The MOST Effective Guitar Practice Schedule: 3x10
How a memory shortcut will maximize your retention and efficiency while practicing.
By Dan Macy
When you’re first learning to play, it can seem a bit overwhelming because there’s a lot of information to take in. The good news is that there are ways to help digest all this information and learn faster.
One practice technique that takes advantage of how your brain works is called spaced learning. The underlining principle is this: you learn better when you forget about what you’re learning for a short period of time and then revisit it later. You’re spacing out the time between learning and recall.
An easy way to use spaced learning is the 3x10 technique, which was developed by Dr. Doug Fields, a guitar player and development neurobiologist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.
In his studies of brain development and memory, Dr. Fields found that you can make a stronger connection in your memory if you practice a skill three times with a 10 minute break between each session.
How to Practice
Think of using your practice time as if you were eating several small snacks spaced out through the day instead of gorging on one huge lunch, taking a nap and not eating anything the rest of the day.
Take whatever you’re working on — a riff, scale or song — and practice it for a bit. Then put down your guitar and do something completely unrelated to learning music, like watching TV or taking a walk. Ten minutes later, come back to the same thing you were working on before and practice a bit longer. Take another 10 minute break, and then come back to the lesson one more time.
Repetition is important to learning, but so is when and how you practice. Use the 3x10 technique as an easy way to help embed new information in your long-term memory and learn faster.