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Should I Use a Practice Journal?

Practicing music should be fun. Plain and simple. Any practice that you don’t at least slightly enjoy will not be as beneficial. Thus brings the question: should you use a practice journal?

Hannah B Flute | Should I Use a Practice Journal?

A practice journal allows you to track your practicing. You can use whatever method to track your practice. Choose a method that works for you. If your practice journal doesn’t fit your needs, you will be less inclined to use it.

You can track the amount of time, what you practice, or a combination of both.

This post will help you decide whether or not you need a practice journal and how to create one that suits your needs.

Why Use a Practice Journal?

If you want to track your practice for any reason, you should use a practice journal. Writing things down makes it much easier to remember them. Our minds are fascinating, but they can’t keep track of everything.

A practice journal is a specific notebook or journal you use to track your practice. It is separate from planners and other notebooks. You can keep in on your music stand or by your instrument case, so you remember to use it.

One of the biggest benefits of tracking your practice is seeing how you’ve grown. After you’ve used a practice journal for awhile, you can go back to when you first started and see how far you’ve come.

Seeing your growth, on paper or through recordings too, can be incredibly motivating to keep practicing.

Also, if you have a lot of music to work on, a practice journal can help you organize everything. Track the days you practice a certain piece, and you can use that information to plan future practice sessions.

What Do You Track?

There are two main things you can track in a practice journal: time and progress. If you work best by tracking time, then your practice journal can be a time log.

However, if you’re like me, tracking the time might make you anxious. A few years, I used a music practice app. I can’t remember the name of the app, but it allowed me to create different sections of practice, like tone, technique, etc.

Well, the main way it tracked my practice was by timing me. I basically had to set time based goals, and that didn’t work for me. In order to meet a time goal, I would usually end up fooling around for the later part of my practice.

This time around, I’m tracking what I practice each day as well as what I accomplished or learned that day. I have found that system works much better for me.

Since I’m preparing for masters auditions and have a lot to work on, I can track what I practice each day. That way, I can go back the next day and see what might need more attention (i.e. the pieces I haven’t practiced in the last few days).

My Practice Journal Setup

I use a simple notebook that I got at CVS to track my practice. Each month, I make a new “section” in the journal. The first page has all of my goals for the month. Then I have a calendar page which includes all of my rehearsals and performances that month.

Next is my practice tracker. At the top of the page, I wrote the days of the month. On the left side is all of the categories I want to track that month. The categories could be exercises, movements, excerpts, or instruments.

Watch the video of my practice journal.

The Journal

Before you start a practice journal, you need to get a notebook you can use. You can use a smaller notebook or a larger one, depending on your preferences.

There are many different styles available. You can get a notebook with lines, without lines, or even a dot grid notebook. Choose one that you like and think you will use the most.

If you’re intimidated by making your own practice journal, you can find different templates or ideas for journals online. There are plenty of videos of people showing how they use their practice journal.

Everyone works differently, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find your perfect setup.

When You Shouldn’t Use a Practice Journal

While most musicians would benefit from a practice journal, there are a few exceptions.

First, beginners shouldn’t use a practice journal, yet. When you are completely new to an instrument, you need to focus on the basics. Learn the fundamentals of your instrument first. You can track your practice later.

Another situation where a practice journal could be a hinderance is if you don’t practice every single day. In this case, a practice journal could just cause more anxiety around practicing.

If your schedule doesn’t allow for daily practice, a practice journal could make you feel guilty for not practicing or writing in it.

The third instance where you might want to avoid a practice journal is after time away from the instrument. Whether that is because of a surgery or other reason, take things slowly at first. If you haven’t played regularly in a while, you shouldn’t overwhelm yourself at first.

In all of these cases, a practice journal can come later. As you improve on your instrument or start to practice more, you can create a practice journal.

So…

Do you use a practice journal? How do you track your practice? Leave your answer in the comments and be sure to subscribe below for freebies!

