Tracking My Practice Time


#1

For the past few years, I’ve been curious about how much time I actually spend practicing, so last year I decided to keep a written record of my practice regimen. I made a spread sheet and started logging all my practice hours. I included categories for different areas of practice and recorded everything except the time I spent jamming with other people. I ended up with about 15 categories, not all of them guitar related. For example, I included time spent working on theory, ear training, and dobro.

The year ended yesterday and my practice time came in only 4% short of the goal I had set for myself at the start of the project. I’m really pretty pleased with the tally since I set the bar pretty high for myself.

I spent more time practicing this past year than I ever had before, and I think the simple act of recording my progress had a lot to do with it. Practice became habitualized for me and it drove me crazy to see blank space on my spread sheet. The log sheet also kept me from focusing too much on one area at the expense of another area of practice.

I only intended to conduct this experiment for a year, but it’s become such a valuable tool for me, I can’t let go of it. If any of you guys are having trouble staying focused on your practice, I’d really recommend trying it.


#2

Congratulations!
I tracked speeds on various songs and such for a while and helped me as well to write things down. I probably should have kept track of time spent. Thanks for the suggestion!


#3

I’m interested in this, and think I might just give it a try. Would you mind sharing all of your categories? And what about sharing what those categories entailed (i.e. What specific exercises did you use for ear training?)?


#4

My categories have changed over time. I added several as the year went on and I became interested in new aspects of playing, and a few went dormant (like Travis picking) when I decided I didn’t have time to pursue those areas right now.

I ended up with these:

  1. Guitar Method Book: I’m using the Modern Method For Guitar series. This is a whole lot of music reading, but also packs in a bunch of other guitar concepts like arpeggios, chord substitutions and scales.

  2. Music Theory Book: I’ve primarily been working through the Musician’s Institute’s, Harmony And Theory book.

  3. Ear Training: I’ve been using a software program called Earmaster. It has a bunch of different exercises, none of which are guitar specific.

  4. Flatpicking Essentials: I’ve been working through the first three volumes of this series. It’s kind of a method book for flatpicking.

  5. Transposing: Here I log the time I spend transposing songs into tab form.

  6. Repertoire: I use this category as a catch-all whenever I work on learning a new song or polish a song I just learned.

  7. Guitar Tab: This is where I log my Banjo Ben lessons and any time I try to learn from tab/video lessons.

  8. Travis Picking: I started out the year trying to learn some Travis picking basics, but decided it required too much of a commitment for me right now.

  9. Guitar Improvisation: I turn on a bluegrass radio station (usually the Bluegrass Mix internet station) and try to play along with whatever songs the DJ gives me.

  10. Swing Rhythm: I’m using several sources to try to learn western swing rhythms and chord substitutions.

  11. Singing: When I’m learning a new song, at some point I have to focus on the phrasing of the lyrics and just minimally strum the guitar. I’ve also spent some time trying to figure out three part harmony.

  12. Mandolin: I’ve pretty much given up on mando practice, but I did spend a few hours with it last year.

  13. Dobro Tab: Just like my guitar tab category, but for dobro.

  14. Dobro Improvisation: Playing along with songs on the radio or Youtube, just like with guitar.

  15. Recording projects: Time I spend on our group collaborations or anytime I want to record myself.

There is some overlap between my categories, but it’s a system that works pretty good for me.


#5

Geeeeeeesz Larry!

All I ever do is grab my guitar and play stuff. Do you ever eat and sleep? That sounds like alot. I think it’s great that you’re that organized with your practicing. I would like to be more disciplined with my practice. Great job.

I guess what I said earlier is not really true. When I really want (or need) to learn something, I’ll buckle down and spend alot of quality time working on it specifically. Sometimes though, I reach a burnout point where I seem to be going backwards on what I’m learning and know I need to take a break from that and play something else even if it’s “just for fun playing”. If I don’t do that, I get frustrated and get nowhere with what I’m trying to learn. Then I’ll go back to it and it goes much better.

I like the idea of a schedule but I would think it would take discipline to keep up with it. Good job on achieving 96% of your goal.

J.W.


#6

I did practice a lot this year but I don’t want to give the impression that my categories are my daily routine. They’re more a summary of all the areas I explored this past year. The only thing I did even close to every day was read music.


#7

Thanks for posting those. I find myself doing several of those as well, I’m just not as organized as that. Though I think it could help tremendously for me to have them all categorized and documented. Not all people work better that way, but I seem to respond well to it.

I work as a truck driver right now, so most of my practicing happens while sitting in the truck waiting on a load. Therefore, I’m sometimes limited as to what resources I have with me. Lately I’ve been working on Ben’s version of dueling banjos while sitting in the truck. It almost makes me feel like I have some company in the truck :sunglasses:

I’ve been wanting to do a lot more ear training, seeing as how I can plug in my mp3 player while I’m driving or sitting. Maybe I’ll figure that one out, one of these days.


