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How and why to keep a guitar practice journal

large_4762384399I know you have already heard about the importance of a practice journal, yet you’ve decided not to do it.

I know you are already busy and don’t have time for some extra work.

I know you have a great memory and you can remember everything you’ve been practicing.

But …

Just for this moment, let’s pretend you’ve never heard of this idea. Let’s pretend it is completely new to you. And since you are an open-minded person, you’ll at least give it a try.

Keep reading and maybe I’ll persuade you that keeping a practice journal might not be the dumbest idea.

Are you in?

Ok, let’s go.

The evolution of my practice log

First, let me make a confession.

For a long long time I didn’t have any practice log. Surprised? (Common I am same as you)

For the majority of my life guitar wasn’t that important to me. I liked to listen to a good music but I never thought I would be able to play any of that stuff.

Guitar was just a hobby for me – I didn’t practice, I just played. Maybe three times a week max. That was it. I didn’t want to be a musician; I wanted to be a philosopher (more on that maybe sometimes in the future).

But then something has changed. I started to be more attracted to guitar playing. Suddenly I wanted to be a GUITAR PLAYER.   I wanted to make living by making music.

This change in attitude didn’t improve my playing skills, however. I still sucked badly.

In order to solve my sloppy playing, I did three things:

  1. I found a guitar teacher.
  2. I started to practice guitar (I started to understand the difference between playing and practicing).
  3. I begun journaling how much hours did I practice.

These three things made a drastic change to the results I was getting. Finally, I was able to play something that actually sounded like music.

I hope I don’t have to stress the importance of a good guitar teacher when you are just starting. But I was dumb enough to ignore this advice, please don’t do the same mistake. Also the understanding that there is a big difference between playing and practicing guitar helped me to improve a lot.

And the third thing that I found really valuable was my practice journal.

The first one was pretty simple. After every practice session I just jotted down how many minutes or hours I spent practicing. That was it. It wasn’t very fancy and yes, it wasn’t very helpful.

But it did help me to build a habit of tracking my progress.  At least I knew how much time I spent working on my playing. Better than nothing. And it also kept me accountable because finally I saw how much time I actually spent with guitar. And as you can imagine, there was a big gap between what I was thinking and what the reality was.

From then on, my journal took many alterations, from analog to digital and back to paper. As I was improving as a guitar player, my journaling skills also improved.  Nowadays my practice log looks completely different than how it used to, and it is also much more helpful.

5 reasons why you should keep a guitar practice journal

One of the most successful basketball coaches, famous John Wooden, kept an individual journal for every one of the players he coached.  Punctuality with which he organized and led practice session became legendary. And every important aspect was jotted down in his journal for further reflection and consideration.

I also believe that keeping a practice journal can be a game-changer for many aspiring guitar players. Here are few reasons why I think that:

  1. Keeping a journal give you clarity and control over your accomplishments.
  2. It helps you better track your progress. No more guessing.
  3. It is a great tool for keeping yourself accountable.
  4. It makes your decision making easier because you have acquired meaningful data.
  5. It helps with effective organization of your practice time.

What should you write into your practice journal?

I hope that by now you are at least considering to start a practice journal. I don’t say you have to do it forever. Just try it and see if it helps. If yes, that’s great, if not, then continue doing whatever works for you.

There is one problem that many aspiring guitarist face when it comes to starting a journal. They are not sure what should they put into it and what not.

And there is a very simple answer to that – write down anything and everything you think can be important and valuable for you. If you are not sure what that is, here’s a photo of my journal.

guitar practice journal

 

What a mess, right?

But that’s ok, it is my journal and I know what those things mean. I don’t care how pretty  it is, that’s not important to me. What really matters is if I find value in it? And the answer is definitely yes.

So, let’s look what specific things  I enter into my journal:

  • Date and day
  • How much time did I spent practicing different things
  • What exactly I was practicing
  • How well it went (how many repetitions, maximum tempo, etc.)
  • Any insights and thoughts that came to my mind (suggestions for new exercises, solutions for different problem areas, etc. )
  • Anything that seems interesting and valuable

That’s it. Nothing fancy.

To make journaling really easy I use abbreviations for songs or common techniques.

  • WU = warm up
  • SI = singing
  • BB = Blue bossa (jazz standard)
  • Etc.

By using these abbreviations, it is really simple for me to jot everything down in no time.

There is another simple little technique that I like to use. If I work on something I know I won’t finish today, I will schedule it for the next day. This way I can create my schedule in advance without much effort. I just make sure that I have scheduled all the important stuff in there.

And last but not least, I also have a folder on my computer where I put audio and video recordings for future reference. Also my youtube channel is kind of a practice log where I can see how much have I improved over last 2 years.

So, that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this article and I believe I inspired you to start your own journal.

In the meantime, please let me know what is your experience with keeping a guitar practice journal?

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photo credit: JoelMontes via photopin cc

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4 Responses to How and why to keep a guitar practice journal

  1. Greg August 6, 2014 at 4:29 am #

    Great article Lukas. I like how you broke down the elements of a journal entry while keeping it simple. Journaling, just like guitar, takes practice. I found a lot of useful tips in this article that I can use with my journal to improve it. There is nothing worse than missing a journal entry and trying to remember what you did.

    • Lukas Kyska August 9, 2014 at 11:43 am #

      Greg, I am glad you’ve found the article helpful. I really appreciate your comment!

  2. Alex Flores August 6, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

    Very true Lukas, great reasons as to why a practice journal is so important and great suggestions on what to keep in mind as you go about keeping a journal. I have had many practice journals in my years of playing and while I like recording what I accomplished, I think the accomplishments best show up in the final performances. My favorite part of a practice journal is in being able to track the insights that pop into my head when working through certain songs or troubleshooting various problems.

    • Lukas Kyska August 9, 2014 at 11:45 am #

      Thanks for the comment Alex!

      You’re right, those insights are usually invaluable. Most of my articles come from these insights!

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