Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!
I discuss goal setting a lot on this blog and have even published some practical advice in my article Top 10 Practice Productivity Hacks from the December 2021 volume of The Flute View. Goal setting is a topic very near and dear to my heart. Luckily, there is a great new product that makes goal setting in the practice room super easy, super practical, super portable, and even super stylish. In today’s blog, I will be reviewing the Practice Note, a fabulous new practice notebook that structures and streamlines practice routines by focusing on continuous progress and personal accountability to achieve your most important flute-playing goals.
What is the Practice Note – According to the Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company website: “Practice Note is a vibrant planner for every modern musician to use at any point in their musical journey. Weekly full-color practice pages are minimal and clean, so you can spend time on progress not paperwork. Designed to organize and inspire, Practice Note is the perfect practice companion for instrumentalists and vocalists at any age or experience level. Their simple and customizable approach allows you to start Practice Note any time of the year with a private teacher, an ensemble, or when learning an instrument on your own. They believe in the musical notes of life, and their goal is to inspire every musician to practice with intention. Practice Note includes 12 months of Practice Pages (start any time!), monthly Recaps, Short-Term and Long-Term Goal Setting, 20 pages of tried-and-true Practice Tips, and Trackers to help record your achievements. In addition to its stylish, straightforward approach to weekly practice pages, what sets Practice Note apart is its beautiful, dynamic details. Who said practice can’t be exciting? Every time you open Practice Note, you’ll immediately notice the hard cover with spot gloss uv, blue wire binding, elastic strap, glossy ribbon bookmark, full-color pages, and high-quality paper. Created by professional studio musician, Gina Luciani (Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Cobra Kai, Arcane), Practice Note is a way to reinvigorate the types of practice journals she kept as a young musician, updating them with a modern flare that hits all the right notes.”
How it is Organized – After an introduction describing the book and the background of its author, Gina Luciani, the Practice Note begins with a set of short chapters discussing how to use the book, practice gear essentials, how to prevent injuries, dealing with rejection or failure, tips on how to practice, how to structure your practice session, and (most importantly) how to set goals. This is followed by two pages with spaces to establish 6-month, 1- year, 2-year, 3-year, 5-year, and 6+-year goals that can be referenced at a glance at any time. Before launching into weekly practice templates, the book includes a page to jot down strengths, what you would like to improve on, and what your short-term goals are for the month ahead. The bulk of the Practice Note contains weekly practice templates, arranged in two-page segments for each week. The left page includes spaces to record the warm-ups, scales and etudes, and repertoire to be practiced during the week, as well as daily trackers and space to add total practice time each day. The right page features spaces to write down notes, questions, new goals, reflect on how you are feeling that week, and includes two lines of blank staves to record passages, fingering, melodies, or any other notes from a teacher or melodies from a budding composer. At the end of each four weeks, there is a page to reflect on the past month, with spaces to record what you did well, what you want to improve upon, and what your goals are for the next four weeks. At the conclusion of the Practice Note, there are two pages dedicated to your Goals in Review with spaces to record what goals you accomplished, what goals you still need to work on, what new skills or interests you’ve developed, and what new goals you have for coming year. The book concludes with a number of trackers including a repertoire list, performances, achievements, notes, and, of course, blank manuscript paper (no more printing off manuscript paper from suspicious internet sources).
What I Love about The Practice Note
The cover is gorgeous! A professional matte black, spiral bound, hard cover journal with colorful touches on the title and spine make this a beautiful display piece on your music stand. I proudly display my Practice Notebook on my stand, visible in any Zoom meeting I attend from my home studio.
The size of the notebook is perfect for transport while still providing tons of space to write and reflect on daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and long-term goals. I have used similar-sized notebooks for, well, DECADES. In my younger days, they were used for my flute teacher to record notes and weekly assignments, a practice that lasted into my college years. As a professional, I keep the same types of notebooks, usually haphazardly with a fraction of the structure that the Practice Note offers. Often, I use multiple notebooks and random sheets of papers to collect the same information that is contained in one place in the Practice Note.
The short, introductory chapters are like a series of blog posts to reference daily or whenever you need a refresher on a certain topic. I really love the practical advice offered in these sections and the way they address different audiences (teachers, parents, younger students, professionals, etc.). The writing is engaging yet accessible, encouraging, and inspiring. The topic choices are perfect, addressing very common concerns such as preventing injuries, dealing with rejection, and gear recommendations, while introducing the basic concept of goal setting and using the Practice Note to your best advantage.
