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Music Journal Reviews!



I recently went down the rabbit hole trying to find music practice journals for my students. There are so many out there and not all are created equal! After many hours sorting through reviews and sample pictures, I ended up ordering six to try; here are some details about each one, along with an age group recommendation.


Music Practice Log: Assignments Book for 52 Weeks


This journal includes pages for:


Repertoire List


The next pages are organized in sets of three. The first page in each group includes boxes for:


Lesson date

This week’s focus

Scales & Warmups

Etudes and Exercises

Repertoire

Other/Notes


Pages two and three in each set contain 7 boxes for daily practice notes:

Date

Mins Practiced

Focus for Today


and a Weekly Summary to mark time practised.


I like the clear layout and the pinpoint “focus for today” prompt, as well as the weekly overview so things don’t get forgotten. I don’t really like the “mins practiced” field, as I’d rather my students focus on “goals achieved”, but that’s easy enough to switch in a lesson. Overall, the layout is workable, but the pages look as if they were originally in colour and then ended up as a black and white print instead - the headings for each box/category are a bit muddled looking.



Best fit: older teen or adult who prefers to focus on one element per practice session, or needs little in the way of prompting during a session.


Flute Practice Journal: 100 Page Planner


Every page in this planner is the same, and includes the following fields:

Date

Start Time

Finish Time

Total Time


Main focus of this practice session

Goals for this session

For next session

Repertoire

Scales/Studies

Resources

Notes


Single staff


This journal doesn’t include a lesson summary page, but gives a more detailed breakdown of the daily practice session. With each page devoted to a day, it would last about a term for a student who’s practising daily; a less-dedicated student could use it for a year.


I like that the journal encourages the student to keep track of each element in detail; with the “Scales/Studies” box right in front of you, it’s hard to say, “oops, I forgot I had to work on G# minor this week”. I also like that a blank staff is included, so a student can write out their own warm-ups or an articulation exercise, etc. Bonus points for having a picture of a flute on the cover and the word "flute" in the title! Again, I dislike the time keeping aspect of practice, but I do like the goal focus in this one. I miss having a weekly lesson notes page to refer back to.



Best fit: older teen or adult who likes a straightforward one-page-per-day approach to note taking.


The Best Music Practice Journal for Beginners: 100 Days of Effective Practice (Spencer)


This journal starts out with a quick note on goal setting, and has the student set five goals for the 100 days. The following pages are labelled Day 1 - 100, and have a section for two activities per day. For each activity, the student is asked to:


Set a time goal

Indicate time actually practised

Identify what is working

Identify ideas on how to improve

Mark where they are on a Speed Checklist (50 - 220)

Activity 1 has a set minimum time of five minutes, Activity 2, two or five minutes, with a checkbox to show if you made it.


I like that this book really makes the student drill down and identify the sticking points in their practice. If they’re trying to get a section up to speed, they have the chance to check in and say, “bars 1-14 are at 90% but I’m stuck on 15 and 16”.


This book also has a time clock, but I like that it’s so short (two minutes!) and mainly serves to get them started - the step that most students find the biggest challenge. A good use for a clock!


If you have a student who is working on a major exam or full recital, this journal doesn’t really have enough space to record all the details. But it would be an excellent tool for developing solid, transferable practice habits.



Best fit: no-nonsense older teen or adult


The Music Student’s Practice Journal: Tracking Your Artistry for Success (Ellis/Dorrough)


This journal begins with the student laying out 3 long-term goals, then breaking each goal down into 3 steps. From there, pages include:


Memory Goals list

Weekly Practice Assignment (43)

Student Practice Log (43)

Staff paper (8)


The layout of the pages in this journal is clear, crisp and looks professional. Each Weekly Practice Assignment page has lots of room for writing lesson assignments (one box each for Date/Technique Goals/Repertoire Goals/Music Theory & small staff/Other Reminders). This page faces the Student Practice Log, which includes a weekly chart broken down by day with multiple columns for recording time practised. A space is left for the student to record a Practice Reflection, and Questions for the Teacher.


