Kit Kat for Jazz Guitar Cats

by | Sep 18, 2017 | General Updates, Interviews | 6 comments

Today I want to talk about something critically important for your jazz guitar practice session.

And it happens to be the easiest, most relaxing thing you could possibly do in your session.

It doesn’t require any theoretical knowledge, any technique, or..well…anything.

And yet, it’s perhaps one of the most important things you can do in your session. And skilfully using them can double your results in the practice room.

“What is this mysterious silver bullet you doth speak of?” I can hear you say.

Well, my friend, it’s simple.

Taking short breaks during your practice session.

“Huh? What’s the big deal about that?” (I knew you were going to ask that.)

Here’s the thing:

One of the biggest things I get asked about from my readers is this:

“There’s so much material I need to learn and remember in order to play jazz guitar! Not only is it overwhelming, I’m finding it takes too long in my practice sessions to memorize even a small part of what I need to advance my playing. What can I do?“.

The answer:

Scientists have discovered something very interesting when observing how humans learn – the primacy/recency effect.

When we spend a practice session learning material (e.g. vocabulary, scales, tunes, whatever), we tend to retain the most of what we covered in the start of the session, and at the end of the session. In the middle of a session, there’s a dip in retention.

But here’s the thing:

If you add a short break in the middle of your session, that means you create an extra ‘end’ (i.e. at the end of the first ‘mini’ session) and an extra ‘beginning’ (at the start of the 2nd mini session).

Which means…

You can double your retention of material you cover in your practice session, simply by adding a short break in the middle.

Go for a quick walk. Make a cuppa. Have a Kit Kat. Whatever.

Just do something that you like doing, that is relaxing and completely unrelated to your practice session.

Not only does it give your hands a break, it will take advantage of the primacy/recency effect described above.

That’s not all:

Because your mind is refreshed, having a short break will help better consolidate what you just covered – AND you’ll have more ‘attention energy’ available for the next piece of material you want to tackle on your to-do list.

Once you come back from your break, make sure you briefly review what you covered in the previous session – if you do, it will be far more likely to stick in your memory.

So go on, give it a try – take a short break mid-practice session. This is perhaps the easiest practice tip I could ever give you, but one of the most important ones!

May the jazz be with you,



Greg O’Rourke,
Founder, Fret Dojo
World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education


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  1. Samantha

    Yes, Spot on Greg !

    It sounded silly to me and counter intuitive but it worked sensationally.

    When I was studying VCE Biology ( also jazz; guitar chamber music etc ) there were over 400 biology terms to learn for the VCE exams.

    Our teacher said do not panic use flash cards and do a small test every day with break in between ! Our teacher said it had something to with the way our brain process info or something like that a… for efficient learning and good memory retention.

    I share a little secret too, I started using flash cards for music studies too.

    I use freely available online free flash card software to help learn fast: tunes, theory such as chord forms; chord spelling, all the major/melodic/harmonic scales with their modes and associated chord forms.

    It was daunting and scary at first but over time I do not have to think about these think too much when a bass player wants a certain tune in a certain key. I can know think on my feet.

    Easy as pie.

    Just use flash cards daily to maintain long term memory

    I can thank my biology teacher enough.

    • Greg O'Rourke

      Nice one Samantha – you sound very organized indeed!! Yes it’s something very simple but I found this approach to be a real game changer for studying jazz. Out of interest, what is the online flash card software you use?

  2. samantha


    Sure thing , glad I can be of help to the master and guru of jazz :)

    I was never good at memorizing stuff at school and when i was studying Biology, I said: OMG ! how am I suppose to memorize all those 400 terms ?

    Maybe I wasn’t learning efficiently and perhaps that was my problem !

    Our teacher said learning is easier if it organized and to use flash cards.

    ( by the way I aced the exams and it has giving me confidence to try other stuff )

    Well it is sensational. Now I am learning Japanese — a lot of people use flash cards to learn language mostly.

    The best free flash cards by far is : Anki, which I use mostly

    There is Quizlet is good too.

    As a side note:

    My dad said he went to rock concert in 70’s ? 80 ‘s ? of Frank Zappa – rock guitarist that mixed rock with jazz improvisations and story telling. Dad later chatted with the keyboard player afterwards and the player said in order to join the band Frank demanded that he know 200 jazz standards ! WOW!

    Often wondered how he did it ? Now I know it is organized learning !

    and you can learn anything it is up to you.

    good luck and I hope you find it useful as did for me.

    • Greg O'Rourke

      Thanks very much Samantha for sharing your thoughts and these flash card apps – I’m sure everyone reading will find this really useful. Cheers, Greg


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