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How to Organize Your Practice Space

Whether you just have a music locker or a full room dedicated to practice, you need to keep it organized. You need to be able to find pieces and exercise books when you need them. So, I’m sharing my tips for how to organize your practice space.

Hannah B Flute | How to Organize Your Practice Space

Currently, I have a whole wall in my bedroom that is dedicated to my music stuff. And that doesn’t include a bookshelf for music and books that I’m not using at the moment.

In college, however, I only had a small music locker to store and organize my stuff.

I’ve had both ends of the spectrum in terms of space, and here are my top tips for organizing your practice space.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links. Click here for my full disclosure policy.

How Big is Your Space?

Do you have all or part of a room? Or do you just have a small locker? The size of your space will determine how much you can store and how you can organize it all.

When all I had was a locker, I kept my older materials in my dorm or at my parents’ house. The last thing I needed was to take up space with unnecessary materials.

Now that I am living at my parents’ house, I have more space. I have a bookshelf where I can store old music textbooks and method books. My “music corner” as I call it is where I store everything else.

If you’re a pianist or vocalist and all you have is a bag, you’ll have to be even more picky about what you include. You will also probably need somewhere to store your excess music elsewhere.

Prioritize Your Music and Instruments

If you know me, you know that I am a musical instrument hoarder. I have 3 C flutes, 2 piccolos, an alto flute, 2 alto saxophones, a clarinet, 2 recorders, 2 penny whistles, 4 ocarinas, and a lot of other instruments.

I know that I don’t need all of those instruments to be in my music corner. Flute, piccolo, and alto flute are my primary instruments, so I keep (my best models of) those instruments on my desk.

The rest of my instruments are scattered throughout my room and the house.

If you only play one instrument on a regular basis, you just need to store that one instrument. You vocalists don’t have to worry about storing instruments, unless you also play another instrument.

Storing your ever increasing music library can get a bit more complex. If you’re like me, you won’t have space to store all of your music together. When that’s the case, make sure your current and standard music is as close to your practice space as possible.

Don’t Forget Accessories

Most instruments have some sort of accessory to go with them. You will also probably want to have a music stand. So don’t forget to include some space for your various music accessories.

If you’re limited on space, get a music stand that can collapse down. That way you can store the stand when it’s not in use. I’d still recommend getting a sturdy music stand. Avoid those cheap wire ones. Peak has some good music stands that fold up easily for storage and transport.

Flutists, you will want a flute stand, a cleaning cloth and rod, and a polishing cloth. If you play piccolo, you should also have a good pair of ear plugs, a piccolo stand, and cork grease (for plastic and wood piccolos).

Other instruments will require their own accessories. Reed players will need enough good reeds, cork grease, swabbing cloths, etc. Brass players will need to have valve oil. String players need rosin.

All musicians need a tuner and a metronome (could be an app on your phone). And of course, you can’t forget a pencil.

Set Up Your Space

Music stand. Unless you’re at music school or a vocalist, you will want space for your music stand. Most music school practice rooms will have at least one stand available, so students can pass on this one. For at home practice, you’ll want one.

Instrument stand. Keep your instrument safe and use a stand for it. You *can* haphazardly set it on a chair or desk, but that’s risky. Give yourself the peace of mind. You can find compact stands (meant for travel) if space is a huge concern. This flute stand is perfect, and it even fits in your footjoint.

Your instrument. The next (and most important) thing you need is your instrument(s). You can’t practice without your instrument. So be sure there’s space in your locker or room to properly store your instrument.

Sheet music. If you’re a music student or otherwise serious about music, you will want ample space to store your sheet music. You will at least want enough space to store your current music.

Your choice. How I organize my practice space is going to be different than how you want to organize yours. That’s okay. Just make sure you know where everything is. If you want to see how I organize my practice space, follow me on Instagram. This week, I’ll be sharing a tour of my practice space on IGTV.

So…

How do you organize your practice space? Do you have a dedicated room? A locker? Something in between? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to subscribe below for your free sample of my ebook Become a Musician!

