Looking for an Awesome Practice System

checklistMusicians and teachers, I need your help.

Have you used a system for tracking guitar practice that really motivated you or your students to stick with it? I’m hoping to integrate a proven tracking system into the online guitar course I’m creating. Plus, it’d be awesome to use something like this with my private students.

I know how to teach students to practice mindfully and develop good muscle memory. And I understand the motivational power of providing performance opportunities for students. What I’m looking for is some kind of checklist, or point system, or game that will help students measure their progress and amplify their sense of accomplishment.

Bonus points if you can point me toward websites that have used a system like this.

Can’t wait to hear your ideas.

Comments 18

  1. The Game Rocksmith for xbox 360 or ps3 is a great game to practice guitar.  It is not quite what you are looking for, and it would require your students to have an expensive game system.   either way, you should check it out, and if you have played it before I would be interested to know what you think of it as a guitar teacher.   I do not think it would replace lessons, but as a supplement it is wonderful.

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      Rocksmith looks so cool.  I last looked at it when it first came out – the new version looks even better.

      I’ve played Rock Band, which uses a plastic guitar-shaped controller with a few colored buttons instead of strings and frets.  Rocksmith has made the leap players using their own, real guitar, which requires much more skill and coordination, and demands that the game system communicate more complex tasks.  My big question is whether their scrolling interface of notes flying down a virtual fretboard at you, which is obviously inspired by Rock Band and Guitar Hero, is a practical way of communicating the much more complex stuff you do on a real guitar.  In the demo video, it looks like major information overload.  But perhaps after some practice, it’d all make sense.

      One thing I expect Rocksmith doesn’t do well, no matter how well it works, is to teach nuances like dynamics and playing with proper intonation, and it can’t tell you you’re bending your wrist too much and setting yourself up for carpal tunnel syndrome.  But still, could be a great tool for people who can afford it, especially if it’s a supplement to private lessons.

      1. I’ve used Rocksmith in my lessons occasionally, and what it is, is a great song learning tool – but it doesn’t replace the teacher, nor does it correct or give proper feedback.  The process for learning chords is fairly non-existant (you’ll play along, get good at what it’s given you, and then when it does up a stage of difficulty you’ll get a chord you may not have ever seen before, then you’ll mess it up and the song will drop back in difficulty again) and the game is a lot more fun if you can actually play a bit before you get into it. Some of the minigames are pretty cool, I particularly like the Zombie Chord game, but again, if you’ve never played a barre chord you’ll hit a wall.  You’ll hit a wall even sooner if you’ve never seen C7 or Am before.I’ve also found that for most of the songs the riffs are extremely nerfed until you get up in the difficulty which distances the student from the actual song.  Also, in practice mode the phrase trainer can get get pretty pedantic on the timing of your bends….Having just written a novel on it, the PC version is pretty cheap now.  Anything that gets the kids playing outside the lessons is probably a good thing.

        Re: practicing.In my lessons, all my students get a checklist of songs/exercises they’re supposed to work on during the week, where they tick off the song(s) they practice each day.  This is supposed to be signed by the parent at the end of the week.  I always include a “free choice” song where the kids can just pick up the guitar, play anything, and then get that ticked off at least.  Kids who get every song and day ticked off, and get that signed by their parent, get a gold star sticker on that week.

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          Great to hear from someone who’s used Rocksmith, Willy.  I didn’t realize it was available for the PC–and just $25!  I’ll have to check it out.

          And yeah, I also use a similar homework chart with my younger students, with stickers as rewards.  Picks with graphics on them are also great rewards.

      2. What Willy says is spot on.And with the music scrolling at you, it can be information overload for sure.There are 3 different modes to practice sections of songs, one lets you set a speed to play at, one lets you play the section at full speed, and when you get it right, it ups the difficulty of that  section (adds more notes until you are playing the exact lick of the song), and the last mode is you play the section and when you miss a note it stops on that note and won’t start again till you hit that note. This last mode is the most “useless” because it gets too choppy and frustrating. The other 2 work great.  There is a new version coming out in a couple months, and it looks like it will be even better then the previous version.   Here is the “preview”.

