A little while ago, I posted on Facebook about how I can practice playing a sequence of notes on the bass, and not quite get it, but the next day it will just “run” perfectly.
I’ve never had the opportunity to develop such a specific thing before personally, but I knew that it worked, being an amateur brain scientist. (I’m into skills acquisition and how memory works)
I wasn’t sure exactly how the brain processed this improved skill. I figured that information would turn up at some point.
A few days ago, I was listening to a fantastic book called “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker. I read constantly, but realised that audiobooks let me “read” while on the bus, doing the washing or mowing the lawn.
In it, he talks about how a pianist spoke to him after a presentation on Sleep. He detailed to him about how he struggled with playing new pieces at night, which he could just play without effort in the morning after a good night’s sleep.
This blew the authors mind, so he set about discovering how this happens.
When you have access to MRI Brain scanners, you can see what goes on.
Your brain has a relatively low capacity area for storing learned skills in working memory. As you practice, the skills get “stored” there. At night, electrical activity at one specific stage of sleep, pulses in cycles, while connecting your skills storage are to main memory. This pulsing of electrical activity transfers learned skills.
Once skills are stored in main memory, they can be recalled from this area without effort.
This mechanism works with ALL learned things, which is why sleep is so important to consolidate learning.
So I expect that quite a few people here will have noticed that they magically improve overnight, seemingly without any explanation.
Don’t judge yourself too harshly with new stuff on the same day. Slow and precise is the way to go. Your brain knows what to do with this learning and will even be able to winnow the imperfections to an extent.
I totally recommend this book and the use of good quality sleep to improve your bass playing.