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Finding “Motivation” to Practice

Ah, motivation. We all seem to need it to get stuff done these days. Finding motivation to practice music can be difficult at times. That is why I want to move away from “motivation” as a way to practice.

Hannah B Flute | Finding Motivation to Practice

Relying on a motivator often means relying on something external. ┬áThere are days where I don’t want to practice, because I can’t find anything to motivate me.

Discipline, however, is more consistent than motivation. Discipline should be the main factor in you practicing.

Motivation vs. Discipline

Motivation is the state or condition of having a strong reason to act or accomplish something.

Discipline involves an activity that helps develop a skill.

Both motivation and discipline *can* be applied to music and musicians, but discipline requires nothing more than you and your instrument.

Motivation requires something like an upcoming lesson or concert. That event gives you the desire to practice so that you can do well.

The problem with this is that we don’t always have a concert or lesson in the near future. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t practice.

Discipline, like daily practice, will help develop your playing each day. No need for a concert or lesson.

Finding Discipline

If you have never done disciplined practice, it can be hard at first. Discipline has to come from inside you rather than something external.

Your desire to improve as a musician is a great start, but you need to make it a routine.

For example, every time you use the restroom, you wash your hands. Right?

That is discipline. We have trained ourselves to wash our hands before leaving the restroom.

You can practice in that same way. Not when leaving the restroom, but each day. Find a time to practice, even write it down on the calendar.

Think of practicing as something you just do. It is part of your day, just like washing your hands.

Using Reminders

When you start practicing by discipline instead of by motivation, it can be hard to get in the groove. Reminders can be anything. It can be an alarm telling you it’s time to practice. You can also use paper reminders, like on your mirror or music stand.

No matter what kind of reminder you use, make it something that does inspire (or even motivate) you.

In the beginning, it is hard to practice based on discipline alone. Adding in one or two outside factors can help you. Soon enough, you will be practicing without those outside motivators.

You will be disciplined.

Is Motivation All Bad?

No. Motivation can be a good thing, and it can be a great way to get you to practice. Relying solely on motivation, however, is not good.

There will be many times where you are not motivated by anything to practice. If that is the case, it will be a lot harder for you to pull out your instrument than if you also had the discipline to.

Finding motivation to practice is a nice thought, and it can be helpful. Motivating factors, like performances, can help you build that discipline necessary.

It can help you become disciplined to the point where you will continue to practice after that next concert.

Motivation can be a great way to get anything done, but it should be accompanied by discipline.

Why Practice?

I’ve talked all this time about motivation and discipline to practice, but I haven’t mentioned why we practice.

As musicians, we should always want to improve. Odds are, you are not the best performer on your instrument. Therefore, you can learn from someone. You can learn what the greats have done to hone their craft.

Just as how a student studies, a musician must practice.

It is how we can learn and grow. Practice allows us to play new and increasingly difficult repertoire.

Without practice, we would be forever stuck as a beginner.

It’s About You

In the end, practicing isn’t about motivation or discipline. It’s about bettering yourself, both as a musician and as a person.

Music allows you to express your own creativity. You can even form your own community with other musicians.

Practicing is a means to an end for musicians; it is how you meet or even exceed your goals.

Some days, you will be really motivated to achieve those goals.

Other days, discipline will be all you have.

So while music is something to be enjoyed, we cannot rely on our love for music. We will not always be motivated to play or practice.

Musicians need discipline.

So…

What are your thoughts on finding motivation to practice? Do you prefer discipline? Let me know in the comments!

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The Benefits of Doubling (+ a free guide!)

As flutists and other woodwind players know, you can’t always get away with playing just one instrument. Especially for music majors and professionals, the benefits of doubling are numerous.

Hannah B Flute | Benefits of Doubling

Playing a second instrument can help you get more performing and teaching gigs. It can get your foot in the door with other musicians. And it can even help improve your playing on your main instrument.

Today, we are going to talk about the benefits of doubling that flutists should know about, as well as the different types.

Primary to Primary vs. Primary to Secondary

To me, there are two main types of doubling. There is primary to primary doubling and primary to secondary doubling. Bret Pimentel has an amazing post for flutists who want to double, and that is where I learned this terminology.

