Journals, diaries, notebooks, workbooks, or whatever you call them, documenting your progress and thoughts makes good practice sense along the musical journey. I keep a music journal wherein I document my trials, tribulations, and successes in my music practice. I record such things as what works and what doesn’t; feedback form my music sensei; and my growth as an aspiring musician.
In addition to a music journal, I maintain a music workbook, wherein I may sketch a phrase of notes to experiment with during an upcoming practice session, capture a mood or feeling by laying down a few stanzas of poetry that might carry potential as lyrics to a song I have germinating in my head, or ideas for further exploration. As the name implies, it’s a workbook intended to be used before and during my practice sessions. Unlike the music journal, my music workbook is an analogue device; it requires paper and pencil in order to effectively operate.
Every few months I like to review older entries in my journals and workbooks to discover how far I’ve come in my practice, where my improvements have been, and what still lingers as uncorrected problems. I especially notice the increased usage of music terminology to describe elements of my playing, questions to ask my teacher, and growth as a practitioner. The mere act of writing about my musical journey satisfies a need to know where I’ve been, where I am, and where I need to go next as I seek the Way through music. Writing has proven to be an essential element in my overall training as a musician, and it further complements communication through the language of music.
“I detected additional improvement in playing the [G7, C7, D7] chords in my early PM practice session. I used a practice tip from my music sensei whereby I shape a chord and hold it until fatigue sets in, which is about 60 seconds for me at this time. The theory is that by holding the shape muscle memory is stimulated. He suggested doing this while reading or watching TV, instead I use the exercise to meditate. I also observed that my strumming is improving and is lighter, more carefully controlled, almost pleasant at times when strumming the open strings or when I have a chord fingered just right.”
—Excerpt from my Music Journal,
September 4, 2012