I start getting it down but then begin to fumble through it, I stop and play it a few times slower, to make sure that the last few time I do it, it was EXACTLY correct. Then I move on and return later.

    Maybe not the amount of science with footnotes you're looking for, but my two cents.

    best regards...Joe
  6. Im certainly no medical expert but have been an amateur student of "how the mind works" for years.

    Synapses (brain connections) are formed when the brain assesses positive value in forming it. Focused practice is part of that, but I would theorize that frequency diversity and duration diversity in a practice regime would be helpful, since the brain "never really knows when it will be called upon". Therefore muscle/nerve memory helps the brain deal with uncertainty.

    Just a personal theory from my own observations.
  7. Mr wiggl3s

    Mr wiggl3s Inactive

    Feb 27, 2009
    Lol. Is it scientifically proven that with practice you can better yourself at anything? I don't know, you'd be hard pressed. There are simple methods, and there are hard methods. Have fun.
  8. A tempo

    A tempo

    May 23, 2010
    There is. It's called Practice, Practice, Practice and it begins with a scientific, systematic approach to practicing, as compiled by Mark Levine.

    Everything you ask is there, including how the brain acquires information, though the specific physiological mechanism might be beyond the scope of TalkBass.

    "There are no short cuts, and I've been looking for a long time" - Chet Atkins
  9. blab


    Sep 27, 2010
    Zagreb, Croatia
    I don't think there is a definite scientific consensus to those questions because a very large number of people can yield the same (or at least very similar) results by applying very dissimilar learning techniques.

    There is an agreement that repetition on a daily basis helps memory retention - that is backed up by the so called learning curve. I read a small study, can't remember where though, which tested the percentage of information from a single lecture that a group of students could memorize by re-reading the lecture only once each day.

    For the first two or three days, the percentage of the information that they could remember was very small, than it started to grow exponentially and very soon it reached it's upper bound at around 90%. So the learning curve for that experiment is an exponential one (evidently almost anything in nature follows the exponential curve).

    I can't say if the same thing can be applied to practicing on an instrument, but my reasoning is this: in an ideal world, x+1 hours of well organized practice is better than x hours of well organized practice - however, we live in a (not-so-ideal) world where prolonged use of muscles causes micro-tears in the tissue, improper (or lack of) warm-up techniques may cause serious injuries in the long run and where bad habits (from bad practice) die really hard.

    From that point of view I feel that it is better to practice light (at most 2 or 3 hours) but practice daily.

    It is not uncommon that a person wakes up and gets an epiphany that if a particular groove is played in a slightly different way than the day before, that it will sound better - in such a situation, you will be thanking your deity of choice that you didn't spend yesterday's 8 hours of practicing on that specific groove only to rework it in a different way a day later.
  10. christoph h.

    christoph h.

    Mar 26, 2001
  11. BrandonBass


    May 29, 2006
    thanks for the great read, it all makes sense now.

    ive tried playin a difficult passage for 5hours straight in a single day and i couldnt master it. but somehow when i get back to it afew days later(practising other songs in the meantime), i could play it perfectly!
  12. Christian Waiau

    Christian Waiau

    Jun 16, 2005
    las vegas/maui, nevada/hawaii
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, Aguilar, Darkglass
    there really isnt any way around practicing.

    now efficient and practicing correct technique is important.

    always use a metronome, find spots/riffs/transitions that you stumble on and practice them SLOW and then bringing them up to speed(this is where the metronome comes in handly)

    make sure you're practicing the way you will be playing it.

    in other words... if you play standing... stand and play OR make sure the bass doesnt change positions when you stand/sit
  13. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I doubt that there is any scientific evidence to support what I am about to say, but I do know that "creative visualization" has had a profound impact on my ability to learn. When I hit roadblocks in my playing, I find that I can improve my performance by taking a break and putting myself through a detailed analysis of the song or part that is giving me difficulty, down to the tiniest minutiae -- all in my head. I have been doing this for 20 years and I am certain that mentally running through a difficult song or passage in my downtime helps to bring it closer to conclusion when I pick my bass back up again. Much more so than trying to force myself through drills that I resent. There is no substitute for physical practice, but there is a necessary component of repose in learning.
  14. subexpression


    Oct 9, 2010
    The amount of sleep, time of day, and diet are of extreme importance when developing fine motor skills and the creation of neural pathways.
    To understand the biological process involved in learning, we have to know how the brain forms neural pathways during practice. The formation of new memories is dependent upon the raw materials you ingest...Omega 3 fatty acids, foods high in antioxidants, complex carbohydrates, fiber and lots of water.
    Poor diet can result in learning difficulties, loss of interest, low attention span, and many other mental roadblocks.

    When you practice, you must also include rest time. With each exercise or drill, you have requested that your brain develop stronger neural pathways between your motor cortex, auditory cortex and temporal lobe, among others. If your brain is going to carry out these commands and begin building new connections, it needs raw materials and rest!

    Extra practice won't help if the brain is not finished establishing the last practice session's work in new neural pathways. The growth is slow, but constant. You can't rush it! You must rest.

    My favorite method which works great for me is the 10-on/10-off method. Practice for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes. It's not a waste of time. Put it to the test and find out for yourself.
  15. Forgot to say "thanks" to everyone.
  16. Fun thing I learned in Cognition last semester: your brain has what are called mirror neurons which activate when you either perform and action or watch someone perform it. So it's just as beneficial to play as to, say, watch a video of someone playing. That might help you learn things a tad bit faster.
  17. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    Here are some good books that I've found help with this:
    Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Malz (guitarist Howard Roberts based the GIT curriculum on this approach, incorporating visualization)
    The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green
    Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner
    The Music Lesson by Victor Wooten
    In general, Jeff Berlin is right: Practice the musical idea you wish to play slowly and out of time until you have the notes (he calls this "regarding" the music), then play it slowly in time, then play it faster as you need to. The metronome is only there as a "sub drummer" although I sometimes use it to gradually increase the speed of a technique I'm working on. In any case, don't become overly dependent on metronomes or drum machines. The time comes from you....
    In general I've found that practicing the idea slowly and being able to execute it with precision means I'll be able to play it with speed. You can't play fast what you can't play slow, in other words.
  18. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Sep 20, 2021

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