Updated: Jul 26
When it comes to practicing an instrument, you may feel like writing notes in a journal about your practice session can be tedious.
Even though it can feel like it is an extra thing to do, you may be surprised to know that your brain could be missing out on the benefits of downtime, or in other words a moment for active self-reflection.
We live in a world where we can easily lose track of information, when we move quickly from one activity to another.
Not to mention, these days we are so in tuned with screen devices that our minds don't often get a good break.
Scientifically, it has been proven that hand writing notes can bring many benefits in terms of learning comprehension, focus and memory as compared to typing something out on a keyboard/screen.
A simple pen and paper activity can also be a very refreshing outlet for creativity, relieving stress or anxiety by allowing the mind to unload information onto a physical space - paper.
Today, I will write about three reasons music practice journaling can elevate your learning and keep you engage for a long time.
I use a bullet journal for my own practice, but you don't necessarily have to use one. You can definitely use a lined notebook or sketchbook if you like to draw. Just make sure it's something that you will see and use each time.
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1. Music Journaling Improves Focus
A common misconception with music journaling is the lengthy writing of essays in pages each time.
In actual fact, it is the summarizing that is the beneficial part of the activity when it comes to writing.
This self-reflection, especially right before and after practicing a piece, does not require 10-minutes of your time, but rather just a couple of minutes to pen down where you're at, what you did, how you felt, or just some quick thoughts on what to do next.
This transfer of information from brain to paper, is so effective in helping one to focus on all the juicy information that the mind has experienced in a practice session. Not only does this improves your memory, it also helps you get organized and prioritized.
At the advanced levels where you may take months or years to work on learning longer pieces, such as a Sonata or a challenging piece such as Chopin's Ballade, it's a great visual to see how far you've come since day one. This can help you stay focus on the motivation to keep going even when the going gets tough.
In my teaching years, I experimented with having students take their own notes in the last couple of minutes of lessons.
This was especially prominent during the pandemic lockdown periods where we had to do online lessons. For me to type and email notes to 17 different students was a huge amount of work!
I saw increased memory attention with my students for what they need to practice for the week - there were less "I forgot to do this". Most importantly, I saw engaged, and focused students who were able to have a conversation with me as they summarize what they learned, and what they need to work on at home.
The best part, after a few times, the habit was instilled, and my students, as young as 7 years old started writing notes all by themselves!
2. Drawing A Tracker by Hand Keeps You Accountable
Have you heard of the 100 days or 365 days of practice challenge on Instagram? This is exactly it, except you don't need to deal with the distractions of social media with the pen and paper method. And that means more efficient time in your practice session, a win-win!