Hi everyone - this blog is primarily aimed at beginners who haven’t been speedcubing for very long, but some of this advice might be useful for others as well.
When you learn something new for your solves, understand that you’ll probably get slower before you get faster. The biggest example of this is the transition from solving one piece at a time (using Layer by Layer) to solving two pieces at a time with F2L techniques. However, there are certainly many other times where you’ll need to change something you’re doing, slowing you down in the short term but improving yourself in the long term. It’s important to always think critically about your solves and not fall into lazy habits - the earlier you catch something, the easier it is to fix. Whether you learn a new fingertrick, new algorithm, or new method, it’s unlikely to make you faster until you’ve practiced it a significant amount in your speedsolves.
I’m not sure that 100% of people will agree with this one, but my feeling is that beginners shouldn’t learn all their habits and fingertricks on magnetic cubes. Especially when you’re very new to speedcubing, I think it’s more beneficial in the long run to practice your fingertricks, algorithms, and solves on a non-magnetic cube before ever switching across to a magnetic cube. The thinking behind this tip is that you’ll subconsciously develop slightly better turning accuracy on non-magnetic cubes, which is an important skill in all speedcubing events. In situations or events where you don’t have a magnetic puzzle, your times won’t be affected too much. The general consensus is that transitioning from a non-magnetic puzzle to a magnetic puzzle is almost effortless, but going in reverse is a lot tougher. This bit of advice might become outdated pretty quickly given that magnetic cubes are practically becoming standard-issue.
Colour neutrality is much easier to achieve if you begin doing it as soon as you know how to solve the cube. Colour neutrality is the ability to begin a speedsolve with any colour. Because you don’t have any habits formed, the concept of starting with the easiest colour cross (or block) is quite intuitive. Generally speaking, the sooner that you try and switch to colour neutrality, the easier the process.
Looking ahead in your solves is more important than turning quickly. When I started cubing, I tried to copy Yu Nakajima’s turning speed. This didn’t go very well as my cube would lock up or pop, and I just had massive pauses and inefficiencies in my solves. Trying to control your turning speed is definitely easier said than done - the constant temptation is to turn as quickly as possible if you know what moves you need to do next. It’s definitely possible to get very quick times but still maintain a calm and relaxed turning style.
Practice ‘mirroring’ your algorithms on both sides of the cube in order to develop your turning ability with both your left and right hand. This is a useful skill for anyone who uses the CFOP method, as using one specific hand for most of your solving can be quite restrictive. If you have the ability to use both your right and left hands to insert F2L pairs, this can help you avoid rotations in F2L, and adds flexibility to your solves. For an additional challenge, try and mirror some of your PLL algorithms. As an example, the ability to perform (L’ U’ L U) (L F’ L2’ U L) (U L’ U’ L) F quickly can help you avoid doing things such as (U2 + T Permutation + U2). This sort of thing gets a bit more complicated once we start to consider ‘riskiness’ of algorithms, but that’s something to worry about later on.
It’s the cuber, not the cube. As a beginner, you don’t need to spend too much time and/or money getting the latest and greatest speedcubing hardware, it’s unlikely to make a significant impact on your times. Of course, if you like testing and collecting cubes and editions and have the cash to spare, then nobody is stopping you. However, if you feel like you *need* to get the latest 3x3 cube on the market because it’ll cut 10% off your time, know that it’s probably not going to happen. This doesn’t completely apply to highly competitive cubers, or for puzzles/events where hardware is still improving - better hardware can definitely make a difference for people whose improvement rates have slowed down, and for some WCA events, is a driver of improvement.
Learning and memorising algorithms will become a lot easier once you have more experience. For many newer cubers, the task of committing a single algorithm to memory is quite daunting, but once you go through the process many times, and discover how often certain moves and fingertricks are repeated, the process becomes a lot easier. You’ll have to trust me on that.
This tip is aimed at intermediate cubers who have just finished learning PLL and have started the journey to full OLL. The tip is - don’t be scared of the 57 OLL algorithms! It definitely sounds like a lot, but a) you already probably know a bunch, b) they’re a lot shorter than PLLs, c) the recognition is easier, and d) unlike PLL, many of them are just slight variations to algorithms that you already know. I remember being rather scared of them at first, but ultimately found that the task of learning them all was much easier than I had imagined in my head.
Go to a competition, if you can! WCA (World Cube Association) competitions are not just places where people go to get their solves recorded officially, they also function as community events. Almost every single WCA competition is completely open for anyone to attend and compete regardless of speed and experience. They’re a great way to meet other cubers and most people are more than happy to give advice regarding competing and share their perspectives and solving techniques.
Try not to compare yourself with others, focus on your own improvement and the things that you are able to control. This tip is more relevant for people who are attending competitions or are generally competitive individuals. It’s fine to have friendly competition with others, or try and race to achieve some sort of goal. However, I don’t feel like trying to beat others is a healthy primary motivation. For example, my mindset when going to competitions isn’t “I need to beat Jay in all these 3x3 rounds or else I’ll have failed”, it’s more like “I need to prepare well and concentrate in order to achieve the best times that I can in all the 3x3 rounds”. Sure, there’ll be plenty of times where things don’t go perfectly, but those should ideally be viewed as a learning experience, rather than a failure.
Try out different events! If you get bored or frustrated with just practicing 3x3, keep in mind that there are so many other different WCA-recognised speedcubing events. Learning how to solve a different puzzle, or techniques for variants on the classic 3x3 (such as blindsolving, and FMC) can help you gain a greater appreciation for cubing as well as help your understanding of the cube.