Updated: Jul 26, 2022
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.
*Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links in it. I receive a small comission from purchases at no additional cost to the buyer. I only recommend products I would use and love and that are of good quality. All opinions are my own.
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!
Remember those days in your youth when your teacher will ask you to check your practice in tiny boxes on your assignment sheet?
There's good reason for it even though many of us never followed through with diligence, haha! Of course, for children, it takes a lot of hard work for parents to instill and establish this habit daily, but that's another post for another day.
Say if you were diligent enough, and if you did save and accumulate all those assignment sheets, how would you feel when you total up the checkmarks you did? I'm sure you will be very pleased to visually see how far you've come since day one!
Most importantly, you kept yourself accountable for your practice. No matter how much time you spent for each practice session, it counts because you were able to go to your instrument consistently.
3. Writing a Repertoire Checklist Keeps your Practice Session Efficient
If you are working on several repertoires, which most advanced level musicians do, a master checklist might be of more interest.
Project managers in various industries work this way and they have many visual tools like these to help them keep track of deadlines and goals. Efficiency and organization is the ultimate goal to achieve success!
The bullet journal, for me, is perfect for this as I can utilize the small square boxes to check off which pieces I worked on during each practice session.
Most importantly, before I start my practice I can do a quick scan on this list. I will know which piece(s) I have not touched for a while and might need a revisit soon.
This helps me keep organized with ongoing projects because it really shows me what's going on with my practice on a larger scale. I can also add more pieces as I go, and I left a few extra pages blank to continue it on if I run out of space.
I can effectively engage in planning out my practice for the next 45 minutes or hour so I can work efficiently. It also gives me a mental note as well on what I should consider working on at the next practice session.
Working smartly is more beneficial then just working hard aimlessly!
If there is one last thing I love about writing in a notebook is that you don't have to share it with the world. It's personal, private, and precious.
Social media can be very overwhelming, and at the end of the day, the goal is not to gain recognition from others (accumulating the likes and comments).
Besides, pulling out the phone, to record or post something, I find takes more time! With a simple notebook and pen, it is way less distracting especially if you want to work efficiently with the time at hand.
Don't get me wrong, recording a performance practice to look back at is good feedback for home practice. But for a daily practice log, I find screens and social media postings don't work too well, at least for me.
I hope you enjoyed this post and it has sparked some ideas to further enhance your practice sessions. If you are looking for a bullet journal to begin your writing adventures, I highly recommend this, which I currently use from Amazon:
I do steal a few of my kids' Crayola Washable Super Tip markers for coloring inspiration in the journal. They work so well and they don't bleed through these high-quality pages!
If you already have a journal going, feel free to share your thoughts about how it has improved your musical journey in the comments below.