Rating your mastery each time you practice is an essential habit for musicians.

Why? Because musical skills like rhythm and note accuracy must be measured in order for you to make musical progress! And you won’t be able to measure your skills unless you have a standard that you hold yourself accountable to. Which is why rating your mastery every time you practice anything is so important. You won’t be able to know how you’ve progressed over time unless you document and assess how well you do each time.


In order for you to make musical progress, you need to practice deliberately – because regular practice can sometimes include mindless repetitions. In contrast, deliberate practice requires focused attention and will help you to find what you don’t like about the piece you’re practicing.


To start addressing your problem areas, first create a standard for yourself by regularly comparing your current ability to perform certain skills to your past ability to perform certain skills. Then make a plan for how you can improve from where you are at currently in your music practice.  To help you get started, here’s a list of measurable skills that can help you to improve over time:

  • Knowing music theory well enough to be able to apply it while playing your instrument
  • Learning to tap rhythms accurately and independently in both hands simultaneously, even at fast tempos
  • Being able to write down and play melodies that you hear

Keeping a practice log can also help you to track your progress. This way you can log the pieces you’ve practiced, the length of time you practiced each one, as well as any notes on the progression of your mastery!

Keeping track of your musical progress and mastery can often be tedious and discouraging. But we often make the the most progress when we think we’re not. Everything you learn or take note of accumulates in your subconscious (even when you feel like it hasn’t) and will probably be expressed eventually. Learning music is similar in that  conscious incompetence should eventually give way to unconscious competence.


First off, record your accomplishments, trials, and self-assessments in your practice journal after or during your practice session. Here’s how:

  • Make note of problem areas
    For example, if you were having trouble with your left hand feeling clumsy while playing an independent exercise and ended up being inaccurate, you could make a note: LH feeling clumsy on ascending climb in independence ex. 1.
  • Be very specific
    This way you’ll be able to accurately assess what will fix the problem, and also come back to it later.
  • Write down what you did to fix the problem
    For example, you slowed the metronome down to 45 bpm, and then increased speed to 110 by intervals of 5.
  • Return the next day and look at your notes from the day before
    Then, immediately start working on the problem spot. When you finish, for this example, you could write down: worked on ascending line, ex 1. Started slow and then worked up to it, can do it perfectly now.

And there you go! You have now have progress from one day to the next. Without assessing your mastery at each stage of the learning process, you probably would never have had this sense of satisfaction.


Another great and easy way to rate your mastery is to use Modacity! In Modacity, you can create playlists and populate them with all your practice items. Then, every time you finish practicing an item, you get prompted to rate your mastery of the item! This way, it’s now easier than ever for you to know how you’ve progressed each time you practice.

Mars Gelfo

Mars Gelfo

Mars has been practicing music for 30+ years. After applying cognitive science & computer science to French horn, Mars became an internationally touring symphony musician. His experience includes teaching and performing with thousands of musicians around the world, including the San Francisco Symphony.