Tracking your progress
If you have been playing jazz guitar for a while and are dedicated to your craft, you probably have a solid practice plan. Using this practice routine, you work hard and diligently to maximize the efficiency of your practice sessions. Be proud, it is an amazing act of discipline and passion!
Even with all of these efforts, you may find it difficult to track your progress. It's hard to know if you are advancing steadily, or simply floating in place without much improvement. You are looking for answers. One thought that might cross your mind is that you are getting used to the exercises.
The question is: how can you be sure?
The solution to that is to keep a journal of your jazz guitar activities.
-Thomas Griffin, Family Guy.
A journal is not something you write for today. It is a tool that will become very useful for yourself in a week, month ... or even a year. Helping you to keep track of your progression, it gives you perspective about your work. In other words, entries in your journal will give you a reference about yourself and your development each time you sit down to practice.
Here are a few examples of details that you'll find useful:
- The tempo you used for "Exercise X" yesterday or last week?
- How many measures of the Standard "Y" were you able to learn using the scotch-tape method the last time you practiced?
- What is your maximum tempo when doing the fast and slow exercise?
That’s it. Note small reference points to will help you focus on aspects you need to work on. Writing down these pieces of information also lets you know what you are already good at. And, it boosts your confidence.
What shouldn't be in your journal
Here is what your journal shouldn’t contain: tons of text.
Unlike the classic format of logs (e.g. A captain’s journal narrated in TV series and films), you shouldn’t write paragraphs of text. You are writing in your journal for yourself. It is better to have clear, concise and easy to scan key points.
The idea is the same to the writing. I personally love to write, but not everybody does. I believe everybody should have a logbook but the content should be very concise so the interest of the player is not lost. Nothing will be more toxic than having to write a lot of texts after your practice session. You will get tired and start neglecting it.
What should be in your journal
Your journal entries should contain:
- Today’s Date: When you will read your past entries, you will notice if you are regular or not in your practice.
- What are you happy about your playing: Writing a positive point on your playing will start off the practice session with a confident mood.
- The three goals of today’s practice: Setting yourself goals will help you drive your practice session because you are aiming at something.
- Three small victories of today’s practice: After your practice session, sit back and try to find the three small victories of the day (maybe related to your goals). Identify what went well and what made you proud.
- What could have been better (Not more than 2 things. Be kind to yourself, please!): What are the points to work on? Do not be negative, be constructive. Do not forget, you're writing this for yourself!
Every time you practice, you should review the last 2-3 practice entries in your logbook to give you an idea of what to focus on and to see your progress. It is also a good idea that every two weeks, you review your logs and adjust your practice plan accordingly.
You can start your own journal today with a simple notebook. You can also get our free journal template that already contains the key points to write down and an inspiring jazz quote for every time you practice.
Want To Give It A Shot?
Are you convinced? Do you want to try it out even if it is for a few days? We got something for you!
We challenge you to keep a log of your next 10 practice sessions. To make things easy for you, we made a 10-pages PDF with all the points you need to log.
We also included an inspiring quote from great jazz musicians to start off your sitting in a good vibe.
After you have completed the 10 pages, let us now how you feel in the comment box below!
Ny Fanilo Andrianjafy is a guitarist living in Canada. His main influences are traditional music from his birth country, Madagascar, and blues. He discovered Jazz at the age of 19 and has been in love with it ever since.