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Daily Practice Journal for Young Violinists

August 17, 2022, 9:52 AM · I'm shopping for a daily practice journal that I can recommend to my beginning violin students, particularly children and teenagers. I didn't use one during my formative years, and frankly, I don't know if I even need one at this point in my life. But I do see the value of using a log to record daily efforts and progress as a means of becoming more organized and efficient with one's practice time. Thank you for your suggestions and recommendations!

Replies (11)

August 17, 2022, 9:55 AM · I have used page-a-day A5 diaries. You can also get "journals" where you fill in the date. But I find I only use them a dozen or so times, then they become either superfluous or repetitive.
August 17, 2022, 4:57 PM · The issue I've had with this approach is that the students who would benefit the most from logging their practice are usually the ones who don't do it.

Meanwhile, the disciplined students are already practicing effectively, and don't really need to journal their efforts.

However, I do find it to be an effective way of proving to some parents that their child isn't practicing. "If you didn't write it down, it didn't happen."

So, I tend to only use this method when I suspect that a student isn't really practicing, but claims that they do. It's not that they're intentionally lying, but that they have an inflated idea of how much actual practice occurs within a week.

It's a lot like dieting, where once people start tracking their caloric intake, they realize how much or how little they actually consume.

August 20, 2022, 1:36 PM · Hi, I don’t have experience with this, but the few students I had simply didn’t practice as they were supposed to. My intuition tells me, though, that a journal wouldn’t have been very helpful. Either these students would get embarrassed by confessing how little they did, or they would have been forced to lie.

What DID help was: I made a very detailed list of what and how to practice. I made sure that they had to do very few repetitions, but with concentration. And I made an order of these exercises, such as “first, you do this finger exercise X, THEN you can play through that passage of the piece”. Miraculously, these exercises always addressed the main technical problem of the passage (or of one coming up a few weeks, later).
If they didn’t take much time to practice, they would at least improve just a little bit, instead of deteriorating.
If they were motivated to practice more, there would always be enough material.

In my experience, the brain is lazy. It is hard for kids (unless they are exceptionally ambitious) to analyze where the problems are and to come up with solutions. As a consequence, I tried to make it a no-brainer for them. Simply taking out the violin and the plan and do whatever was on, there. After reaching some intermediate level or simply a higher age, they were experienced and able to apply more by themselves.
Such a plan may very well include some exciting musical aspects of interpretation and expression, so it can be fun.

August 20, 2022, 5:07 PM · Here's something practical if you have a printer:

https://www.violinmasterclass.com/p/practice-schedule

Edited: August 20, 2022, 5:35 PM · For more mature / advanced students there is Practizma:
https://www.practizma.com/
But I have to say that Emily nailed it. I wish I had her for my childhood violin teacher. His advice was to play stuff through and "work on the hard parts." I had no idea how to spend my practice time, aside from that. I wonder if teachers regard the lesson-time spent generating these kinds of detailed instructions to be some kind of waste.
August 20, 2022, 6:51 PM · I suspect Emily F has the right of it.
August 21, 2022, 7:26 PM · I used a journal but I was a weird kid. I don't think it helped me much because even I didn't really know how to use it to its fullest. I doubt most kids would touch a journal.
August 21, 2022, 7:41 PM · But their parents might.
August 23, 2022, 2:26 AM · I find it useful, when primary school kids are doing unsupervised practice, to send a list of practice points with mtwtfss boxes to tick when they practice. It might include very specific things like g mj scale backwards 3x, or bar 14-28 in slow motion, depending on student.

I usually colourcode it to show whether they should concentrate on bowing, intonation, timing or expression, as we talked about in the lesson. I'll often include listening homework as well, so they can 'practice' while cleaning up their room.

Like Emily said, it's still only useful for motivated students.

August 23, 2022, 4:03 AM · my piano teacher in middle school used a practice journal. Another one of my teachers would occasionally give me a sheet with instruction, or simply write in the score/book of etudes.

A few years later I began making audio recordings of my lessons.

I suspect that an app would be the modern equivalent of a practice journal. (There are of course apps that can be used in the instruction process as well.)

August 23, 2022, 8:37 AM · Motivation. Is it internal or external? Short term or long term? As a manager in business I struggled for years to find a method to motivate the people who reported to me.

I finally looked into the mirror and questioned what motivated me. There was the answer - when I set goals for me I usually accomplished them. When they were external avoidance crept into the mix.

Since I retired and, to the vexation of some professional musicians, started teaching young people how to play, I get the young musician to set their own goals. Those usually focus on a particular "song" or event where they are internally motivated. Then I use that to teach the skills necessary to achieve the goal.

I cannot say that my approach is 100% effective in music or business but I would say that it is effective in the mid 90% range.

A journal/log/diary is a useful tool for those who will use it and where it is, it is an effective tool.

This is where I love the Hal Leonard "101 tunes" books for violin. I find songs that the young musician wants to play and that becomes the goal. Sometimes it doesn't work or the goal is too complex for the level that the young musician is aiming for and has to be delayed.

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