Virtual practice

If you find you are pushed for time to practice or you are away from home and can’t take your instrument you might like to experiment with some virtual practice, or practising in your head.

To do this imagine yourself playing, seeing your fingers as if you were playing for real while hearing the scale, exercise or melody in your head. When you do this you fire the neurones in your brain that control your muscle responses because the brain can’t tell the difference between real and imagined memory.

To prepare its useful to pay attention to the piece you planning to practice away from the instrument. First watch your fingers and take some internal movies as you play. Then notice the muscles you are using and the muscle patterns required to move the fingers. Now look up and see if you can reproduce what you have just played. Repeat until you can. Now do the same and this time as you look, simply mime the movements without the mandolin and hear the melody in your head or even sing it out loud. if yo are reading form music notation you can, in addition or instead, visualise the score. This works for people with photographic memories who can recall visual images in great detail. You might start with some scales and see how it works. Because its your brain that signals your finger to move, by practising in your head you can improve your playing by using virtual practice in any odd moments like waiting at traffic lights or stuck in a queue or just relaxing in a chair. When you practice like this it can be as beneficial as actual practice.