        With as much as I love Rocksmith,  I will 100% AGREE that it is no replacement for a teacher and lessons.  However I think anyone who is taking lessons should give this game a try.  I know it has improved my guitar playing. Also, since it has achievements and unlockables like other video games, hopefully kids will be playing their guitar during video game time and not just practice time.Looking back on the book I just wrote, It almost looks like I work for the game company, but I promise you I don’t!!!!   Rocksmith has gotten me to learn some songs that in the past I was also too intimidated to try, and it did it in an interested way.   Ok, one LAST thing.  The song mix in the game is pretty diverse, and I was introduced to some songs and bands I never heard of before. “We Share the Same Skies” by the Cribs now one of my favorite songs to play.  That guitar riff is really cool 

        1. Yeah, I’d just like to add that it works well in conjunction with the more traditional methods like TAB.  I taught one of my students The Darkness’ “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” including the three solos using tab as the main source, but when Rocksmith released that as DLC we used it to fine tune it.  Due to the gaming nature of it, it was a lot of fun.  I’ve done that with a number of songs.In a similar way, you’ll see that Guitar World over the last 5 years or so included a lot of Guitar Hero songs in their monthly tabs.  Learning GH riffs was pretty popular for a while there in my lessons.  RS doesn’t have the same popularity but you could use it in reverse – “Lets learn this RS song!”My biggest problem when playing RS is keeping an eye on the upcoming notes when combined with a position shift.  Not an issue if you know the song, but in the learning process it can be annoying.One last thing – it doesn’t penalise for spamming the strumming.  If you’re in a section where you have to chug away on an Em (Evanescence’s Bring Me To Life is a great example) you can strum away as much as you like and you will probably get a better score than if you did an average job of matching the rythym exactly.  It might be a function of the guitar A/D and hardware, but the crowd disappoinment and fudged sound in GH when you missed a note was pretty cool.

          1. It’s also one of those games where you’ll look up after “just one more go” (Aka, the Civilization Syndrome) and you’ll have lost two hours.

  2. While I am a student, not an instructor, my teacher had me write out my “Goals and Affirmations” at about one year into our lessons. I use this as a tool to see where I’m at. It’s a dynamic document, a checklist, as is my practice schedule, changing as I my playing changes and progresses. A very useful and used element in my Bag of Tools…

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      I love it. I have also kept a journal where I made daily practice goals. I’d set a goal for my practice–for example, “Play 5th position C major scale at 150bpm,” work on it, then at the end of the practice session record my degree of success. A few of my more motivated students have also used this daily journal technique, but I’ve hesitated to impose it on my more laid-back students.

    2. I don’t know why he waited a whole year into your training to do that. It’s good to know what your goals are right from the beginning and adjust them as you learn more techniques. I think having a checklist of the skills and techniques you know is a great thing. That can help you make an amazing practice routine so you know what aspects of your playing you need to work on and which things you can review and learn to apply better in your playing.Another good technique is to take a song you want to learn and list all the techniques and skills that will be needed to learn that song and develop them.

  3. I’ve used the Guitar Practice Generator (http://practicegenerator.com/) in the past. I’m not sure how much it actually motivated you, but it’s a system that allows you to take notes so you can track your overall progress. But there are no rewards.I think for students you need something that generates a practice routine based on how much time they have available. I write up practice routines for students at the end of each lesson. This way they have something to go off of during the week.

