It’s really important to keep track of your progress and improvement. There are a variety of ways to do that and you have to find the one that works best for you. I’m going to share with you what I do:
KEEP A SPREADSHEET: I recently downloaded Numbers on my iPad (previously, I had used Excel on my computer, but I find myself practicing away from home a lot, so portability was a factor for me) and use that for my technique grids. I have one for each of the instruments that I practice and they all vary slightly depending on my goals.
ORGANIZE: I have the scale name on the left side listed by half step. The numbers at the top are metronome markings. In my case, the numbers are quarter note beats and I practice my scales in 16th notes full range. (Obviously you have to set realistic numbers, that are true for all scales. If you can play C Major really quickly and accurately, but can’t even make it through F# Major then you’ll have to start much slower. That’s ok, we all have to start somewhere.) Rather than keeping one long list, I also broke up the different tonalities into different sheets – Major, Harmonic Minor (HM), Ascending Melodic Minor (JAZZ MM), Superlocrian (7th mode of MM, lots of names), Diminished and WT, Pentatonics (Major and Minor), and Blues.
SET GOALS: It’s important that you have an end in sight. My goal for this grid is to get all of those scales up to 100. When I reach that goal, I’ll alter the grid so it reflects a new goal. Make sure that your goal is S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Motivating, Achievable, Reasonable, and Trackable).
PLAN: Each practice session I try to update something on the technique grid. Sometimes I’ll set weekly goals that involve a certain aspect. Say I’m focusing on alter dominants in a tune I’m learning, then I’ll try to work on technique that reinforces that. I try to always practice with a specific purpose.
BE FLEXIBLE: The technique graph is a “living thing” and so it’s merely a representation of what I can do at any specific moment. So boxes get filled in and erased as needed. If something on it’s not working, I change it. There’s no ego. I’m just trying to keep track of progress and improvement – and that’s never-ending. 🙂
How do you keep track of your progress and improvement? Share in the comments below!