The Contextual Interference Effect “In Practice”

The Contextual Interference Effect “In Practice” – a guitar site I check regularly – recently made a post referencing a phenomenon called “contextual interference effect” and its relation to practicing a musical instrument.  Or more importantly, how to use the effect to your benefit.

Jon of references an article on that in turn features a Manhattan School of Music teacher Dr. Christine Carter who based her dissertation on the contextual interference effect.

I do recommend you check out the aforementioned post and article at Guitar Noize and Bullet Proof Musician, but here’s the concept in a nutshell and as far as I understand it:

If you’re gonna practise, it wouldn’t do you harm to think about how to make those precious seconds, minutes and hours count the most.  According to Dr. Carter, endless repetitions become futile at some point within your practise session because your brain activity decreases as the number of repetitions increase. The result of too many repetitions?  Not only boredom, but due to the decreased brain activity, the long term positive effects on your ability to make the most out of your practise sessions are also lessened.

Dr Carter said:

“Practicing in a way that optimizes performance in the practice room does not optimize learning.”

In other words as I understand it: although repeating a passage, an arpeggio, or a scale a million times starts to feel easier as your practise session progresses, some of the learning you think you have done may not carry over to your next session, gig, or the next day.  So, it’s good to randomize your practise sessions.

This all got me thinking, in a semi-ideal world, how would I organize myself to randomize my practise routine (If I had one) and maximize the profits of that precious time spent on practising?

 More on that later.  Meanwhile, do read the original articles at and


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