I like the look of this journal a lot; it is simple and clear, and the prompt to keep track of questions is great. It reminds me a bit of those little yellow, sideways notebooks that were the only lesson notebook on the market about 20 years ago! Again, I’d rather the time chart was a “did I reach my goals” chart, but that’s easy enough to change.

Best fit: older kids, teens, and adults who prefer playing to writing about playing!


Purpose in Practice Journal: A Six-Month Daily Practice Journal for Musicians (Hall)


This is the most artistic journal of the bunch. Filled with black and white illustrations and motivational quotes, the inside is just as busy-looking as the cover. The breakdown of contents is:


Your Week and a Glance / Goals for the Week (26 weeks)

Daily Goals

Total Practice Time

Notes

Habit Tracker


Lesson Notes

Repertoire I Worked on this Week

Week in Review

What Went Well

What I Can Do Better


On the “Your Week at a Glance” page, the student is encouraged to write out their goals for the week (space for 15) and break them down into a daily plan. On the daily goals/practice notes page, space is left for five goals, total practice time and general notes. There are two days per page, and at the bottom of each day is a “Habit Tracker Pie”. Each wedge of the pie is an element to focus on in the session - Warm Up, Boot Camp (slow practice), Listen to Music, Technique, Dynamics & Expression, Metronome, 3 Times Perfectly Rule and Record Yourself.


This book is full of great ideas, and great for pinpointing focus in a practice session. I especially like the "Habit Tracker" idea as a reminder to the student that there are many different elements to focus on in the same passage. The book is a quite busy in the layout, but if you have an artsy student, they might like it better than the simpler layout of the other journals. The weekly lesson notes are in one big block instead of separated by topic, so that can be less clear at a glance than in the other books, but a few indents or coloured pens, and that’s not a problem!



Best for: older teen or adult who enjoys having a detailed record to work from, and enjoys a highly-decorated page.



My Flute Practice Journal: Weekly Flute Lesson Assignment Book for Kids (EDventure)


A cute, cheery book with a flute illustration on the front, what’s not to love?


Contents include:


My Repertoire List

My Starting Point

The Year Ahead


Practice Log (13 months):

The Month Ahead

Lesson Recap

Practice Plan

Weekly Recap

Monthly Check-in

The Year in Review


Reference Section:

Fingering Chart

Musical Terms

Notes

Staff Paper


This journal starts with a two-page spread to keep track of the student’s repertoire, including composer’s name, date finished, and whether the piece has been memorized. The next two pages give the student a chance to reflect on what they’re currently feeling good about, what they find challenging, and what they want to improve on/learn during the year ahead.

The first page in the Practice Log section has them set goals for the month. Following that, there are four 2-page spreads containing their lesson notes and practice notes. The lesson recap gives the student a space to record what you worked on, what went well, what was challenging, their main goal for the week ahead, teacher comments and four music staves.

Under the Practice Plan, there are eight small boxes to write down what to practice, one thing to focus on, and notes to colour in for each day the student works on the item. At the bottom, there is a place to record your practice time each day, and then to recap what went well, what was challenging, questions/comments and a parent signature.


At the end of each monthly section, there is a page to record what the student is proud of and their biggest challenge. In between sections, there is a puzzle or colouring page. At the very end, the student brings it all together with a “Year in Review” page.


At the very back of the journal, a fingering chart is included (C1-C4, C-foot flute), a Glossary of Musical Terms, the answers to the puzzles, six pages of general note paper and six pages of staff paper. I wish the fingering chart included the thumb B-flat instead of or in addition to the long B-flat, but that creates an opportunity to talk about alternate fingerings in a lesson!


Overall, this is my favourite practice journal of the lot, and it didn’t say “for kids” on the front, I’d have all of my students working out of it. I love that there is flute-specific information included, and that there is a mini musical glossary. Overall, the author(s?) have done a fantastic job keeping things clear, concise and usable.

Best for: everyone not concerned about using a book with “for kids” on the front!


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