Tricking Your Brain into Learning Tunes

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Many people have picked up a guitar in their life (and now even robots strum the guitar) but most of them won't have got much further than than 'Smoke on the Water'. There are a hundred methods that people say are best for learning to play not only the guitar but any musical instrument, but maybe only one will work for you.

Once you're up and running and feeling confident on the instrument of your choice, there's unlimited potential for musical creativity as you pick up new scales, learn new tunes and tweak your talents to certain sounds. How do you get going, though? What might work for you?

The Science of Learning

No doubt some great musicians are self taught. The temptation is there to just pick up an instrument and start playing; and, for some people, that will work absolutely fine. However, if you want to go a bit slower and learn methodically, there's some handy science that's the foundation of a few methods proven to help you learn.

Science has shown that you'll learn faster by using the Pomodoro method. For the uninitiated, what this amounts to is working really hard, and focusing as best you can, for 25-ish minute spurts; and then resting, or taking your learning easy. You can also employ micro-goals, which are similar. Try taking one riff or section from the song, and entirely focusing on that one part.

Using Sheet Music or Tabs

If you're music literate and can read sheet music - great, that can give you the full set of tools you need to play a song to a tee. If you're not, have a look at tabulatures, a simple but effective form of music for guitar (and bass playing) that sets out which fret to place your fingers on. You can employ those learning methods again here. Find the written music for a song you like, practice it, and then self-test, taking the sheet music away. Science has shown self testing earns high marks in school kids and it'll work for you, too.

Raising Your Game

If you feel you've got a good handle on the basics (and don't worry if it's taking time - it will!), you might want to advance onto some advanced techniques. Once again, the aforementioned brain-tweaking learning methods will put you in good stead here. Try learning new scales, rudiments, or rhythms on your instrument. You could pick up a slide, or mess about with different tunings. You could also improve the physical, technical nature of your playing. Improving your grip with tailored power grip tools can improve the strength and precision of your note hitting on guitar and bass for example.

Learning an instrument can be as easy as picking it up and starting to play, and that's the beauty of music. If you want to get really good, though, you won't go far wrong by picking up some in-depth learning methods and focusing your time on them!!

Until next time, work hard and have fun!!



-Sally Writes - MU Columnist
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