The ShredTracker is a form that you can use to track your weekly guitar practice. It’s inspired by my form idol Dave Seah’s PCEO series. I made the ShredTracker form for my own use, but I’m happy to share it here if anyone finds it useful. If you do try it, I’d love to hear how it works for you and how it might be improved.
[Confession: It took a heroic effort not to go all Web 2.0 on y'all and name it ShredTrackr.]
I get a surprising amount email from people who want my advice about how to practice guitar. (That I rarely practice myself doesn’t seem to matter to them.) If the detail of their questions is at all representative, I’m amazed at the amount of mental energy that people can put into finding the optimal guitar practice routine. I don’t think it needs to be that complicated: it seems logical that the keys to gradual, steady improvement on a musical instrument are simple:
1) Decide what you want to play,
2) practice until you can do it, and
3) repeat as necessary.*
(*Preferably regularly and at increasing levels of challenge.)
It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that. If you play guitar regularly (say, at least 3 days per week) over weeks, months, or years, and are actively pushing yourself to grow, you will. The details of your routine are, well, just details; regularly planting your butt on the practice stool and putting fingers on strings is the most important thing.
When you are practicing regularly, the ShredTracker can help you track your progress. Seeing concrete proof of improvement is a great motivator!
Instructions and rationale
Download the filled-in example (PDF 350k) to see how to use the form (it’s pretty obvious).
Here are some of my thoughts behind the ShredTracker’s design.
Practicing more than 5 days per week is probably not realistic for most adults who have job and family commitments. 5 days per week is a worthy goal, but even if you only manage 3 you still get the satisfaction of filling in more than 50% of the form :-). Seeing a bunch of empty days on a 7-day form would be a total bummer.
Light-colored text in the fill-in areas, so that you can write over it and maximize the available space for notes.
Eminently do-able, short intervals.
Sometimes I’ll go for weeks without playing AT ALL because getting started with the quality hours of “real practice” that I keep telling myself that I need is BEYOND daunting. Sound familiar? But what about telling yourself that you’re only going to practice for 10 minutes? Or 15? Or 5? Telling yourself you only need to do a few minutes can give you…
…a motivational kick in the butt.
It’s fairly easy to get started if you know you’re only going to do 10 minutes of focused work before you can get back to goofing off. That’s the genius behind the 43Folders (10+2)*5 Procrastination Hack (a MUST READ for all procrastinators and slow-starters). The gist of this brilliant hack is to focus on your task (here, practicing) for only ten minutes, then you get to dick around for two. After two minutes of IM-ing your friends, reading blogs, or checking your web stats, you do another ten-minute block of productive practice. Ten minutes of focus, two minutes of screwing around, repeat until done.
10-minute blocks are not optimal for guitar practice; you often want to do an exercise for as few as 5 minutes or as many as 15, or any multiple thereof. So I designed the ShredTracker diary to let you block out 5, 10 or 15 minute intervals. Just mark the correct interval next to the group of bubbles, then fill a bubble for for each completed block. There’s also plenty of white space for you to take notes.
Those are the basics. I’ll be happy to respond to questions in the comments section.
Download the ShredTracker
The ShredTracker weekly diary is in European A4 format and comes in two colors: Pink (of course) and Blue for you macho dudes who “don’t do pink.” You can also download a filled-in example that shows how it can be used. Happy practicing!