Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Muscle Memory and Learning

January 23, 2024

…and the x10,000 Rule

Muscle Memory 10000 Times

There is a reason that multiple books have been written on this topic. It’s because it works. I’ve used it myself many times with twice being for music.

I love music, I love to play but I was never any good. I simply couldn’t focus and spend enough time practicing. I was too easily distracted and that meant me lugging a barely used, large Roland piano around for 20 years. From Spain to the UK and from house to house.

I also desperately wanted to learn guitar but held off from buying one because of my experience with the piano. However, there came a time in 2017 when I just thought “Right! I’m doing this“.

Guitar First

I bought a very cheap electric guitar online, the Epiphone Les Paul Player Pack and it was TOO cheap. It was a piece of %$&* so I returned it and bought an Epiphone Les Paul Studio for around £400. What a difference! Now, start learning. What did I do?

Learn the fretboard

For 2 months (!) I did nothing but practice going up and down the fretboard to build my muscle memory using this video. To become faster and faster whilst building my knowledge of notes, finger placement and skill. I would go through every note up and down the fretboard for two hours a night.

No learning chords. No learning songs. Just up and down, up and down…for 2 months. Towards the end I was doing this for three hours and once or twice I got so tired, I did it whilst lying down. I even fell asleep whilst doing it once, woke up after a few minutes and carried on! Dedication : )

Next…choose a song

I had a song in mind I wanted to learn that just happened to be one of the hardest songs to learn with an insane guitar solo. Highway Star by Deep Purple.

Again, using muscle memory, this is how I learned the song. I chose a lesson on YouTube that was slow enough to follow along but clear and concise enough for me to learn quickly.

But, because I was so new to the guitar, I could only learn tiny, bite-size bits at a time.

I would learn 4-5 notes of the song at a time and play that section over and over until it was second nature. Then, I would add another 4-5 notes and do the same whilst adding the original 5 notes. When I could play those 10 notes in my sleep, I would add another 5 and on it went.

Ok. Got that, what’s next?

Once I knew the entire song off by heart and could play it slowly, I downloaded an app called Riff Studio. This allowed me to load the original song to play along to but I could slow the song down as much as I liked. I started at 50% and built up until I could actually play it at 110% speed.

The theory being that if I could nail the song 10% FASTER than the original speed, when I played it at 100%, I would be more accurate.

Anyway, whilst learning over Xmas, and after a few drinks on Xmas Eve, I “accidentally” bought a Gibson Les Paul for £2k. Oops. The video below is my playing the song on that guitar but please note that I was super nervous filming myself so I do mess up a couple of notes. This is the first song I ever learned in just 5 months after picking up a guitar for the first time.

The muscle memory technique at the beginning worked like a charm and has stayed with me as I learned more songs.

Ian Gillan’s (from Deep Purple) Approval!

During learning, the most amazing thing happened. I was doing the aerial video on a 2 month project with a team from Pinewood Studios when I met my hero. Ian Gillan, the lead singer of Deep Purple (and Highway Star).

Not only did I have a quick chat with him about me learning that song, I also got to have a pub lunch with just me, him, the director and another guy. Wow! We also spoke about the Reading Festival I was at in 1983 where he sang with Black Sabbath. He remembered it well. What a festival that was!

Anyway, in the video above, you can see a bit of me playing the solo of Highway Start along with attempting to play the first two minutes of “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC without messing up along with a short clip of me chatting to Ian Gillan.


Next, I used exactly the same method of using muscle memory to learn my first ever piano piece (also in the video above). It was a favourite of mine that I had been dying to learn and after 5 weeks I could play it all the way through. Again, using the bit-by-bit technique along with utilising and training muscle memory, I feel it has built a foundation of skills that I can build on with both piano and guitar going forward.

Learning using muscle memory is a technique anyone can use to learn anything whether that is photography, video, drone work or any other skill that requires practice. It doesn’t ALWAYS need 10,000 hours but it sure felt like it with the guitar : )

After all that, I’ve learned nothing else since BUT it taught me how to learn anything. One bite at a time.


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