You’ve diligently been practicing your guitar. You can tell that you’re improving. Chord changes are coming easier. You’re getting songs up to tempo. You know inside that you’re getting better. Aren’t you?
One way to gauge your real progress is to record yourself playing a tune or an exercise over a period of time. Here’s what you want to do:
- Pick a tune that is representative of something you’re working on — one that you need to bring up to tempo, or a speed drill, an improvisation over a blues progression, etc.
- Get out a recording device — an MP3 player/recorder, your laptop with a built-in mike, a cassette recorder, whatever you have. Your smartphone is great choice.
- Get yourself warmed up. If you’re practicing to a metronome or backing track, include that in the recording.
- You’re going to make five individual recordings. The goal is to get an accurate recording of where you are at this moment. If you make mistakes or hit a few clunkers, that’s fine, just keep playing.
- After you have your five sessions, pick the best one and save it and date it (if you’re recording digitally).
- Set a date for your next recording session. Give yourself enough time to make some notable progress — a week or two.
Let the recordings rest for a day or two. Then, give them a critical listening. Have a pad and pencil at hand. Jot down you’re observations. Note the sections that you have absolutely nailed. More important, note the sections where there were mistakes or rough spots. This will give you an indication of where to focus this week’s practice.
You’ll repeat the process a week or two later. At this review session, you’ll want to listen to the current recording and some prior recordings. As you get the tune up to speed, start to listen less for mistakes and more for stylistic improvements. Are you getting smoother, more expressive, more rhythmic?
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