March 9, 2012

Keeping a practice record

In high school, before bed each night, I’d write down how much time I spent practicing each instrument.  I’d go to school early each day and practice in the hall or in the band room before classes started.  If I had an empty class period, I’d practice during that.  At lunch, I’d eat quickly, and then practice.  And of course, after school, I’d practice.  It’s possible that I practiced more in high school than I have since.

In the last year and a half or so, I’ve tried to get back to a more serious practice routine.  I think one thing that’s helped is that I’ve learned to practice better than I did when I was younger.  Don’t get me wrong — practicing for hours and hours is great, especially for building strength and familiarity with the instrument, but a focused practice session can be even more rewarding for working on specific concepts.

Now, for the first time since high school, I’ve started keeping a practice record.  I’m not recording how much time I spend (although maybe I should be — I’m trying to incrementally increase the time, but it’s hard with a variable schedule), but rather what I practice.  Meaning, my practice log might say “Long tones on flute, Blues in 12 keys on alto with Maj7#5 substitutions on dominant chords.”  It’s part of my goal to have a more focused routine.  Instead of practicing something different each day, or practicing only one thing for a couple of weeks and neglecting other areas, I’m trying to focus in on a couple key concepts and hit them every day.  I’m also hoping that it’ll be something good to refer back to when I want to brush up on concepts that I’ve studied in the past.

The practice record doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  A blank book of manuscript paper works great.  That way, especially if there aren’t too many staves per page, you can write down what you were working on and notate any examples.