Practicing music for hours every day is a big commitment, especially when advancements and breakthroughs are not linear, to say the least! You might be feeling unfulfilled and unsure of how much progress you are actually making. You are practicing in between gigs, but you find it very hard to see if you are getting better or not. This is where keeping a musician’s practice journal comes in. Similar to going to the gym where you keep track of your routine and how much you are lifting, keeping a log of all of your practices can greatly benefit you as a musician.
Documentation of Progress
Essentially, keeping a log of your practices is all for one thing, to keep track of how much progress you are making. Keeping track of your trials and accomplishments over a period of time is similar to regular journaling where you would record the day’s events.
What you document can and most likely will differ from musician to musician, depending on personal goals and ambitions, but certain strategies can be beneficial when overall progress is the ultimate goal. If you are having difficulties with a particular exercise, document it, but make sure to document exactly what you are having an issue with. Stay away from “this exercise is hard” and try to be more specific like “my left hand feels clumsy on the ascending climb.”
This will easily allow you to identify any progress with the problem in the future, once all entries are accurate and specific. Be honest with yourself! After recognizing the problem, it can be helpful to also make a note at the end of your session, “still having trouble with my left hand on the ascending limb, try again tomorrow!” You will be surprised how often you can come back to something you have an issue with and then nail it the next day.
This is basically how to keep a detailed musician’s practice journal, and now you have a detailed log of your progression from day to day, which can be invaluable when you are struggling. You will experience a level of satisfaction you haven’t had before thanks to journaling.
Keeps Practice Structured and Scheduled
You set your own schedule when you are practicing as a musician. This might sound great, but anyone that has tried to set their own schedule (and stick to it) will know how hard it is. When you have to motivate and be strict with yourself, it is so easy to get distracted, even just by fiddling with your instrument and not practicing properly.
That’s not always the worst thing, and the goal here is not to be utilitarian strict with yourself, but generally, the most effective strategy is to have structured practice sessions. If you are journaling, this becomes a whole lot easier.
Before you start your session, one thing you can do is plan it out in your journal first. The structure that you use should be in line with your goals, particular instrument, and the time you have set out. One thing that can also be helpful is to set timers on your phone, to ensure that you stick to the set schedule. Again, if there is no time limit it can allow you to procrastinate!
Journaling in this sense can make your practices more efficient and allow you to hit your goals faster. Remember, while the traditional way to journal is to have some sort of physical journal and write things down, the same effect can be made by digital notes or even recordings.
Journaling Allows for Easy Reflection
Setting goals is an important process when you are trying to improve at anything in life, and music is no different. Your goals can be anything, from learning three new songs that week to mastering one skill per week.
This brings about another benefit of journaling, easy reflection over the progress you have made. With a structured, detailed journal, it is simple to see how many goals you have hit previously, and the progress you are currently making towards your goals. To say this is rewarding is an understatement! If you are just thinking about past achievements, they might not seem so impressive, but with journaling, you can almost be transported back to the time when that goal was really important for you.
There is also no more guessing if you have made any progress, it is all recorded in black and white, no more trying to remember. The journal doesn’t lie!
It’s A Motivational Tool
You might have made this connection already, but making progress often means more motivation. There is nothing more disheartening than thinking that you are going nowhere with something, and that is why journaling can be such a simple yet effective tool.
When you get used to the journaling process, you will find that you can accomplish more in less time. This is common when journaling as you are keeping yourself accountable and optimizing your process constantly. You will find what works and what doesn’t, and you don’t have to try and remember anything because it is all recorded for you.
If you are thinking about taking up journaling and keeping your own practice journal, ByteLyfe’s micro journaling app can help! It gives you an accessible journal that you can take with you on the go, and its tagging system allows you to keep track of everything (notes, recordings, feelings, etc.) on your phone. To find out more, visit their website.