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Five Reasons to Start Practice Log (Today)

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.

  1. 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?!

  2. 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

  3. Crazy Ideas.

    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

  4. 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.”

  5. 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.

Bonus Reason:

  • 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!

16 Responses leave one →
  1. 2009 June 23

    Very good thoughts here. I’m wondering if you are using any particular software for your log?

    • 2009 June 23

      I’m just using a notebook. I suppose a simple text editor could work well, or a free blogspot or wordpress.com blog.

  2. 2009 June 23

    I think I will set up a wiki for myself. I can see how having a small notepad with you when you practice would be useful for some of the things you mention.

  3. 2009 June 23
    Sara permalink

    Pretty cool post. I just came across your site and wanted to say
    that I’ve really liked reading your blog posts. In any case
    I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you write again soon!

  4. 2009 June 23

    You may find http://www.staffnotes.net/fretnotes useful for a practice log.

  5. 2009 June 25
    Cary Terry permalink

    Dan, that is awesome! Thanks!

  6. 2009 June 27

    Just plain excellent, The best reason is #1.

  7. 2009 June 27

    I’m glad you like it Cary.

    If anyone has any ideas for a practice log layout that they would find useful, let me know…
    I can design it for you for free, and you can keep it as a printable file. 🙂

    staffnotesonline@gmail.com
    or
    @FreeStaffNotes on Twitter

  8. 2009 July 17

    Just came across your blog. Great suggestion. I definitely need the discipline. I actually started a blog just to track my progress as a new player… adding practice logs to it may help me stay motivated to practice and to keep the logs.

    I’ll be subscribing to your blog.

  9. 2010 June 3

    some excellent advice Chris as most practicing is not very efficient.

    Will

  10. 2011 February 23

    Good blog! I’ve just started playing guitar so this is all very interesting.
    Do you have an example of one of your practice logs that you can show us
    so we can see how you format it? Thank you!

    • 2011 February 23

      Generally, I just use a note book. Put the date at the top, time spend practicing on the left. Then what I practiced on the right. Below the “what I practiced” section I put notes about what I think would work better for further practicing.

  11. 2011 April 6

    Thanks Dan! I spent a long time looking for these types of local bookshops here in vain.

  12. 2011 June 14
    SomeOldGuy permalink

    You Can’t Remember Shit = me

    I think a Practice log is a cool idea.

    I’m going to start one… thx

  13. 2012 January 11
    Jim z permalink

    Very good explanation, I may try to do.

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