Training your brain: A scientific look into how to practice effectively

Training your brain: A scientific look into how to practice effectively

Practice is the most important thing you can do to master a particular skill. We all know this, but what is the actual science behind practising? What is going on in our brains and bodies when we play a guitar riff or drum fill again and again and again. And what other factors are important to the mastering of skills outside of physical repetition?

This excellent new video from the folks at TED Ed has all the answers.


This awesome video from TED Ed walks through the science of practice – from debunking myths about muscle memory to the best ways to effectively rehearse, physically and mentally.

The TED Ed lesson was created by Annie Bosler and Don Greene, who define practice as “consistent, intensely focused and target[ing] content or weaknesses that lie at the edge of one’s current abilities.”

It looks at quite a few established facts and theories about practice in any context – be it physcial or creative.

It also debunks common myths about practising, such as the importance of muscle memory (in reality, no such thing exists). Rather, Bosler and Greene talk about ‘axons’ and ‘myelin’ and how they can be ‘strengthened’ by practising.

The also talk about a few key factors on how to rehearse, such as:

  • “Focus at the task on hand.” Shut off all those digital distractions. No excuses.
  • “Start out slowly, or in slow motion. Coordination is built with repetitions.” Get it right at a slow pace and then work on increasing your speed while still playing the music correctly.
  • “Frequent repetition with allotted breaks are common practice habits of elite performers.” Do what many pros do: split your practice time into smaller, super-concentrated chunks, working multiple times a day.
  • “Practice in your brain, in vivid detail.” Visualise playing your music without actually playing it. Put yourself through the music, note by note. Imagine what it feels like to press that key, or take that breath, every step of the way.

It’s a super interesting and inspiring watch. Check it out below:

[via NPR]