What you will learn in this lesson:
How to train your fingers to relax
How to practice without wasting energy
Why repetition is important
How muscle memory works
How to remember forgotten music passages
What improvising is all about
The relationship between the finger muscles and the subconscious mind.
Stage fright and getting through on autopilot
The finger muscles develop a memory with repeated actions. They seem to know exactly where to go when you play a
set piece, but only after you have played it a hundred times. If you have to perform something on stage you had
better make damn sure you have practiced it enough times so that the piece has been embedded in the muscles as an
indelible memory. Having a good, reliable technique is important but as soon as you get on stage, 90% of your
technique goes out the window and you are left to rely on pure adrenaline and muscle memory. That's been my
If your technique is good enough and you have previously played the piece enough times, you will get through the
experience on autopilot without too much conscious thinking to muck it up. If your practice sessions are full of
bum notes and mistakes, it's not a bad idea to slow down until you get it right. The fingers have a habit of
remembering these same, repeated mistakes and perform them with great enthusiasm when you get on stage, even if you
know they are coming and try to correct them on the run.
What happens is the fingers sense that you are suddenly trying to send them an instruction contrary to what they
were trained to do so well (make mistakes). The result is that the fingers go into panic mode and freeze up in the
precise place you desperately want to them to get their act together. But don't blame the poor little finger
robots. You programmed them. What they are basically telling you is, "you made the bed, now you're going to lie in
it". The moral of the story is "you can't outfox the fox".
If this sounds a little too esoteric, don't freak out. The methods of building a good, working relationship with
the fingers are easy to understand and simple to apply. But to add some suspense to this scenario, I want to first
cover the different ways that some players use their hands to create unwanted tension. Eliminating tension is the
first thing you need to do if want your fingers to cooperate.