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[Practice Tips Video] Plan, Play, Repeat: How to Use a Practice Journal

Leighann Hodgkins

February 1, 2018

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Have you ever sat down to practice and wondered, "what did I work on yesterday?" and not even know where to start? Or, have you ever got totally immersed in your scales and arpeggios, only to look up at the clock after a half hour and think, “where did the time go?”

OK, maybe not so much on the scales :)

But you get the idea… we ALL do this from time to time. And while it’s fine (and sometimes even great) to just explore your instrument and chill in an easy, fun way, if you’re serious about growing and getting better, you have to approach your music study with structure and a system.

We’re all familiar with the adage, “What gets measured gets done.” Your practice journal is where you’ll record and track your progress each day. Just like having the proper set-up on your instrument, a metronome, and a tuner, a practice journal is an essential tool. You can find a number of good practice journals with templates on Amazon, but a simple notebook is all you need to get started.

OK, right now you may be thinking, “Ugh, you’re telling me that I have to write a bunch of things down and keep track of them everyday.” But… it can be really simple and easy, and totally worth it. I promise!

Here are three ways to use a practice journal each day:

1. Record your goals 

What are you working on today? Be specific: “Two octave scales warm-up on D major and b minor. Practice the A section of my new piece slowly. Play all the way through my favorite song 2 times without stopping.”

2. Record your actions

“My instructor said that I was rushing through the beginning of my new piece, so I slowed it down on my metronome.” Write down, “played with metronome set at 80.” On this step, you’ll want to record your actions on paper, AND record your playing on your phone and listen back to it.

3. Record your results

How did it go? Write down your thoughts. “80 was still too fast for me, so I slowed it down to 60 and that was a lot better - try for 70 or 80 tomorrow.”

Although keeping and using a practice journal everyday may be a little challenging at first, after a couple weeks of consistent use, you’ll definitely notice a difference in your playing. Just stick with it until it becomes a habit, and you’ll be all set!

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