First off, this isn't sponsored. I spent a good chunk of time researching this kind of app and ended up going with EpicWin (google, ios) due to a bunch of various reasons that I won't bore you with.
I have always used some form of to-do list or means to track my practice, from a standard journal, to excel sheets, and as mentioned in my practice apps post app based trackers like Wunderlist. So what is different about this app? In a simple sense it allows us to gamify our practicing so not only are we setting goals, tracking what we do, but we get to see the results of that play out in the app. We get to level up our character, their skills (Strength, Stamina, Intellect, Social, and Spirit) as well, as we progress it tracks a "distance traveled stat" as well, you gather loot. At the end of the day, it is still a simple tracking app, but we get to see results, which for players who have been playing for a long time those results can come so slow in real time having the little bar progress across the screen is a nice little reward.
So that is the basic part of it, if you are closing the window here, thanks for stopping by, if you are going to keep reading I am going to break down my experience, between how I assigned my playing into the 5 above mentioned categories, how the app has allowed me to actually gain some real insight into my practice which Wunderlist was not letting me, how this insight allowed me to make some value judgments in what I practiced, and some final thoughts around it.
As well, I am planning a follow up on this after some more time (probably at least 6 weeks) of using the app for a more detailed look at it's possible benefits.
*There are a few screen shots at the bottom of this post if you want to see the app first.
Assigning the skills
So the first step to setting up to track with EpicWin for me was to assign all the aspects of my playing into the 5 skills that the app tracks. Here is what I came up with for myself:
- Primary Session and works in the extremes (Range and Dynamics) = Strength
- Scales and dedicated technique work = Intellect
- Repertoire/excerpts = Stamina
- Ensemble and Drone work = Social
- Etudes and Studies = Spirit
The above works for me, one way that it allows me to is how my primary routine (or first 30-40 minutes of the day is structured, not as a warm up, but as a real working session that hits all the basic facets of horn playing). So that is how I assigned my work into the app, up next, the insight.
Some insights from the tracking
First off I didn't track everything I did, only things that felt warranted, that means were they specific to a goal on hand. Mind blow, at first I wasn't tracking a ton, over time (we are talking a few days here) I started to realize that I had let my practice habits slack a bit. I get it... it's the middle of the season, lots of gigs with the Symphony, Jazz, New music, and more teaching than I can do... those were my excuses for going through the motions, or just getting in the reps. What this meant was I started to plan more concisely and set more small goals along the way. Outcome, better practice.
Second, this whole teaching all the time and running between gigs encouraged a sort of "fitting it in when I can" practice. With the tracking I started to notice the bulk of my work fell into the Strength (mainly from my primary session) and Intellect categories (mainly intellect because of scales, if I am being truly honest). I was getting in the Social skill just because of rehearsals, but my drone work had slipped (even though i have cello drones, and the intonation repair tool on my tablet, and I always have headphones on me...)
Why that matters?
It matters to me as a player because I wasn't doing myself justice, and I was treading water and wasting time. I think having a diverse and fluid primary session was really, at the end of the day, the only thing keeping me afloat. So with all of this new information I started carving out time differently, assigning more specific tasks, and making sure I started focusing on the stats in EpicWin that were the lowest to make sure they were represented in my daily focus work in a specific manner.
I started this app as a way to explore adding a game element to practice, simply that. Though going through the process of setting it up forced me to really do some serious self-evaluation in not only my playing, but through what lens' I saw my playing (the 5 track able stats). Then by using the app consistently trends developed. Anyone who trains for anything (I myself am training for some really long Alpine Climbs) can tell you, data is essential when it comes to progress. The value of this app will really be in how you use it. I was personally amazed how much it offered me, and I do continue to keep using it for now.