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How to Journal Like a Pro For Musicians



Did you know journaling improves mental health? Yeah, there's research on that. And I see it in my students every day.


Elite athletes eat, sleep, train and keep a journal.  Among musicians, or artist athletes as I like to call them, it’s catching on.  It turns out that using paper to track our thoughts, ideas, and habits is a hallmark habit of top performers in almost any field from mountain climbers to start-up entrepreneurs.


Journals organize our work. They allow us to see how we have been spending our time and what the balance of our activities look like.  They create an archive of our best ideas, important concepts and our nose to the grindstone. When was the last time you used the metronome or listened to your piece? Check your journal. How many times did you perform last year? Check your journal. What practice tips for articulation have worked for you in the past? Check your journal. Are you pursuing musical ideas as much as technical training? Check your journal. Journals help tame the “repeat until you drop tendency” we all have and make our work more purposeful, simply by keeping track of what we are doing on a daily basis.


Tips on Keeping a Journal


Less is more.

Volume is not the name of the game. Jot down your practice activities in enough detail to know the what, when and how, but don’t overwhelm the page or yourself. You are more likely to stay on track if you write less, but every day.


Use acronyms.

Shorthand puts the emphasis where it should be, on the process  Capture how, not just what. T=tuner V= video recorded myself RT= run-through.  Come up with your own secret code that is focused on practice methodology - HOW you are practicing.


Use framing.

Some of the most difficult practice work can give us a boost if we actually point it out. Played for a friend over zoom? Draw a frame around it. Practiced scales at a higher metronome marking. Draw a frame around it.


Balance.

Practice has four components. Technique, Pieces, Mental Practice, and Performance Practice. Aim to see all four make their appearance in the journal regularly.


Buddy Up.

Enlist a friend to journal at the same time and keep yourselves accountable. Inspire each other, trade practice tips, celebrate together the small victories of daily practice.


Full disclosure: Journaling is hard.


Not because we are lazy, but because a journal will inevitably confront us with our imperfection. You will see your missed days and blank pages, you’ll have a written track record of exactly when you fell off the horse or how you have been spinning your wheels.  But you will still get a lot more important stuff done and be a more deliberate practicer than you would otherwise. And living with our imperfections is a part of practicing resilience as a musician. Wobbling, doubt, stumbling on, forgiving yourself, valuing the process over the product - that is the work of a passionately driven musician.


 

What may surprise you is that people who keep journals tend to have more confidence and a greater belief in their own abilities. Journals can be curated workbooks (like The Practizma Practice Journal) or blank notebooks, but either way, journals allow us to make our work visible, to create little goal posts, and to internalize our progress. They remind us where we’ve come from and where we are going. Journals hold us accountable to ourselves and lead to more intentional work.  They make us more resilient. They can motivate and inspire us.


Put simply, they improve our mental health.



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If you're looking for a practice journal, check out Practizma: 16 Weeks of Empowerment, Efficiency & Joy For Musicians.




 













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