Keeping a practice log is an easy way of measuring the quantity, and quality, of our work. A good journal should have just enough detail to adequately provide tools for long-term self-assessment. An example of a single session might look like this:
Thursday May 11
15 minutes: Long tone exercise, B-flat with drone (no tuner)
40 minutes: Scale routine, all keys. 16ths @ quarter = 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110, and 120
30 minutes: Etude #34, focussing on difficult passage with trills, still under-tempo
5 minutes: break (for smashing)
20 minutes: music for upcoming band concert
30 minutes: Improvising eighth notes on "All The Things You Are" (Q = 80, 90, 95)
Over time, your entries can be viewed as a summary of your practice. If you are frustrated, for instance, that your articulation is sloppy, get a reality check from your log about exactly how much, and how often, you really practice articulations. Usually, we discover that our problems are a result of relative neglect. However, if you are practicing something a lot and without success, it is time to try a new way of addressing the problem.
Try making an additional note in your practice log whenever you get severely frustrated. (Maybe you could draw a little picture of Practice Monster!) Look for patterns that cause the monster to emerge, and build strategies for keeping your cool in the shed - more on that in a future post.
I require most of my students to email me their daily practice logs. In the recently completed school year, I collected around 1,600 individual entries . . . well over 4,000 hours of practice. Practice Monster SMASH!!!