Using repetition when learning to play a musical instrument is extremely important.  By playing something accurately over and over, you train your muscles to go through the actions needed to make music.  And, your brain learns patterns through repeated exposure to the same information.

Unfortunately, your muscles don’t really know right from wrong.  They just do what your brain tells them to do.  If, for whatever reason, you find yourself making the same mistake in the same place whenever you play a section of music, you know that your muscles have gotten the wrong message.

If you continue to allow yourself to make this mistake consistently, you’re building muscle memory for the mistake.  Since the muscles don’t know what your music sounds like, they’re just going to do the wrong action over and over again.

You can’t let this happen!

A consistent mistake will become part of your performance just like any other sequence you’re learning.  I have seen this creep into some of my students’ playing from time to time, and it’s difficult to watch. 

When mistakes happen, they usually fall into one of a few categories:

–shifting to a wrong note (or playing out of tune on a shift)

–going out of time to play something difficult

–stopping (even for just a fraction of a second) and trying again. 

If any of these happen to you twice in a row, you’ve got to take immediate action.  Stop what you’re doing.  Think about where the mistake is happening.  Play only the notes where the error is happening, but play them very, very slowly.  Make sure you can think about each note before you play it.

Catch yourself before anything goes wrong.  Make sure you only accept success! 

Mastering muscle memory is one of the most important skills you can develop if you want to learn to play your instrument quickly.  Just be sure your muscles are memorizing the correct set of actions.

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