Guitar Practice Check-In: The Painless Way to Fast Forward Your Guitar Practice

Have you ever heard Peter Drucker’s phrase, “What gets measured gets managed.”?

It’s absolutely true.  And one way to apply this to your guitar practice is to regularly check-in and evaluate how your are doing.

This simple act of reflection acts as a powerful cue to our subconscious minds.  This leads us to be more alert, more focused, and more on-task in our guitar practice.  It also leads to more fun and enjoyment, in part because we see forward progress more easily.

Evaluating Your Guitar Practice

There are many different ways we can approach evaluating our guitar practice and our guitar playing.

Here are just a few things at which we could look:

  • Speed (metronome markings of scales, pieces, arpeggios, anything else)
  • Time (How much guitar practice did I do? on specific parts of my practice?)
  • Progress (on learning pieces, memorizing chords and scale shapes, etc)
  • Focus levels (How well did I notice when my mind wandered?  How quickly was I able to re-focus? This is more subjective, but worth thinking about)
  • Enjoyment levels (On a scale of 1-10, how much did I enjoy myself this week?  What most?)
  • Organization (Did I plan my guitar practice and stick to that plan?  Did I note times, speeds, and observations in my practice notebook?)

Any personal goals, aspirations or desires we have can be regularly checked in on.  And the bonus to doing this is that with every check-in, the likelihood of meeting those desires increases enormously.

In short, if we create the habit of holding ourselves answerable for our progress, we will progress more quickly.

The Mind Loves Questions

The simple act of asking a question sets off a whir of activity in our minds.

For instance, if I ask you the question, “How many different shades of blue can you notice today?”, your mind genuinely wants to come up with the answer.  You may not get a final number, but you will notice more blue things in your world.

I have written elsewhere about asking great questions in our guitar practice in order to practice more creatively.

We can also ask some very specific and detailed questions about the way we work, how we focus, and what we get done in our guitar practice.

We can ask these questions each week, month, quarter, year, etc.  I suggest weekly for a start.

Good Check-In Questions for Your Guitar Practice

To craft your weekly check-in questions, first decide on what you want. Ideally, you use your check-in as an opportunity to instill and/or reinforce good guitar practice habits.   Be sure to include questions that pertain to the following:

  • Enjoyment, pleasure, fun
  • Different sections of guitar practice (specific techniques, pieces, playing through repertoire)
  • Documentation (writing down metronome markings, progress on new pieces, etc)
  • Any specific challenges you have that “get you juiced” (like memorizing a new piece for a special occasion)
  • Ask for ideas on how to do better at something next week
  • Ask for specific goals for the next week (write these someplace you can see them in your guitar practice.)

Remember, this is a conversation you are having with yourself, so be honest and gentle with yourself.  Make realistic expectations and forgive yourself if you have a hard week.  (It happens to the best of us!)  You can always pick it back up next week.

The Right Tools for the Job

Of course there are many different ways of checking in, and there are no wrong ways, so long as it gets done. I have students that bring a completed personal evaluation form to lessons each week.  It’s not so much for me to see, as it is a reminder for them on any questions they had, and to share breakthroughs and exciting revelations.

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

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