Lessons and info for the nylon string guitarist

Finger robotics part 3

Finger robotics part 3

Use the subconsious mind as a retrieval tool

Here is how it works.
You have a piece of music you played many times in the past but have not played it
for some time.

You try to play the piece now and find you forgot parts of it

Try to remember consciously by playing the passage leading up to the forgotten

When your fingers start to fumble, try again with different possibilities. You will know if you have it because it “feels” right. If you don’t get it right after 3 attempts stop trying. The last thing you want is to keep repeating something that doesn’t work. The more you repeat anything, the more you strengthen the action until it develops into a habit that will be hard to break later. Just stop.

You are not giving up. Say to yourself. “I don’t remember this passage now, but I know it will come to me later”. Stop thinking about it now and play something else.

What you are really saying is, “I’m handing the job over to the subconscious mind. It has this passage stored away somewhere that is is presently out of reach. I know with absolute certainty that my subconscious mind will find it and bring it to the surface the next time I play this piece”.

A few hours later, or the next day, it’s time to play through the problem piece

It’s a good idea to prepare the hands first so they in an optimum state to receive and act on the the subliminal instructions coming from the subconscious mind

  1. Shake you hands vigorously
  2. Fill up a bathroom sink with hot water and submerge your hands under the water for 5 minutes. Make it as hot as you can stand without burning yourself. You are giving your hands a relaxing bath to loosen up the muscles. When you take your hands out of the water give them another good shake.
  3. Spend 5 minutes going through some fretboard drills such as scales or similar warm up exercises.

Now play your piece but play it a little slower than you normally would. Have confidence that your fingers to find the correct notes in the parts that you have forgotten.

Mentally relax. Don’t let you brain interfere this time. Let your fingers do the

That’s all there is too it.

The odds are now in your favor that when you play through your problem piece your fingers will just play through the previously forgotten passage. The important thing is to mentally relax and let the fingers take over as you approach the problem section.

If you have no luck that day, forget it and try again the next day. This is purely an exercise in training your subconscious mind to perform a search and rescue operation. You have given it an instruction(find the missing notes). Now stop thinking about it so it can go and find what you want in the deeper parts of your subconscious memory. Tell yourself that your fingers will remember the missing notes later.

This memory retrieval method is not my invention but it works for me. If you are human it should also work for you. If you find all this a little too esoteric and wierd, do it anyway just for a laugh. The important thing is to state your desire to the subconscious mind by talking out loud to the fingers. Tell them to stop mucking about and find the missing notes. Then completely forget about it by filling your head with a new, unrelated activity.

The moral of this story is: When trying to remember a piece after not playing it for a long time, don’t try. Think like a Jedi master. “Do or do not. There is no try”. While performing the act of recalling notes you have previously learned but forgotten, don’t even think. Just relax and have confidence in the muscle memory of your fingers.

That’s the ideal anyway.
The reality is we are not all Jedi Masters. We are human and we all try.
The trick is not to “try hard”.

When I am playing anything I havn’t played for a while, of course there will be passages that I completely forget and I have to refer back to sheet music or notes. The point I’m making is that if I forget some passages in a previously learned piece, I do not automatically refer to the sheet music to remind me as my first option. I practice the main techniques in the piece FIRST and then try again. To my continuing amazement, this seems to work like magic 9 times out of 10. I have learned to trust my instincts and my muscle memory.

In a nutshell
Get the muscles warmed up first ready for playing before you pick up your guitar. The fingers will then naturally respond with increased confidence and instinctively remember things better.

Go to

Finger robotics Part 4

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