Practicing With the Structured Practice Journal

Practice Items

Practice items are at the heart of the SPJ. They represent any item you might practice, whether that is a full concerto, an entire recital, or a single note.

We recommend creating practice items as you practice and letting the hierarchy evolve as you become more comfortable with the system. For example, if you’re working on the Chopin Prelude in e minor today, create a Practice Item with the title “Chopin - Prelude in e minor.” You’ll need to give it an importance level and practice frequency. At first, just leave the importance level at default. Then set the frequency… do you want to practice this every day? Every 3 days? Use the drop down menu to select what you plan to do.

Practice Notes

Practice notes are what we call your journal entries in the Structured Practice Journal. They can be as detailed or as vague as you like. They can be used to simply log how much time you spend, or can provide space for a multi-paragraph essay covering everything you felt, thought, and did in your session. We recommend starting somewhere in the middle. Don’t just log your time. Think of your practice notes as emails from “Present You” to “Future You.” What can you say right now to help you the next time you practice this piece? Making a real effort at this can truly accelerate your progress. Thinking deeply and critically about your practicing, and articulating that in your journal can be absolutely transformational for musicians. This is a skill, just like playing your instrument. Be patient, and be consistent. You’ll get better at it over time.

Practice notes are always entered from a practice item’s practice page. As you practice, keep that page open. Type your notes as you go, or after you’re done working on that item. If you’ve made a recording and not deleted it, that recording will be “attached” to the practice note and become a part of your practice history.

Practice Page

You can get to the practice page for any practice item by clicking on it’s practice button on the manage page, or by clicking the title of the piece anywhere else in the app. This is where you’ll spend most of your time in the Structured Practice Journal.

The practice page contains three panels:

  • Statistics - Shows practice statistics for the current practice item (and it’s subitems), for the number of days specified in your profile settings
  • Recent Notes - Shows your 8 most recent practice notes for the current practice item (and it’s subitems)
  • Practicing - This is where you enter your practice notes, attach a recording, add subitems, etc.

You can learn about all the components of each of the panels by clicking on the question mark icon in the title bar. You will also find helpful hints available when hovering the mouse pointer over different parts of the page.

While you’re practicing, you might find one or more passages in the piece that specifically give you trouble. You could then add practice items for each of the trouble passages as “subitems” by clicking “Add Subitem.” Now next time you practice, you’ll see that you need to work on those specific spots as well as the piece as a whole.

As you “solve” each problem passage, you simply “Archive” that passage’s practice item to remove it from your list. By the time you are ready to perform the piece, you’ll have a complete record of your practice, organized hierarchically from the big picture all the way down to the smallest passages. That record will be available for you to analyze and improve on your practice skills any time. It will also be there to help guide you the next time you work on the piece, whether that’s next month or ten years from now.

Today’s Practice Items/Suggested Practice Item

On your home page, in the Practice Items Panel, you will find the Suggested Practice Item and Today’s Practice Items, along with a list of All Active Practice Items. Additionally, if you are working with a teacher in the SPJ, there will be a list of assigned items from each studio in which you are enrolled.

The Suggested Practice Item and list of Today’s Practice Items are automatically generated by the SPJ, taking into account the importance level and frequency of each practice item, along with your actual practice history. As you practice, SPJ will notice if something is being neglected, and will move it higher and higher on your daily list. Conversely, if you’re over-practicing an item, it will be pushed lower down on the list until your practice history matches your stated priorities. We highly recommend making use of the automated practice lists in SPJ. The human brain is notoriously bad at managing more than a few pieces of information at a time. Let SPJ handle it and save your valuable brain power for honing your musical skills!

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