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ShredTracker: guitar practice diary

ShredTracker for guitar shred practiceThe 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.]

ShredTracker background

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.

Five-day week
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.

Shred tracker guitar practice form

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!

ShredTracker Weekly Practice Diary, Blue (PDF 400k)ShredTracker Weekly Practice Diary, Pink PDF 400k)ShredTracker Weekly Practice Diary, filled in example (PDF 300)

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+ Comment by Kristof
2007-05-02 11:10:53

Very nice! This looks like a more controlled variation on my own practice scheme which can be found on my blog.

(And I always thought it was buTT ;))

2007-05-03 15:18:43

[...] Links for Thursday, May 3rd » ShredTracker: guitar practice diary Play Like a Girl “The ShredTracker is a form that you can use to track your weekly guitar practice. It’s [...]

+ Comment by Stephen H
2007-05-03 19:39:01

SO busy, haven’t had the time to even look at this yet ! – (But WILL do ASAP !)

Love y’ Lori !
Stephen – (x)

+ Comment by azilah
2007-05-03 22:52:20

i’ve downloaded shred tracker,
hoping that someday, i can become like you lori..
reading your blog was really inspiring..
you must be one tough lady

+ Comment by Joe
2007-05-03 23:40:10

I don’t know. Practice takes all the fun out of playing. I could use it though.

+ Comment by Lorinator
2007-05-04 00:21:43

Kristof: I looked for your form on your blog, but couldn’t find it. Can you post a link?

Stephen: No need to apologize!

Azilah: Thanks for the compliment. I’m not so tough, by the way. I just have an abrasive writing style ;-)

Joe: I hear ya. But I’ve discovered two things: (1) when I “practice” I play better overall, which is fun, and (2) tracking my practicing and seeing quantitative improvements makes the practicing itself more rewarding. That’s why I made a form for it instead of relying on scribbles in a notebook! :)

+ Comment by jomaheux
2007-05-04 01:06:43

I agree with the 4th reply from Lori.
For me,practicing is serious fun.

2007-05-04 03:36:51

[...] you’re a guitarist or know someone that is, the Shredtracker form by Lori Linstruth of Play Like a Girl just might help you be more productive when you practice. [...]

+ Comment by Kristof
2007-05-04 09:43:16

Hey Lori,

It’s not actually a form, it’s more a set of exercises that I go through on a daily basis. You can find it under Daily routine

Thanks for taking the time to check!

2007-05-04 21:35:39

[...] Here some great stuff á propos practicing (thanks to David Seah ).   [...]

+ Comment by Gwen
2007-05-05 10:00:48

hi Lori,

although I don’t play guittar, I love to read all of this
it’s like entering another world for me hahahahha


+ Comment by Michael Leslie
2007-05-05 22:27:32

Hi Lori,
I will have to start implementing this myself as well as use it for my students; have them bring it to me each time they come for a lesson. It should keep them more accountable and hopefully get them better at playing guitar. Thanks for posting this.
Pinkie Respect lm

+ Comment by Robottony
2007-05-06 09:23:08

Hi, just a note to say that I received my poster and it’s BEAUTIFUL! Thank You!
Tony m/

+ Comment by Lorinator
2007-05-06 10:31:47

Kristof: Thanks for clearing that up. I’d seen that section, but my brain short circuits when confronted with that much TAB ;-) I don’t know how you guys do it!

Gwen: Thanks, dear!

Michael: Fabbo! I was hoping that teachers might use it just for that. If you do, please let me know how it goes and if you’d like any modifications to the form.

Robottony: Thanks, I’m really glad to hear that! Thanks for supporting my music by buying a poster (all the proceeds go to my “Lori needs a 7-string” fund. :-)

+ Comment by Bignicko
2007-05-06 15:36:29

Totally unrelated offtopic-post regarding the pinkie:
take a look at the image on the right side at
(sorry, it’s in german)

-> clearly, pinkie respect =)

How does it come:
there used to be a lot of cloth industry in Aachen (city in northern Germany), and workers used their pinkies to sort needles. Hence the use of the pinkie as a distinctive mark to identify fellow “Aachener” around the world.

And sorry for posting off-topic, but I thought you kight find that interesting =D

+ Comment by JoeJoe
2007-05-09 09:31:13

I practice too much, and don’t have the time to note down what I do! =P. I Find guitar highly addictive, and that I will pick it up with the intention of only playing for 15 minutes…. four hours later….

