I can’t believe I never thought of this sooner. I’ve bee trying to come up with a way to be able to free up my picking hand from all the bad muscle memory that I’ve built up over time. It’s so simple… don’t pick the strings. That’s right, lift your hand up a bit further away from the strings so that you can make big, free motions with your picking hand while fretting various patterns with your left hand. This accomplishes two things:
- It changes the muscle movement equation for your right hand just enough so that it feels fresh and allows you to shed much (if not all) of the bad muscle memory and habits that you might have built up. Now you can start building new, good muscle memory associated with moving freely.
- It removes the hesitancy associated with making mistakes. There are no wrong notes or getting the pick stuck on the string because we don’t care about playing any of the strings at this point, just being able to make large, free downstroke and upstroke motions while fretting.
I noticed two things immediately that absolutely stunned me:
- My left and right hands were not nearly coordinated as I thought they were. I was initially having problems just moving my right hand through the air down and up along with my fretting hand.
- My picking improved literally within minutes of doing this exercise.
Muscle memory is a tricky thing, though. After doing this exercise for a few minutes, your picking will be much better once you go back to picking the strings instead of just moving your hand through the air, but then that bad muscle memory will start to creep back in, especially on songs and passages that you already know. It will take some time to retrain your body to remember the good, free movements as opposed to the hesitant, tense movements. Just a few minutes here and there during your practice session should keep you improving rapidly.
Here’s a video example: