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Pauline Lerner

How to keep a practice log

December 28, 2006 at 9:04 AM

I did it! I started keeping a practice log. For a long time, I didn’t because I was afraid I’d feel bad because I don’t practice enough. I’ve found that the reverse is true. I give myself more credit for doing things when I’ve written them down.

What is practicing? If I play music just because I like it, does that count? Must I suffer to earn credit? What about goals? I’m not a professional musician and I’m not taking lessons, so I don’t have exams, auditions, or lessons to prepare for. I do prepare for orchestra rehearsals and gigs, and I work on tunes for jamming. What about the days when I spend several hours playing with other people, either rehearsing with written music or jamming without it? I don’t think of this kind of playing as practice, but I do learn by playing with others. In fact, the only way to get good and stay good at jamming and improvising is to do these things frequently.

I’m finding that the greatest benefit of keeping a log is that I set goals for myself and monitor my progress. I’m doing for myself what I do for my students. I write down the exercises, etudes, and pieces that I work on each day, and I write notes like “needs more work” or “try … next.” This gives me focus. The written log also helps me keep a balance. I see what I’ve been doing a lot of and jolt myself into doing a greater variety of things.

Should I put a smiley face sticker in my log book when I’m pleased with something I’ve done?

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