WMT YouTube - Toms Tips #3 - Setting Goals

YouTube – Toms Tips #3 – Setting Goals

One of the things I find can bottleneck anyone’s progress on an instrument is not having clearly defined goals to work towards. And it might be the case at times that one of my students, or someone who’s just started lessons with me HAS set goals for themselves, but these goals might be unrealistic taking into account their experience at that time. Now, it’s a good thing to have a vision of where you want to be and what you’d like to do with an instrument; but if all your goals are set too high, with no planning for the work you’ll need in between, these “goals” might be better described merely as dreams, or even as fantasy. So i’d like to share the method I encourage my students to adopt, and the one I use myself.

The Method

We’re going to split our goals and targets into a tiered system, with four individual levels. Every piece of music that you hear and every piece of music you want to learn could be categorised and placed into one of these levels. And as you progress on your instrument you’ll be able to shift pieces of music from one tier to another; redefining them as your skills get stronger.

Long Term Study Tier

The first tier i’ll describe is the “Long Term” study tier. This’d include all the songs, pieces of music, and difficult passages of music that you like the sound of and want to learn, but at the moment it’s not really within your grasp. You’ll need to do some extra study, and practise other things to help get you there. I’d set a long-term goal in this category at something between six months and a year to complete. You might dip in and out of this work occassionally to begin with to test the water, and then dedicate more time to it as the months move on; but because it’ll be outside of your comfort zone now, you’ll need other things to be playing in the meantime.

Middle Study Tier

This is where you can start to structure your practise, with the help of other levels. The next tier i’ll get you to think about is what I call the “Middle Study” level. This could be something that’s related to a long-term goal you have and be helping towards it, but it could also be something that you’d like to learn that exists all on its own as a separate study. These are pieces of music or songs that you think you could achieve within 3 to 6 weeks.

Short Term Study Tier

Following on from the Middle Study tier, the next level I’ll suggest is the “Short Term” study tier. These are pieces and songs that might take just a few days to get your fingers around, but at the most a week to get through. And the same can be true as it was for the Middle Study tier; these can be things related to longer term goals, or they can be completely separate things that you might want to learn.

Quick Study Tier

This brings me onto the final tier. This one I feel is the most important for building your repertoire, and the techniques and experience you’ll need for attempting more involved pieces of music later on. I call this one the “Quick Study” level. These are songs and pieces of music that you know are within your grasp, and something which you could get through in anthing upto an hour. For beginners, this could be running through the chords to a song from a buskers book, or for a more experienced player, it could be making some ground on a solo. As the name suggests, these are to be “quick studies”; so only spend a short time on this music, and choose something different to vary it up in your next practise session.


Following this method, you’re going to get a good mix of things in your routine. You’ll have long term goals, and you’ll be able to structure your practise to find a route to mastering the things you want to. We’re breaking down the things we’ll need to be able to play at the standard we want, and supporting that from the ground up with other music that’ll build the skills we need. We can be working on all these things at the same time, and because we have a timeframe for each song or piece we’re learning, it’ll give us some structure to work towards the long term goals in a steady way.