How much can we rely on muscle memory?

I found this interesting article, it’s from a classical guitar site, but it well applies to fingerstyle and lead guitar in general I think.

Anyone else experiencing this? It reminds me of the 6 areas of practice from one of Justin’s Food for Thought articles; we need to develop our skills in all the areas, otherwise something will be always missing, and when fingers memory lets you down you go blank and get stuck :scream::pleading_face: it used to happen to me so much! But I’m trying to avoid this now :blush:


@RadekSiechowicz you might find this article of some interest I think.


Hi Silvia,
I don’t understand the article or it’s a strange article… when I practice something I have to do things very often … really days weeks months and memorize things in my head before even a finger can work on his muscle memory , or am I am the only one who first practices and learns drowsy and at the last moment it goes automatically… no I`m not or

does this piece apply to advanced players who know the piece after a day and not us mortels?

What am I missing ? :smile:

1 Like

That means you’re a good boy Rogier, and you’re already able to delay your fingers memory as it is adviced in the article.
It took me a while to understand this, my fingers tended to remember too early znd actually play correctly, without my brain and my ear being able to follow…and I soon got into the trap “oh wow…I can do it already!”

But…I got wiser and learnt to practice like a good girl would :innocent::innocent::innocent:

1 Like

:joy: :rofl: … Will I ever come back to this or will I abuse it to my own advantage to third party :smile:

If you find something somewhere to speed up my muscle memory, think of me and send it please :blush:

:rofl: :joy:

we are so sweet and good people :innocent: :innocent: :sunglasses:

Okay … admittedly … before I met Justin I thought kuch…several…kuch times with songs where I only played along with chords after half an hour … ‘finished, I know that now’
and then came a friend and :upside_down_face: :grimacing: :speak_no_evil:

And if that is what is meant…I was guilty :blush:

Edit: no thats not what you meant because that quick the muscle memory didnt kick in :thinking:
Well I find ik oke …the thing what I take from here is the …GOOD boy… :laughing:

I’ll leave the rest for others and now I’m going to work very hard and with great pleasure on those songs that just don’t get into my finger memory :grimacing: :smile:


I think the point of the article is that we shouldn’t just literally go through the motions when playing something but also be aware of what we play.

Personally, especially as a total newbie, I had an emphasis on what the article calls visual memory (plus looking at my fretting hand, of course). Then, over time, muscle memory got a bigger share of my mental approach. It happened quicker when I didn’t have to change positions too often. Aural memory is mostly there, but this also improves over time.

1 Like

Thanks Silvia, an interesting read.

I have certainly been guilty of ‘mindless’ learning recently and it bit me in the butt during an open mic. No problem sat at home practicing but a simple change of environment and the muscle memory can soon forget. Body position becomes almost guaranteed to be not what you are used to so the auto fire reflexes can get muddled…. Plus there are many more intrusive thoughts in a pressured environment.


I’ll take a look at the video later Silvia thanks for sharing, I’m in a 10 minute break from grass cutting and a good 90 minutes to go. Needs to be finished as storm is about to hit.

I am convinced my finger suffer from amnesia ! I have been (finally) practicing a finger style pattern over Am Em D Am and as the aim is to finally sing while playing finger style, I have moved on to singing the PIMA letters as I play the pattern. I seemed to be making progress.

Today, I dug out my list of common chord progressions with the plan of just playing the pattern with different chords. So my left hand is doing something different and I am just saying to my right hand “rock on do the same thing man” it will be easy. Right hand says “no way man, what the heck is lefty doing, I can’t follow that !!” My brain is going get a grip boys it can’t be that hard. :exploding_head:

So any help I can get is most welcome. And back to the mowing :sunglasses:


I do recall a lesson on YouTube for singing and fingerpicking at the same time.

1 Like

But your fingers forgot where it was ? :thinking:

1 Like

Hi Toby, this article is not about fingerpicking patterns where the sooner you develop muscle memory the better, I think.

Have you tried to slow down tempo while playing on different chord progressions? That should allow your right hand to go like “ah, yeah C is coming next so thumb picks the 5th string”. If you can anticipate in your mind/ear what chord comes next the right hand will have a way easier time.

