I think its important to understand firstly that as a guitar student your first and only real priority is to practice. I say this because many guitar students are fixed on their progress. It’s the classic “Are we there yet?” question. Many students are not interested in the journey, only the destination. Why is this such a problem you ask? Simple. You will spend 95% of your time on the journey. If you don’t enjoy the journey it’s going to be a very unpleasant experience. What matters most is a commitment to practice rather then worrying about progress. In fact I urge you to try and ignore your personal progress and instead focus on your practice. The more you can to focus on your practice the more likely you are to reach your goals.
Progress is a distraction
The reason your focus should be on practice more so than progress is because this is something you have complete control over. I am not suggesting that progress is unimportant because it is of course the purpose to your practice but its best to leave the job of progress assessment to someone else. Preferably a qualified guitar teacher. Progress is usually slow, unpredictable and relative. A focus on progress will be a roller coaster ride. You may or may not progress as quickly as you hoped. In most cases your progress will appear to come in short bursts. This is because you may need to practice say a scale 500 times before your fingers respond and another 5000 times to really get control. Even then you will have good and bad days. So focus on say 30 minutes a day practice for a year and let progress come when it’s good and ready.
Put your teacher is in charge of progress
Not only is it best to leave the job of assessing your progress to your teacher it should actually be a relief. Your teacher should have the experience to assess and guide your practice in the right direction. If you don’t trust your teacher’s judgement then it’s time to find a new teacher. When it comes to your teacher trust is paramount. As discussed above your main job is to do the practice and let’s be honest, you are really not qualified to be assessing your progress because you don’t have the experience. Experienced teachers understand what to expect based on the amount of practice you do in an average week.
Keeping a practice log
You can help your teacher by keeping a practice log. Simply write in how many minutes you practiced each day. Visit the G4 GUITAR student website for a free download. The practice log allows your teacher to make an accurate assessment. If you are doing say 30 mins a day your teacher will have a certain expectation. If this expectation is not being met they can look more closely at what you are doing with your 30 mins each day. It’s important to understand that the more your teacher knows about your practice habits the better. Turning up for your lesson and showing what you can do certainly gives your teacher a good idea of how you are progressing but with out some kind of time measurement there is nothing to base that progress on. If you were doing say 60 mins a day with poor practice habits you would still be progressing but your teacher might be assuming you are doing 20 mins a day based on your progress with out a practice log. Like any investment your teacher needs to know how much time you are investing to assess whether you are getting the best return.
Goals are important
I would like to point out that ignoring progress is not the same as ignoring your goals. It’s important to keep your goals for guitar in mind when you practice but as a reminder of why you practice and how your practice relates to those goals. If in doubt about how your practice relates to your goals it is best to ask your teacher. In fact I recommend you do so anyway. Once a month simply ask your teacher “How does this exercise relate to my personal goals?”
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