A while ago I started using a practice log. So far it’s been a great tool. It’s hard to get into at first, but once you get in the habit it’s hard to not use it.
In case you haven’t gotten the hint that practice logs are a good idea, here’s some reasons why you need to start a practice log today.
You Can’t Remember Shit.
You can’t fool me. I know. You sat down to practice yesterday and had no clue what you worked on the day before. If there was a metronome used, the tempo you worked up to is completely blank in your mind.
It’s hard to remember things. I don’t remember to buy things at the grocery store without a list; I have google calendar email me a reminder on people’s birthdays and anniversaries. One of the biggest issues with practicing is knowing where you’ve been and if what you’ve tried has worked. If that’s not written down somewhere chances are you will not remember it. And we have to think in terms of years too! If you can’t remember something for a week, what happens when you revisit a piece a year later?!
Practice Log = Focus
Ever sat down to practice and though, “well, I wonder what I should do today?” We’ve all been there. A practice log takes the questions out of the equation. What did I have trouble with during the last practice session? A practice log can help track these issues and focus your practice session in on them
Sometimes, while practicing, you’ll come up with an idea of how to practice something. Then you forget it. Write it down! I constantly keep notes about how to practice something. Notes on how to practice something can be simple or complex.
Along those same lines, when you’re practicing, you’ll notice things. Sometimes it’s a musical event or feature that you’ve never heard in the piece before. Keep track of that! This will let you explore those musical features later and bring them out or put them in the background. In short, keeping track of the little things you hear helps develop an interpretation
You’ll Know When it Feels Easy
I determine when a given section is improving when it starts to feel easy. All that work I’ve put in comes to fruition, and I know that my hands are being conditioned to do the musical and technical things I want. I track these sorts of general feelings in my practice log. There’s often notes like, “this feels easier today,” or, “still feels tense and awkward, more (insert practice method).” General senses about a piece are just as important as the little details. Often these general senses turn into longer term goals, “measure 9-12 feel very tense and hard,” turns into, “This week’s goal for (piece title): Utilize (practice method) and try to nail down measures 9-12.”
Goals on Paper.
While small events can give focus (see number one) and become a daily goals (like, “practice measure 1-2 with stop/go techniques”), broader goals, as in number four, are also important. Having a practice log provides you with a way to get those goals down and quantified. There’s several different levels to set goals for: daily (see number 1), weekly, 3-6 months, a year, etc. You might write a yearly goal on the first page of your log, so you see it every time. Weekly goals could be tracked on your day off from practicing: sit down, read what you did last week and if it worked, formulate some goals for the week to come.
A Venue to Write Yourself Angry Notes
Some days are bad days for playing guitar. Nothing works, everything is hard. To alleviate some of the tension on those days, I write myself angry notes. Mostly because it amuses me. These are days where my practice log includes things like, “This was terrible today, stop sucking.” Worth a try!
Why do you keep a practice log? Leave some more reasons in the comments!