A great way to keep track of your progress on the guitar or any other instrument is to record yourself regularly. This is also a good way to build a repertoire of songs or instrumentals. In ordinary practice sessions, we tend to focus more on technical skill building activities like picking, note bending, improvising, playing riffs and working on timing. But it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we work on these things so we can play songs better. Unless you have a good repertoire, you won’t have anything to play live in jams or gigs.
Try working on a couple of songs with the express purpose of recording them. Try one medium or fast tempo song and a slow one with a different feel. When you think you’re ready, record the songs with whatever recording device you have – whether it’s a computer program, a hand held recorder or even your phone. Just do a sound check to be sure it’s picking up your signal loud and clear and then hit record and play.
Sound quality is not so important here, so don’t worry if it doesn’t sound like a studio quality recording. The idea is to get a sound picture of your performance. Before the days of photoshop, there used to be a saying – “the picture never lies”. This also goes for recordings. You can think you played something really well but when you listen to the playback, you find that you fluffed a few notes here, the timing went off a bit there, etc.
On the other hand, you can be pleasantly surprised by a recording too. Just say you’ve been working on improvisation but you’re not sure that you’re progressing much. You record yourself and then when you play it back, you realize your improvising sounds better than you thought.
All of these things are valuable information. If you record yourself regularly, it’s a great way to keep a record of everything you learn. Each time you think you’ve got something ready – record it. Sometimes it’s good to record several tracks one after the other. This gives you practice at playing a set list like you would in a live performance and is also great training for a more serious recording session in a studio.
Keep Playing, keep practicing and have fun!