The chapter on Practice Gear Essentials provides very specific recommendations on music stands, metronomes, tuners, microphones, and even earplugs. This takes the guesswork out for students and parents and even gives us professionals ideas for new products to try. Super helpful!
There are so many great, encouraging quotes. We all need encouragement sometimes. Being a flutist is not easy – not even for professionals! The opening chapters remind us to keep trying when the going gets tough, to keep our priorities reasonable and measurable, and to experiment with new approaches no matter how intimidating. Some of my favorite quotes include the following:
- “There is NOTHING more important than your health! Your health and wellness should be your top priority. No practice session, competition, or performance should come before your health.” (From “How to Prevent Injuries”)
- “Every musician has dealt with rejection in their life, including the greats. Trust me, you are not alone.” (From “Dealing with Rejection or Failure”)
- “..set a goal for what you want to practice that day rather than a particular amount of time. The “Total Practice Time” in Practice Note is there not to hold you hostage to the clock, but merely for reference.” (From “Tips on How to Practice”)
- “The best way to end all practice sessions is by playing something that makes you happy. It really doesn’t matter what it is (pop tunes, duets with a family member) it just needs to be fun FOR YOU!” (From “How to Structure your Practice Session)
- “A goal you set now might change in the future and that’s totally okay! Your goals will naturally evolve over time. Just make sure that you’re aware of whether you’re changing because your interests have shifted, or if it’s because you feel like giving up due to frustration. Work through that frustration by setting up small, achievable goals.” (From “How to Set Goals”)
- “Being “successful” as a musician is however YOU define it.” (From “How to Set Goals”)
The weekly template pages are clean, well-organized, with plenty of room to jot down everything you are working on any great ideas that may pop up while you practice. I don’t know about you, but I have some of my best ideas when I am practicing. Keep the Practice Note open on your stand, piano, or desk to record any of these great ideas for later.
There is a blank section on the weekly templates to record any other projects you may be working on. These could include practicing for an orchestra audition or brushing up on your sight-reading skills. Sometimes repertoire is not the only thing you prep in the practice room. Think outside the box (and then record your progress in the Practice Note box).
I love that the weekly templates feature checkboxes asking the question, “Did I Practice Something Fun?” How many times on this blog have I suggested ending your practice session with five minutes of fun, free-style improvisation? This is the perfect place to track this! Also, practicing should be fun! It doesn’t always have to be about endless boring scales or woodshedding impossible technical passages. This tracker reminds us to add the little bit of sugar each day to help the practice medicine go down.
I very much appreciate the separate pages each week for notes and questions. You guessed it – I typically keep an entire separate notebook just for these items (sometimes called a “capture notebook”). I am also a writer and love to write up a storm! This section really speaks to me (and anyone else that enjoys journaling). Recording notes right next to your goals for the week helps to connect your larger practice visions to the smaller details you need to get there.
The “How Am I Feeling This Week” weekly tracker is a great reminder that the way we are feeling influences how creative and productive we are during each week. Check in with yourself! How do your emotions positively or negatively effect your practicing?
The trackers at the end of the book at great to use for updating your resume at the end of the year. Take pride in how far you’ve come. Remember that the process is often more important than the goal itself. Celebrate all of your wins and think optimistically about the wins that await in the future.
Finally, and most importantly, the very best part about the Practice Note is the goal-oriented approach to practice. This is a perfect reminder that we are constantly practicing towards something important to us and not just mindlessly drilling music on autopilot. I absolutely love that this book asks us to establish both long-term and short-term goals and requires us to reflect on our goals at the end of each week, each month, and each year. This is how we hold our own selves accountable for our progress. Without going too in-depth (which might be intimidating for younger students), the Practice Note encourages SMART goals (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-related), which have been proven in countless studies to be effective across many disciplines. This is a great way to think about practice and offers a way to revise our goals or change our paths as our interests and abilities change.
Where Can I Get the Practice Note? Purchase your copy of the Practice Note at Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company: https://www.flute4u.com/practice-note
Closing Thoughts on the Practice Note – This is an essential resource for students, teachers, and professionals. It does a masterful job combining the notebooks and trackers we all have scattered around our practice rooms into one beautiful, portable, and easy to use system. The short chapters at the beginning are encouraging, insightful, and practical while the goal-setting sheets and the beginning, between each month, and at the conclusion of the book are essential for keeping us accountable to ourselves. This is also the perfect time to purchase the Practice Note with a new school year looming around the corner. Set your students on the right track from the beginning of the school year to the end of next summer.
Have you purchased the Practice Note? How do you use the Practice Note in your own practice? Do your students use the Practice note? What possibilities do you see for using the Practice Note for current and/or future students? Please comment below!