#8

I think I must be the only person here who’s OCD enough to work out such a monstrosity as my spread sheet. I think you are right that every one has their own approach to learning. I’d be interested in finding out how other folks here organize their practice.

Do you just throw the banjo into the passenger seat of your truck and pick whenever you get the chance? I bet you get some curious looks when you pull that thing out.


#9

OK, I’ll be the dumb one on the forum today. What does OCD stand for Larry? Hope it’s not something you can’t post. :blush: I’ve ran it through my mind several times and nothing clicks. I’m guessing the O has something to do with organization though.

J.W.


#10

Maybe obsessive compulsive disorder? That probably describes a lot of us with our instruments.

I have very little organization when it comes to practice but I think its great for those who do. I work rotating shift work so actually my life in general is a little unorganized when it comes to schedules. That being said, I do get in some practice about every day. Sometimes it may be for just 15 or 20 minutes but usually I’d say I average an hour a day. I get together with my pickin’ buddy once a week and we’ll practice together for a couple of hours.

Then there are times when I spend too much time playing when I should be doing something else. Take for instance on my day off work yesterday. I had planned to spend all morning cleaning out and organizing my little shop. What should have been a 2 or 3 hour job ended up taking all day because I’d work a little, get bored, come in the house and grab a guitar or mandolin for half an hour. Guess that could qualify as a mild case of OCD.


#11

Thanks for straightening me out. I thought OCD probably meant Overly Careful Documenter.


#12

Hey Larry… if I made a little app for logging time do you think you would use it? It shouldn’t take too terribly long to make something like that (famous last words). I haven’t done anything in a particular language for a while and figured I might do something just to keep current.


#13

— Begin quote from "ldpayton"

I think I must be the only person here who’s OCD enough to work out such a monstrosity as my spread sheet. I think you are right that every one has their own approach to learning. I’d be interested in finding out how other folks here organize their practice.

Do you just throw the banjo into the passenger seat of your truck and pick whenever you get the chance? I bet you get some curious looks when you pull that thing out.

— End quote

I have spreadsheets galore that track the most minute things. I’m just much more comfortable when things are organized and easily documented. Thought you might like to know that you’re not alone :wink:

And yes, I just toss the banjo in my passenger seat and when I find a free moment, I pull it out, pick a little, grin a little, and then when it’s time to grind some more gears, I toss it back in the passenger seat and head on down the road. Oftentimes other truckers who are waiting pull up beside me and roll down their windows just to listen.

I bought a Deering Goodtime banjo last week for the select purpose of it being my “truck hound”. It’s super light, plays good (better than I thought after I had it in my hands), but maybe the main reason I bought it to be my truck hound is because it’s aesthetically impaired. And because I didn’t pay for a dolled up banjo, I don’t really care if it gets a little scratch or dent, or maybe a small smudge of grease on it. My practice time this past week has easily doubled now that it’s so much easier to just pick up the 5-banger and grind its own gears.


#14

— Begin quote from "mreisz"

Hey Larry… if I made a little app for logging time do you think you would use it? It shouldn’t take too terribly long to make something like that (famous last words). I haven’t done anything in a particular language for a while and figured I might do something just to keep current.

— End quote

I don’t know about Larry, but I was actually thinking just last night while I was driving driving that I would love to know to how to use my iPad to track practice times and such.

You actually know to make an app? :open_mouth:


#15

— Begin quote from "mreisz"

Hey Larry… if I made a little app for logging time do you think you would use it?

— End quote

Mike, that’s a great idea. Count me in if it’s user friendly!


#16

App for logging practice time? If you don’t mind, I would be interested in something like this. You might be on to your next million dollars with this! :wink:


#17

Well, it sounds like there is some interest! I am a Windows developer, but unfortunately (or fortunately) I haven’t written an iPad app. I’ll look into to iPad apps to see what is involved, but no promises. What I am thinking of is something pretty simple, but it hopefully would be useful. I’ll start a thread on the app when I get going on it.


#18

OCD=obsessive/compulsive disorder, but I use the term loosely, and don’t mean to offend anyone with a serious medical problem.

I’m not an IPad user, but I’ll be interested to see what you come up with, Mike.


#19

No offense taken by me :smiley: I guess I shouldn’t have joked about the acronym either, so my apologies to anyone who is either OCD or an Overly Careful Documenter and is offended.

I took a look at what it takes to make an iPad app, and I don’t think I’ll be doing it that way. For starters, you are best doing is on a mac (which I don’t have). I’ll probably just a do a little windows app.


#20

:: Warning: You are about to get acquainted with my technological illiteracy ::

— Begin quote from "mreisz"

I took a look at what it takes to make an iPad app, and I don’t think I’ll be doing it that way. For starters, you are best doing is on a mac (which I don’t have). I’ll probably just a do a little windows app.

— End quote

Do windows apps work on iPads?