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Importance of Practice Logs and Goals

What a beautiful day in South San Francisco Bay Area to practice and teach the violin! This is my first of many routines Blogs on Thomasyee.net, especially since I will be away for half of the summer. Now that the summer has rolled in, it is time to rethink strategies and practice routines! I encourage visitors and my students to visit here often for advice when I'm away. In return, I will dedicate a majority of my blogs to pedagogy and practice.

One thing I encourage everyone to do is to purchase a digital timer that can act as a stopwatch. You can find these easiest online; most stores don't carry timers that count up. You'll want to have a timer that is user friendly, and one place where you can find a great one online is at http://www.techinstrument.com/acatalog/Timers.html and it is product #TI872 Big Digit Desktop Timer with Clock. You'll be doing yourself a favor when you can easily track literally how much time you're practicing each day. Then a quick jot down on a notebook or lesson sheet will allow you to know if you're doing enough on a daily and weekly basis to further your studies on the violin!

The proper thing to do is to decide a goal for the month. How much time can I devote each day to practicing? Be sure to weigh in work schedule, school, family activities, etc. For example, you could decide that 1 hour a day is a minimum, but you would like to log in 10 hours a week on violin. That would mean on a few other days, you would need to log in double or an additional 30 minutes.

NEVER practice more than an hour at a single session! Over practice can result in tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome, which several hamper your ability to use your hands. Allow your body to have a break, then resume the clock after you've taken a 10-15 minute break if you're trying to practice more than an hour a day. For example, if you're practicing 1 1/2 hours, split the time in 45 minute increments, or an hour + break + 30.

Now to apply this method, have the timer nearby away from the stand and silence the cell phone. Actual productive practice time is key to this. Start the timer once you begin practice, and stop it the moment you decide to put the instrument down or take break. A trip to the restroom also amounts to a stop in the timer. This will give you actual practice time, rather than "Oh, I have an hour to practice" and proceed to waste half of it getting your instrument out slowly, tuning, taking a phone call, getting distracted by someone else around, etc. You may find that these distractions can take a LOT of your personal practice time than you expected!

Another way to organize if you're studying many books and techniques at once is to use the alarm clock function. Say you want to study something for 10 or 15 minutes. Set the clock for that 10 or 15 minutes and start it when you are about to practice that book. When the alarm clock beeps, reset the timer and go on to the next book and set the timer for the time you decided to practice that book. Knowing this, actually practicing 45 minutes actually takes an HOUR of your time then.

I hope this helps you organize the way you practice and helps make things more efficient for you. Please email me if you would like the revised lesson sheet template and I can get it to you. For parents and their kids, remember your goals to practice each day and for parents to sign the sheet after each day after kids' practice. This method is great for parents and students to both show dedication. Let me know if you have questions.

-Thomas