Bill_Burke_360“A Guitar Diary?”
JOURNALING – A Rationale
Encourage your students to document their progress with writing!In my high school guitar class I require my students to be organized with a three ring binder. In this notebook they can collect the handouts (songs and class materials). As my students take notes in class I ask that they make entries regarding their personal reaction to learning the material.

When one is learning to play an instrument, progress is incremental. It is hard for the student to gauge their own individual progress. With journaling one can actually see progress. For instance, I might introduce a new skill such as our warm-up exercise. A student might write in their notebook, ‘this is really hard, I can’t keep up with the class.” A week later the entry might read, “The warm-up still hard but I am doing better at keeping up. Still can’t do the sixteenth notes.” A month later the entry might read, I’m doing fine on the warm-up now, still struggling a bit with the tempo, but I am able use my pinky now!”

As time goes on and we become more accomplished, we don’t realize how hard it was for us to perfect a skill. However when one goes back and reads journal entries, the student (and the teacher) can actually see the progression – from can’t do it, to almost can do it, to now I’m doing it! These journal entries provide intrinsic positive feedback – and we all need that pat on the back.

To be honest, I didn’t really believe in journaling myself until I was required to do this as part of my master’s degree program. It actually worked; journals are accepted as evidence in research.

Writing is also a cross disciplinary approach – students are doing an activity that is common in the curriculum of other subjects. This makes the administration happy. A happy administration and guitar go well together! Here is the document that my students receive:


Journaling is an important way to document progress. When you write about your feelings regarding your assimilation of the material, your struggles, your successes, you can look back as you progress and see growth. This documentation also is an accepted source for research. The more you do this, the easier it becomes. Look at it as your diary documenting your pathway to musicianship.

Topics should be personal about things you care about or think about. The subject matter could be anything, hopefully related to your music growth. Some ideas: new material, music and styles you hope to learn, your current playlist, how do they do that?, live music you’ve heard, performances you’ve done, favorite artists, your equipment, your musical background, before and after performance assessment, practice habits, etc.

Frequency: the more the better. As a guideline you should have at least one per week. Most quarters I will expect you to label your top 5 that you would like me to read, (but you should have more than 5 to select from).

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