+ Comment by Raquel
2007-05-09 18:11:03

Im learning how to play guitar and its a nice method!
thanks Lori.
1) Decide what you want to play,
2) practice until you can do it, and
3) repeat as necessary.*
Follow this!!!Kisses bye bye.
Raquel!!Thanks for answered my mail.

+ Comment by Anton
2007-05-09 18:43:10

Hey Lori,

I got here through Dave’s site, and (wow) I’m glad I did! I’m a guitar player (not nearly as skilled as you are) and am -instantly- adding you to my feedreader for inspiration and ideas. Keep up the great work!

+ Comment by Lorinator
2007-05-09 20:19:47

Bignicko: Cool about the Klenkes! It will be a must-see on my next bicycle tour. Thanks for posting this.

JoeJoe: I find the same happens to when I sit down to practice (once in a blue moon). The trick is to be more regular about it. Sometimes I don’t touch my guitar for MONTHS. (Shame on me). But it’s a great feeling to be so caught up in it that you lose all track of time, isn’t it!

Raquel: I’m glad you found the post useful — rock on!
Anton: Welcome! Any reader of the mighty Dave Seah is OK in my book! Thanks for your kind words. :)

+ Comment by blackorchidx
2007-05-10 23:33:08

hey Lori bear, thanks for this, will be good for my students


2007-05-11 19:11:01

[...] or form. Well, shredder Lori Linstruth at Play Like A Girl has recently created a great tool called ShredTracker that you may want to look at and see if it helps you. Per Lori, the tool is a “great [...]

+ Comment by JoeJoe
2007-05-12 09:54:15

Hehe, it is good getting caught up, and lost in playing. My problem is I do that all too often! Probably every second day…
I hear about a lot of people procrastinating their guitar practice. I however use my practice as a means to procrastinate doing everything else =P.

+ Comment by jomaheux
2007-05-12 20:22:35

It must be paying off in a sense.Bet you have some serious chops.

+ Comment by JoeJoe
2007-05-15 16:25:46

Yes and no. Practice for hours has helped my technique, and abilities, but because I get so caught up with just playing, I often don’t learn new things, and challenge myself as much as I should.

Trying to fix that at the moment!

+ Comment by Stephen H
2007-05-15 17:32:20

I get that – far too often, do I end up “practising my practicing ?!”

Yes, learning new things, is essential…
Otherwise you’re kinda “standing there waiting ?!” – (Y’ know ?!)

Where’s my Thylacine ?!

+ Comment by jomaheux
2007-05-16 04:49:39

Do you guys mean learning new things musically or stuff like learning a new language or some sport etc…?

Stephen,i think that you thylacine might be munching on some poor tasmanian emu.

+ Comment by Kristof
2007-05-16 19:15:20

You sure you don’t mean “some poor tasmanian emo?” :D

+ Comment by bodom
2007-05-16 22:04:09

Hi Lori,
I’m begginer guitar player and I must say that your blog motivied me to learn harder. You are great! I wish someday I could play as good as you :)
I think that ShredTracker is a great thing, I think that my problem is that I don’t organise my time with guitar. It should help, but I still need exercises to put in a ShredTracker. Do you have some tabs or other exercises? :P I would really appreciate it if you could help me with that :)


+ Comment by jomaheux
2007-05-17 03:21:44

Yeah,i’m talking about the bird,althought they sort of look similar.

+ Comment by JoeJoe
2007-05-17 03:48:32

Unfortunately Stephen, I live in Melbourne, not Tasmania =P. We don’t really have any great animals that are just native to our part of the country, except maybe the “hobo busker”.

Yeah, I find that when I practice, I run over the same things, and get really stuck in a style, and don’t progress into things out of that.
In that regard, I find learning a song or two, and looking into those exotic scales you swore you would never need helps you feel a bit more fresh with the playing.

+ Comment by Chen
2007-05-18 09:52:41

Thank you so much for your time and efforts. What happens to me is when I sit down, I will play my guitar non stop for 3 or 4 hours and forget everything else. I do need the tracker to help me to take some occasional healthy breaks.

+ Comment by Chen
2007-05-18 21:13:20

One more question, Lori. Where can I buy the 2004 demo Cd of yours. It says out of stock on this site.

