One of my hobbies over the last 2 years has been sleight of hand card magic. Like guitar, it requires a lot of fine motor skills to do certain moves. One move in particular has taken me about a year to execute with any degree of competency (granted, it’s just a hobby). It’s been a good reminder that the fastest way to become proficient is slow, deliberate, repetitious practice.
But how slow is slow? I believe it should be excruciatingly slow. It should be so slow that the music is unrecognizable at first. One thing I like to do is to mentally (or on paper) go into an absurd amount of detail about every tiny action that needs to occur to execute something. If you do this, you’ll notice there’s significantly more going on than at first glance.
Imagine instructions on how to play the note G on guitar.
“Start with all 4 left hand fingers touching the 6th string lightly. Your 2nd finger should be over the 3rd fret. Prepare your picking hand with your pick resting against the top of the 6th string in a firm yet relaxed grip. Apply pressure to your left hand 2nd finger and simultaneously draw your pick across the string in quick precise motion controlled mostly by the fingers and a touch of wrist movement.”
It’s obviously too much to write down, but it’s the correct amount of detail. As you progress the fundamental motions become automatic and you then can combine them into more complex movements. Overtime the larger action you set out to learn in the first place becomes effortless.
I have to constantly remind myself about this. I nearly always start practicing too fast and without enough detail. The beginning stages are brutal, but it really is the fastest path to competency in my experience.