Think of your fingers as having little memories that remember all the movements they continually make.
Good movements, bad movements, average movements.
Whatever movements your fingers make the most, they remember and repeat the most.
You Are What You Repeatedly Practice
If you repeatedly practice a C chord with flappy fingers, you’ll end up programming your fingers to play a C chord with flappy fingers.
If you repeatedly practice a barre chord with too much squeeze, you’ll end up programming your hand and fingers to play barre chords with too much squeeze.
If you repeatedly practise correct technique, you’ll end up programming your fingers to play the guitar with correct technique – making learning your favourite songs that much easier!
In a nutshell, your fingers are like empty hard drives waiting to be programmed by the movements they repeatedly make. The more you repeat a specific movement, the more it engrains itself into your guitar playing. So pay careful attention to what you let your fingers get up to because they will remember – good or bad!
A Little Science – It Happens in the Brain
Even though it’s called muscle memory, it all actually happens in the brain.
Muscle Memory is similar to other types of memory, but rather than being a memory of an event, or a name etc, it’s a memory of movement.
This is how it works:
When your fingers start repeating a brand new movement, a new memory is born in your brain – a movement memory.
At first, the memory is very vague, and you’ll need a lot of focus to ensure that you’re continually repeating the exact same movement over and over.
The more you repeat the same movement, the stronger the memory becomes.
With continued repetition, the memory becomes so strong that eventually, your fingers start moving automatically without you even needing to think about it (like walking, talking, or riding a bike). When this happens, you’ve stamped a new movement memory into your brain that you’re able to recall at will, without any conscious thought or mental effort.
This is the magic of muscle memory.
Just make sure that the memories you create are good ones. Make sure the movements you make are the right ones.
Slow down, and be patient.
Your future guitar-playing self with thank you for it.