+ Comment by Lorinator
2007-05-19 06:24:09

Chen, it will be about a month before I have demos available. You can only buy them through my website. Thanks for asking :)

+ Comment by jomaheux
2007-05-19 06:56:08

Hi Lori,
Is it possible to pre-order two of those?

2007-05-21 04:59:12

[...] series on the development of the Emergent Task Planner . He led me to adaptation of his work called ShredTracker, on Lori Linstruth’s blog, PlayLikeAGirl. I loved Lori’s guitar goddess attitude, so I [...]

+ Comment by Lorinator
2007-05-21 06:58:37

Jomaheux, there will be plenty once they’re done — no need to preorder. I’ll put a link in the sidebar when I get them. Should be a couple of weeks. :)

+ Comment by Chen
2007-05-22 10:04:04

OK, some fan “Not so artistic” work for Lori. A computer wallpaper and a button with the acient petroglyph “L squared” on it.

+ Comment by Kristof
2007-05-22 11:23:05

I think Joma just wants the ones numbered “2007-0001″ and “2007-0002″ for his collection :D

+ Comment by jomaheux
2007-05-23 01:39:55

Me first! Me first!

To be honest,i find Lori to be one of the better lead player in the melodic metal style.

+ Comment by midihc
2007-05-23 16:25:57

at first glance i had to downlaod some software, but it is a nice tracking sheet and i need some more discipline so this is sure to help

thanks lorinator! (get rid of the blue one btw, pink rules for guys too) and by all means, we know u wanna call it sHrEdTrAcKr, so just do it before someone pwns u.

i am going to try to get back to you in the near future and give u feedback on the shred tracker. .


+ Comment by Hugo
2007-05-24 18:08:43

Did you design that yourself? Looks very cool and elegant.

+ Comment by Hugo
2007-05-24 18:11:24

And the color makes no difference to me, I can only print it black and white anyway… :-(

+ Comment by Stephen H
2007-06-07 17:06:59

Hiya Lori ! – (Hi Gang !)

This is just to say that I AM actually alive – (I think !) – but ‘cos my beloved dog (m’ black GSD called Raven) had/has been poorly… that, well… all of my attention has been focused on him !
He seems to back to (his unique idea of) normality now… and I’m a happy bunny ! – (Whatever the Hell that means ?!)

And that’s it ! I haven’t “jumped ship” / gone AWOL or anything… (In fact, I’ve really missed my regular PLAG “fix !”) The “shred-tracker” is well handy for me, ‘cos I’m at the moment, I’m (temporarily) a little less “in shape” – So… thanks Lori !

BTW – I’m not conceited enough to think that anyone should care or even notice my absence…
Just to make the point – “A Lori is for life ! – (Not just for SOPmas ?!”)

Take care everybody !!

love y’ lots n’ lots Lori ! – (x)
Stephen (H)

+ Comment by Lorinator
2007-06-09 22:38:29

Hi all,
Hugo: Yes, it’s my own design but was heavily inspired by Dave Seah’s PCEO forms.

Chen: Thanks for the artwork!

Midihc: Cool — I hope you find the Shredtracker useful.

Stephen: Sorry to hear about your doggie. I hope he gets better soon.

I’m still on vacation with a somewhat dodgy internet connection, but will be back in Sweden on 13 June, and ready to get back to posting. See you all then! :)

+ Comment by Stephen H
2007-06-12 18:05:57

Quite simply…
…ah – thank you Lori ! – (Oh, n’ a kiss – “x” – from Raven !)

+ Comment by Kristof
2007-06-13 22:55:02

Welcome back, Lori!

+ Comment by Gwen
2007-06-14 19:17:31

he lori, hope you had a wonderfull time on your vacation


+ Comment by Laurie Monk
2007-06-18 21:07:07

Missed your posting prowess…Hope you had a good holiday and doggie is OK. Please post soon…preferably with a video too ;o) not too much to ask…

+ Comment by Lorinator
2007-06-25 04:28:04

Hi all! Sorry to have been away for so long, but it wouldn’t have been a vacation without a break from the computer. Thanks for all your good wishes! Hopefully I’ll be able to pick up my (fixed) computer this week and start cranking out some new cheeky videos ;-) and get back to work on finishing the Warbride tunes.


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