Saturday, December 12, 2009

Keeping a Practice Journal

    Ok this time I really am going to write about keeping a practice journal.  As I said before, keeping a journal such as this is something that I've always considered.  Well, now I am keeping one.  Since it's been going well so far, I will share with you what exactly I've been doing with it and how I've been tracking my progress.

    The size of the journal I'm using is roughly 4"x 6", small enough to fit in my shirt pocket, although I am thinking about using a larger one to record more detailed accounts of what I practice.  Size of a journal is a big deal for me.  I don't have a car so I skate everywhere and I can't be carrying a bulky book with me, it's just not practical.  Therefore, a pocket-sized journal is ideal.

    When I record something in the journal, I am generally taking note of 3 things:

  1. What I'm practicing, i.e. the F melodic minor scale, triads, playing a tune, etc...  
  2. How long I practiced it
  3. The tempo
    This method of journal keeping can be very rewarding and motivational.  Many times we can not see any kind of notable improvements in our abilities.  This is because the improvements that do happen are too small to notice and happen over longer and longer periods of time as you improve.  Recording your abilities every day will enable you to see every little improvement and when you can see yourself improving on the day-to-day level, you will want to practice more.

    Maintaining motivation only accounts for part of the benefits of keeping a journal.  The best thing you can gain from it is the ability to look under the hood of your technique, so to speak.  You can zero in on every little aspect of your playing from something as obvious as note choice over a particular chord, down to the (not so obvious) angle at which you hold the pick.  You can take note of everything and look at it later.  It's a great thing to analyze these fine points in your playing because it gives you the ability to fine-tune your technique which will help you develop your unique voice on your instrument.

    I mentioned that I might get a larger notebook as well.  My pocket-sized notebook works well when I'm practicing somewhere other than my house, which happens frequently, but there's not much room for detail without using multiple pages.  It would be nice to have a larger notebook at home to copy the entries from the smaller journal into with all the detail I care to write.

    The whole practice journal idea has helped me a lot, and I'm sure it will help you, too.  It's one more tool to help you get to where you want to be: a better musician!  The best part is that it's so easy.  You don't even have to add any extra time to your day to fill one out .  Just fill it out while you practice and the next time you head to the woodshed you already know what to work on.

    Perhaps this has inspired you to start a practice journal.  Perhaps it hasn't.  Either way, Go Practice!

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