Quickly Build A Great Filing System

filing cabinet

This might sound really boring, especially as you want to get on and play the guitar. But, – and it’s a big one. Having a system in place to file away all that you know will make you learn faster, cut down lost practice time as you’re not hunting for loose paper, enable you to review music/ideas/techniques easer and give you a clear picture what you’ve worked on – what’s still to come and what you have covered months or indeed years before.


So, do you see why it’s important to have a system?




How can we build a filing systems?

Firstly, don’t think of it as a formal library, where everything has to be in a rigid or proper order or even complete. It’s fine to add in scraps of paper with a few bars on it or a new chord voicing that you’ve scribbled down at the end of a lesson or in the middle of a gig or on the bus ride home.


What matters is that you are keeping everything you learn, together in some sort of order and each piece of paper matters in some way to your development and you get why it’s there. It really doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but one.


And, oh yeah, it’s best to have it all printed or written out – then you can take your folders and practice anywhere – before a gig, up a mountain, even in the middle of a power cut! That sounds ironic coming from me – being a kindle author but trust me paper is still worth it.


So how could we arrange what we have so far?



Musical Styles

We could start by filing by musical style. Each style could have its own folder or section even if you’ve got only a little to start with. We could spend time each month updating it and adding to it as well as reviewing what we’ve done. If you should run out of stuff to practice – you can always flick back a few pages and rediscover stuff you already know but haven’t touched for a little while.


It could be worth have a blank page or a separator to clearly mark out what’s still to be learned vs. what’s already been learned.


So we’ve grouped each style by style, and each one is in its own folder. What’s next?




Let’s start a chord library for all the guitar chords you know. It worth keeping a record of all the chords you know in a separate place, as well as having a mini chord book per style. This way you’ll know what you can use in general and what you can use for each style. You should avoid making any stylistic faux pas. Nice!


You should always be looking for new chords, different chord voicings and where you can use them. (See How To Learn New Chords for an in-depth step by step chord learning plan!)



Technical Workouts

If you’re one for workouts of the technically nature, it’s best to group all your pull-off exercises in one folder along with all your worksheets on ways to run up and down a scale quickly. That way if you’re feeling in need of a workout, you know exactly where to look.




It’s always worth playing with your guitar gear (plus we love new gear!!) and then writing down the really cool sounds you find. Forget all you know about signal paths and the correct way to do things and just go crazy!


By the way, take notes; even a few are worth it – that way you should be able to get close the next time you try.


This is really useful for if you are looking for some new guitar tones or are in the studio and want to experiment but don’t know where to start. You can always find new guitar tones, sounds and weird noise in your tone library.


If you’re anything like me, you won’t need any encouragement to mess with guitar gear (but you might need some to do some actual practice!) – But take it from me – get messing with some gear. (Ps. take notes!)



Theory and Harmony

I know this might make you yawn, but listen up! Knowing what notes a 7b9#11 chord has is important (sorry for the jazz chords!), especially if you are going to spend some time in each practice session on find new chord voicings.  The great thing is this, once you’ve written it out – you’ve done the work! You can then spend time having fun trying to come up with new chords voicings, knowing that you’ve written down a clear idea of what you’re looking for.  Remember, if you do find some new voicings, write them out!




Keeping a rhythm diary is a great idea. If you’re stuck on the train or in the car often, you could write down some of the interesting rhythm patterns you hear. Not only will this give you a load of stuff to practice, it will make your timing tighter and help to strengthen your internal metronome.


If you hear some songs in usual time signatures, you could write them out and the basic chord pattern. Then practice it up to tempo and make it part of your playing.


Running rhythm drills now and again is really important to maintain your sense of time, tempo and work on your inner metronome.



Ideas/half done

Keep a list of what you want to do next. Likewise file away anything that’s half worked out or written up, that way when you have a spare hour to work on something you can easily find a piece that needs some work and therefore you can maximise your time.


Remember to spend time each week on transcribing songs, licks, solos and ideas. Make sure you write it down, so you can review it later.



Simple filing!

I hope you can see that having a simple filing system can really change your guitar playing. It can help you spend time thinking about what to practice and more time actually practicing.


Also by filing everything away, you’ll be able to review what you worked on easier and quickly get back up to speed on ideas/song/techniques you’ve already learnt.

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