As regards singing you could try to do exactly what Justin does in his songs lessons when he strums and sings on the 4 downstrums of the bar. If you pattern is pimapima for example you have p on 1 - m on 2 - p on 3 - m on 4… If you visualise it like this and you tap your foot accordingly you’ll find yourself practicing songs the same way you’d do with strumming … It’s all about Rhythm, right?
Shortly: if you go slow enough to anticipate what chord comes next and you tap your foot on the beat and you’re aware that only p and m play on the beats and you’ve practiced your singing tapping on the beat…then it should click. Does this makes sense to you? If it does have a try, let me know how it goes.

Now…wiill you be nice and send some of your storm down here to Italy?! Pleaaasee…:hot_face:

1 Like

@Socio a perfect example of how muscle memory will fail you :rofl::rofl::rofl:

I’m not the only one that experienced it then…we’re human, we do mistakes but we can nevertheless learn from them and do better! In this case we learnt that when we practice we need to be mindful, foccused and fully engaged in what we’re doing… My attempt at arranging Wind of Change by myself is a response to feeling this miserable; while commenting my video Andrea wrote something like “you’re loving each note of it” and that was true! It’s my ear that tells my fingers where to go in the first place and I always know where I am in the bar, if I make a mistake and hit a wrong note no problem, I’m learning to keep on going follow my foot tapping and play the next correct note.

This explains it in a clear way, I never thought about these aspects, thank you.

1 Like

Thanks for sharing Silvia. Yes, it is interesting and true. You can learn a song quickly, repeat it countless times going on automatic pilot, even watch some TV as you go. But it will most likely backfire at some point, I have one piece I’m playing for over 2 years to the point it is almost automatic (although not very precise). Quite recently I was going about 2nd verse and realised I don’t know what comes next, so I rewind to the beginning of the verse and again… some notes around but not quite there. I brought up the score and the stuff there look totally alien to me, I had to re-learn it whole verse and be aware what I’m learning.

Another story, I got a song quite quickly a month or so, I was going about it one time and totally messed up end of the bridge. After few failed attempts I brought tabs and had hard time re-learning what was lost.

Visualising helps me to memorise those lost fragments better, I recall the tabs in my mind how the look like for this particular part I’m struggling to re-learn. At some point it goes back to automatic again.

Experienced/talented musicians learn pieces very quickly, they record it on YT and they move to another thing without being bother to retain this songs in their memory. So perhaps the problem is in the keeping something in your memory for a long time, it can erode despite of practicing.


I’m afraid I didn’t earn this “you’re a good boy” honestly…it’s just that I’m so slow of myself to remember these things I “accidentally” learn this one the(this) right way :blush:

But for now much more important … France and Italian people, you are constantly making the news here (and more countries that are on fire (literally)) … good luck and Silvia, and for now Richard’s mantra has now been replaced by… Learn songs and DRINK DRINK DRINK… Learn songs and DRINK DRINK DRINK… Learn songs and DRINK DRINK DRINK… :grin:

Good luck…I will send something to temporarily cool you down this was last winter (during the heat here there is always a channel on skates on the outside ice here)

1 Like

Thank Jozsef for checking this out and sharig your point of view, I agree our aural memory ks what counts in the first place, but there might be also some way it combines with our fingers…:thinking: some more food for thought to investigate :blush:

1 Like

Stay a little cooool Silvia :sunglasses: :ice_cube: :ice_cube: :ice_cube:


If only I could, looks like your roasting again. Also lots of high alerts in more southern French departments. As yet no big storm just a little rain overnight !

Watched the video just now. Some useful info and very much the approach I take when learning solo pieces. Break it down and slow it down. So good share.

As to the fingerstyle and singing it will come eventually. Now I have finally gone back to practicing patterns, I’ll search out a few songs I know well lyrically and start with something familiar. Thanks for the tips. :+1:

1 Like

Yes you earned it because you’ve been wise and able to turn your being slow in a great resource for your learning! Justin says that slow learners will prove better in the long run in one of his lesson…so keep on rocking my friend :wink::blush::sunglasses:

:rofl: can I add eat ice creams and have cold showers?..oh no…the water here comes only warmluke :cold_sweat: I do drink a lot of water and take mineral salts everyday!

1 Like

:heart_eyes::grin::pray: your kitty is so sweet!

1 Like

Oke…thanks :blush:
:sunglasses: :cloud_with_snow:

1 Like