Let the jazz dough rise
As I’m writing this to you late tonight, I’m sitting in my kitchen after putting out some leavin(that’s a fancy way of saying starter culture), so it can merrily bubble away and get excited at the prospect of me making some crusty, delicious bread out of it tomorrow morning.
And it got me thinking…
This is a good metaphor for how think about learning jazz guitar. Or learning anything in fact.
When it comes to learning a skill, there is a counterintuitive process you can take advantage of that is completely different to what you might expect, that runs in direct opposition to what is normally taught about mastering an instrument.
To illustrate, let’s think about the process of bread making.
With bread making, most of the ‘making’ is actually letting the dough sit there and ‘do it’s thing’ all on it’s own.
Even though it takes a while for an grey, sticky, slightly dubious starter culture to become tasty, fluffy bread (about 24 hours or so), the actual time you need to attend to it is only 5 or 10 minutes here and there, before finally putting it in the oven.
You only really need 30 minutes total time in that 24 hours which requires any action on your part in the bread making process.
What’s really interesting here:
Your mind works the same way.
Studies have found that the brain creates and strengthens neural pathways and associations mostly after a study session – not during the session itself.
Just like dough rising on the kitchen bench, the most efficient learning strategy is to present your conscious mind with some material (this is like mixing the ingredients) and then going about your merry day for a while and letting your subconscious mind get to work (akin to leaving the dough to rise).
Which leads me to an important point:
The stereotypical music student desperately slogs it out in practice sessions that can last anywhere from 3 to 8 hours. Why? Because, apparantly, that’s what music students need to do to make any real improvement, right?
Wrong. This study strategy is hopelessly counterproductive.
It’s like me getting up in the middle of writing this letter to you, and instead mixing together the ingredients for bread dough and then kneading it for hours on end to in the desperate hope of getting it to rise.
This is, of course, ridiculous.
Not only is this strategy a complete waste of energy (and would be very hard on your hands!), by doing this you would actually inhibit the bread to rise.
So next time you practice:
Let the mental ‘dough’ rise for a while.
Present your brain with some material for a short session, then go and do something relaxing – and let your subconscious mind do the heavy lifting for you.
You’ll find more often then not:
Your subconscious mind will have quietly made the connections and solved problems behind the scenes while you go and relax.
When you come back to the guitar…
As if by magic, you’ll be able to play, and remember, the material you attempted in the previous session much more fluently.
Pretty cool, huh?
This practice tip is a real game changer.
By leveraging the subconscious mind, I’ve been able to learn material and develop my playing at a much faster rate than ever before.
Give this idea a try – you might be surprised how well it works.