  4. Hey Rob – I am a piano AND guitar teacher.  Over this past summer I spent a considerable amount of time evaluating how I was going to do this very same thing. This year I’m adapting an idea I found at: http://www.pianimation.com/2013/08/24/shoot-for-the-stars-visual-syllabus-incentive-program/I've created my own version of this visual syllabus that goes into student binders.  Throughout the year I have some short-term challenges and then also some long-term challenges.  When they complete the challenge they add star stickers to the page to see where they’ve succeeded.  Some challenges will have other prizes they are working towards too — (ie: http://www.teachpianotoday.com/2013/10/03/were-pump-kin-up-the-piano-practice-with-a-new-studio-incentive/) and others won’t–they will focus on the project itself.  This offers me a lot of flexibility to run studio wide contests to appeal to those who are naturally competitive, to have opportunities to immerse in the project for the love of the project and to also have a personal tracking record for those who are more motivated to challenge themselves.  As the year continues, I will start putting more of the decisions in the hands of the students by asking what THEY want to work on.  I suspect they will lean towards their strengths, which is why I also have studio wide projects that may/may not cater towards their strengths.This visual syllabus will also ensure that I am covering all areas of their musical development. It has a “Star Listener” “Star Performer” “Great Sight Reading Star” “Technique Star” “Great Rhythm Star” and more.  In the past I have done “music buck” reward systems and other token systems, but this year I’m focusing on nurturing intrinsic motivation and how good it feels to “complete” things.  I found that after awhile the token systems lost their punch and that they weren’t motivated to work independently on something new or to challenge themselves.  Keeping track of points was just annoying.(Here’s a good article on nurturing intrinsic motivation, (just swap piano references for guitar) http://www.musicteachershelper.com/blog/fostering-a-sense-of-intrinsic-motivation-in-your-students/).  Here’s another great article on the pros and cons of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation: http://voices.yahoo.com/rewarding-systems-intrinsic-vs-extrinsic-models-10569.htmlAnother component of my studio is the Community Star Board.  If students complete their goals and assignments (defined by quality, not quantity of practise), they get to add to the studio star board.  When the whole studio reaches 100 stars, there will be a big reward.  As piano/guitar tend to be studied individually, this helps foster a feeling of comradry.  This board will also feature “star students” with a student pic and the reason they are posted there (ie. most improved ____, totally rockin scales, etc) to reward recognition for extra effort.At the end of the year we will have a “red carpet” star recital.  I’ve got a parent who is a photographer who I am bartering with to get a photo shoot.  They will invite friends/families and we will do some ensembles.  Students will be working (with the community star board) to earn snacks and beverages for their guests.To help VERY clearly communicate detailed goals and assignments, I have begun to use this app: http://www.moosicstudio.com on the iPad and then print assignment pages for them.  This way I have a copy of what we did, and they have a copy of what they are expected to do.  It has made my lesson prep SO much easier.I’m using this program with students age 6-16.  I’m actually quite surprised at how excited the older ones get when we start filling up their personal “shoot for the stars” page and the community star. I would LOVE to continue this conversation with you.  I am quite initerested in the tools you are developing.  As a piano teacher, there are heaps of great QUALITY online resources.  I have not found that to be the case with guitar.  I am happy to find this page, which appears to be of a very good quality, and look forward to looking around it more.  Be in touch!

  5. I use performance as a motivator for both kids and adults. I
    encourage students to create a “dream setlist” and then either record
    a CD/videos or perform at a “recital” as their culminating project.
    I also have a checklist that I’ve created and use what I call the “21 Day Challenge”.
    The idea is that the student focuses on only 1-3 items they really want to
    master for 21 days. After the 21 days we record and mark the progress made.
    Usually the success demonstrated is motivation to keep up the great work.
    I have also created a multi-sensory board game that I play with students that
    quizzes their knowledge on guitar/music fundamentals in the areas of harmony,
    melody and rhythm. I mostly use the game with kids. But some adults like it as
    well.                                                                                                                         I look forward to seeing your latest guitar program. If you want
    any pre-release reviews or feedback from a fellow experienced instructor, feel
    free to contact me.

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  6. If you come up with a great system would love to hear what you have to say. Some kind of tracking system would be great. Maybe something with a timer. I try and write down something for each student to work with with a check off but some don’t even use it. 

    1. Hey!I’ve actually run into a very similar issue which is why I developed the website http://keeping-tabs.io . After registering, you gain access to a ton of lessons that I work on and release weekly and can instantly use the ‘Practice Now’ feature to tell the system how much time you have (i.e. 30 minutes) and it will generate a practice session for you on the fly. Something like that would be perfect for students to help keep them interested and make the routine a surprise everyday.If you want to take it a step further, the real benefit of the application is that you can create your own lessons with embedded images, youtube videos, etc. and have them be part of a structured practice routine. So if you wanted your students to practice on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and on each day you had specific goals in mind, you could set those up in the Lesson Plan manager and each day they are supposed to practice, they would log into the application and be guided through the lessons with an onscreen metronome and timer which helps to keep them focused and playing on time.The real benefit of the application is that every time the user completes their sessions, they are given the opportunity to log the BPM and duration they completed the lessons at. This is all tracked within the system and shown on a statistics page with a few graphs which allows players to see their progress visually and keep them motivated over time.I would love to hear any feedback you have about the site and would be more than happy to give you a guided tour or any questions you may have!

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