Why You Should Have a Practice Journal

Logan Damery

Mon Aug 31 2020 | 7 Minute Read


Key Takeaways


How a Practice Journal Can Help

A practice journal is meant to help you organize your practice time and track your progress. It is a simple ritual that allows you to track habits, identify commonalities from session to session, and ultimately to make your practice time as effective as possible. It’s easy to practice skill sets that you either know you need to improve upon, or are already good at (independent of journaling), but logging and tracking allows you to identify hidden tendencies while simultaneously optimizing overall workflow. Stacking this with all the various benefits of private instruction will meaningfully move you in the direction of your goals.

Clarifying Your Path

We’ve all been there. We’ve all been in a situation where we don’t necessarily know what to work on next. “What should I practice today?” “What specific actions are going to help me achieve my goals?” These questions tend to arise when you don’t have a path for your practice times. This is where a journal comes in handy; one of the major benefits to journaling your practice sessions is clarity of thought. Whether you plan your practice sessions, or log your practice after the fact, tracking what you do during your practice sessions can remove the day to day stressors of practicing your instrument. 

How to Get Started

The most effective rituals in life tend to have low barriers to entry and starting a practice journal is no different. As long as you have some way to write things down, you’re good to go… it doesn’t get much simpler than that. If you’re new to journaling of any kind, a great place to start is by simply recording what you actually did rather than trying to start fresh on what you’re going to do. We suggest that everyone start by writing down what’s already happening in their sessions for an entire week without changing what they’ve been doing. Once you have some tangible data on yourself, identifying which aspects of your sessions need optimizing is a breeze.  After a few weeks of simply recording exactly what you did in each session, you should experiment with reversing it; plan a week's worth of practice ahead of time. Then all you have to do is evaluate and repeat!

Planning Ideas

If you are looking to get more out of your practice journal than just logging, here are a few methods you can use. These methods can work independently of each other but they are meant to work together:

  1. Objective/Goals - Functions as statement(s) in what you need to accomplish. i.e. Tempo goals, technique goals, etc. 
  2. Roadmapping - Time structured intervals that guide your practice session.
  3. To-Do List - Must do items to complete within your practice session.
  4. Musical Breakdowns - This can be used to write a “check” or skeleton of figures, chords, and/or patterns.
  5. Creative Variation - Experimenting with new, different variations can be transformative.  Write out different variations of patterns and chord voicings and try them out!
  6. Notes - Notes can be used to dissect your logs. Recording specific thoughts, feelings or actions that were impactful during your session can help you recall these sensations the next time you focus on that skill set or piece of music. 

You absolutely should have a practice journal of some kind. Planning your practice sessions and taking notes does not need to be complicated. It’s best to keep it simple to get the most out of your time.

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