Luck is not chance, it’s toil. Fortune’s expensive smile is earned. ~ Emily Dickinson

Mr. Ahrens teaches band & choir at Bear River High School in Grass Valley, CA.


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Weekly Practice Journal

I’ve always been a little conflicted on the idea of assigning a practice log to my band students. On one side, I want to encourage practicing away from the classroom and positively reward those who do. However with the traditional listing of minutes practiced, its pretty easy for students to just fill in numbers that may or may not be accurate. It also puts the focus of practice on time, not music.

I had the opportunity to speak with Tubist Andrew Hitz recently about this subject. He does not like the idea of practicing for time and prompted me to rethink the way I had designed my practice records. When you’re focused on how long you have to practice, it can become torturous and boring – certainly not musical. Hitz suggested creating a journal that records what is practiced instead of minutes. When you practice because it’s fun and you love making music, time flies by and is spent more effectively.

So for this year, I have created a new form – a Weekly Practice Journal. You will not find a place to list how many minutes you practiced for. Instead, it guides the student through a warm up of: long tones, lip slurs (or cross-break woodwind slurs), scales and/or rudiments. I recommend that each of my students purchase an instrument-specific etude book and work with it daily as well. There is a place to list which etudes and what repertoire music was practiced. And then there are larger areas to fill in specifics of: what was worked on (such as a rhythm, high range, m. 38-54, etc), what has improved during the session, and what still needs more work next time.  There are five journal entries on one side of the paper (I ask that they practice a minimum of 5 days a week outside of class).

On the back are two more journal entries in case the student practices every day (however these are optional).  I also list a number of practicing tips that I would like them to be thinking about. Finally, there is a spot for the students to fill in what relevant music they listened to during the week. I ask that all of my students listen to solo literature for their instrument, band literature, and/or other high level performances of their choosing in which they can find connections to their own music.

I would encourage you to try a journal-style practice record with your students. You are welcome to use mine, if you like. To view or print the form that I have created click the following icon:

Practice Journal

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  • Dave Shaw

    Stealing! uh, Borrowing? Have you sent this to the Band Directors repository on Posterous, or posted it to the Band Directors Group on FB?

    • David Ahrens

      Thanks Dave. Yes, I did post it on the Band Directors Posterous site. Thanks for suggesting it.