Q: Hi Damian, a few weeks back I started doubting the “purpose” of practice, due to the fact that if you practice a specific tune, or any give exercise, its only for a short period of time (couple of months or so) and then it goes to the back of your head. How can I make my practice more “permanent” and long-lasting?
A: Wow, that’s kind of an interesting way of putting it!
What you work on stays with you in any number of ways, even if you can’t quite recall the specific sequence of notes to that melody you worked out. You are still moving down the path of developing your ears, fingers and general musicianship, regardless of how well you retain the tunes you’ve learned.
If you really want to retain information (like a song) you need to keep it in your conscious brain, which means to continue to play it.
You don’t remember the name of every person you see once in a while. But if you see that person on a regular basis, it is easy to remember.
Music is like that. It may come and go from memory – your immediate recall – but what you had gained while working through that piece stays with you and is a crucial part of your development.
The purpose of practice is simply to get better! If you don’t practice, you will never improve, even if you gig fairly regularly.
If you don’t challenge yourself in a safe space where you can make mistakes, you will either stagnate or progress infinitely more slowly than you would if you practice regularly.
If you really want it to stick, you need to refresh the cache every so often. Run that tune you want to remember once every week or so. Try and work it into a set or try and superimpose that melody over one of your solos over a completely different tune.
You can get creative but there’s no way around repetition when it comes to memory.