Music is an emotional, physical and mental activity.
When you are practising an instrument or singing, you can observe your responses to learning on these levels and use your insights to formulate the best way for you to progress.
The Music Made Easy Practice Diary is like a map and documents your learning experience helping you to stay motivated.
When you use the Diary you will create your own learning map and with this you will be able to navigate your music journey, giving you a greater chance of arriving safely at your various destinations.
If you are going to adjust the template, please make sure you consider these essential points.
1. A list of exercises
I have included some of the exercises I use for my students. There are various others and you will likely have some of your own to include.
The exercises which will always need to be practised, such as rudiments and scales, should actually be printed in the Diary.
These exercises are practised at different levels, for example faster or with more complex technique, but they are a constant in the routine, no matter how advanced a student is.
It is useful to put the exercises into one of the five main categories of music but you may need to change these categories depending on the instrument you are teaching.
For example, if you teach percussion, harmony would not be one of the main aspects your student needs to learn.
By dividing exercises into the main music aspects for your instrument you are making sure that the learning taking place covers foundations and are constantly being maintained.
Of course, some activities do have the capacity to exercise more than one area of music at the same time. For example, scales with metronome is not only a technical exercise, it is also a harmonic and rhythmic exercise, so it is up to you in which category you wish to place it.
2. Space for individual exercises
To ensure the Diary can cater to individual needs and varying skill levels, each category of exercises has some blank space where you can write down additional activities depending on student needs.
Having space for this means the Diary is a flexible resource and can be used from beginner to advanced levels.
3. Tutorial notes
How many times have students said that they would know how to practise after a lesson but once they got home they were not able to because they forgot how?
We forget 70% of all newly learned information within the first 24 hours . That’s why revision is such an important part of teaching and learning.
Using the Diary to make notes from the lesson gives the student clarification on how to do exercises when they are practising at home.
You can also use this section of the Diary to write the names of other resources or dates of concerts and any other relevant information your student needs.
The fact that these important notes are kept in one book means you and your student can look back and know what happened in the last lesson, giving you a better idea of how to continue in the next lesson.
4. Reflective journal
Encouraging your students to reflect every week on what is happening for them in music ensures you are helping them to develop self-evaluation and problem-solving skills.
Try to encourage your students to do this work as deeply as possible.
Their reflections give you insight into what is happening emotionally for them and will aid you in supporting their learning more effectively.
Some students may have difficulty reflecting but you can help them with this during the lesson by discussing points they have brought up and asking relevant questions.
I think it is also important that students know that they won’t disappoint you and get ‘in trouble’ if they don’t practise.
If you find a student is not practising, try to find out why and help them set realistic goals which may be just playing for five minutes every day.
Often questions arise during the week, which if not written down, may never get asked by your student.
This column provides a convenient space for them to write these down.
Basically, this space in the Diary is for your student to write notes for themselves including anything from what page they are up to in a textbook, or what key they practised that day to remembering what to put on their shopping list.
Providing them with a space to write these things means they don’t have to leave their practise and interrupt their concentration to write anything down, or worry about forgetting something.
6. Practice Outline
This should be filled out approximately every 12 practice breaks (at the conclusion of the Diary).
The discoveries you make here will give you a clear outline of what has been achieved and where your students are heading.
By reading back through all reflections and notes made in the Diary and summarising what has been achieved, what has been realised and what hasn’t been completed yet or needs revisiting, you will be able to see clearly learning which has taken place, where you are presently and where you need to go in the future.
When you have made the appropriate notes on the Practice Outline, tear out this page and place it at the front of the next Practice Diary so it can be referred to for direction in future.
This is one reason it is important to encourage students to reflect, because by doing this work they can become conscious of their achievements and be able to see where they are heading.
Filling out this page often creates a sense of accomplishment and excitement for the student, providing a powerful motivation.
7. Your Practice
“In order to grasp the fantasies which were stirring in me “underground,” I knew that I had to let myself plummet down into them, as it were. I felt not only violent resistance to this, but a distinct fear. For I was afraid of losing command of myself and becoming a prey to the fantasies – and as a psychiatrist I realized only too well what that meant. After prolonged hesitation, however, I saw that there was no other way out. I had to take the chance, had to try to gain power over them; for I realized that if I did not do so, I ran the risk of their gaining power over me. A cogent motive for my making the attempt was the conviction that I could not expect of my patients something I did not dare to do myself.” - Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung, p178
As teachers, we don’t always practise what we preach but I think we should at least practise.
I included this quote from Carl Jung because I think he had made a very important point.
How can we expect our students to work and reflect using the Practice Diary, if we don’t have the experience of using it ourselves?
In order to create and optimise this resource, I urge you to use the Diary for your own work in order to experience the outcome.
You may be happy with it or you may not, but one thing is for sure, you will learn something about yourself and your relationship to music.
Most likely you will be positively surprised by the outcomes, as I have myself.
If you are not surprised, you will gain confirmation that the work you are doing is leading you where you wish to go.
Either way, the Diary gives you cognition of your processes. If you can truly see what is happening for you, you have more ability to choose your outcomes and if you can do this for yourself, you can help your students do it for themselves too.
As teachers, we share our creative individuality and we will all have discovered ways to pass on music. What is important is that we don’t feel there is only one way to do this.
For as much as we are individual and creative, so are our students and it is our role to interact and encourage the exploration of the music within each learner, to have fun with them and let them guide us to their own achievements as much as we guide them.
Implementing the Practice Diary as a flexible teaching resource, including the above suggestions, provides us with an accessible method of encouraging our students to become independent and active in their learning journey.
It means we can be more effective and it makes teaching music easier for us, and learning easier for them.