Basically, primary to primary doubling is when a flutist decides to learn an instrument outside of the flute family. It could be saxophone, clarinet, piano, etc. It just can’t be another flute.

Primary to secondary doubling is when a flutist learns another type of flute. That could be piccolo, alto flute, or even flutes from other parts of the world.

The type of doubling that is best for you depends on your goals. Do you want to play in a big band or a musical theatre pit? Try saxophone or clarinet. Would you prefer to play in a symphony or opera orchestra? Then learn piccolo or alto flute.

Primary to secondary doubling will be slightly easier, because the technique for flutes is fairly similar. The embouchure changes only slightly.

Primary to primary doubling requires the player to learn a whole new instrument. You almost have to forget that you are a flute player.

A Little Backstory

I started music when I was 5 or 6, but I didn’t really start with woodwinds until age 14. At that time, I learned the saxophone. Flute came soon after, because I wanted more opportunities within the classical music scene. I wasn’t a huge fan of jazz.

Eventually, I decided that doubling between families took too much time away from what I really wanted. So, I settled on the flute family.

As mentioned, there are times where primary to primary doubling is perfect. But for the remainder of this post, I will be focusing on primary to secondary doubling for flutists.

Playing Piccolo

Piccolo is the most commonly asked for double in almost all situations. Whether you play in an orchestra or band, you will probably be called upon to play piccolo at some point. If you are an amateur player, though, it may not be as necessary.

For the career bound flutist, it is EXTREMELY difficult to have a career on flute that doesn’t include piccolo. It is possible, but rare.

Being able to play piccolo at least a little bit will help you a lot. It means you can audition for jobs that involve piccolo. You can take on advancing flute students who want to learn piccolo. So try to treat the piccolo as an extension of the flute.

Should You Play Alto Flute?

The alto flute is not quite as common as piccolo, but its use is growing. More flute choirs are popping up, and more flute players, pro and amateur, are buying alto flutes.

Modern composers are starting to write more and more for the alto flute. That combined with flute choirs means that the opportunities for playing and teaching the alto flute are increasing.

The alto flute will continue to become more important to flute playing. Its use in orchestras is limited, but that may change in the near future. From solo and chamber playing to teaching, the alto flute has many venues now.

If you are looking to expand downwards in the flute family, try the alto flute. Alto flute resources are limited, but Chris Potter has an amazing website for alto (and bass) flute. If the alto flute interests you, go check it out.

The alto flute is a little more complicated than piccolo, since it has two headjoint options. Other than that, it is an easy transition for most advanced flutists.

Related: Piccolo vs. Alto Flute

The Benefits of Doubling Flutes

I have found that piccolo and alto flute both help my flute playing in different ways. The piccolo helps me get better control in the high register. Playing alto flute helps better my air support.

Other benefits of doubling include marketability and access to more repertoire.

Marketability pertains to more than just professional musicians. If you play flute and piccolo, you will be able join more ensembles and competitions than if you only played flute.

Maybe your local band is full of flute players but no one likes the piccolo. If you can play piccolo well, you might just get your foot int he door.

The alto flute is similar. If your community has a smaller flute choir, they might need alto flute players. The group might be overflowing with C flutes. If you show up with an alto flute, you will have a better chance of joining the group.

Then there’s access to more repertoire. While the piccolo and alto flute don’t have as much solo repertoire as flute, they have their own set of music. Piccolo and alto flute have their own parts in chamber music, and they can provide more depth to larger works, too.

So…

There are many benefits of doubling that flutists can take advantage of. Even if you just add piccolo to your routine, you will be able to play a lot of different music, and it can help your flute playing.

Be sure to subscribe below to get your free guide to practicing as a doubler.

Do you play multiple flutes? Which ones? Leave a comment below with your answer!

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NFA: Flute Shopping

Hello flute friends. June is here (and almost gone, what?). That means that NFA 2018 is right around the corner. Being that it is the biggest flute convention of the year, you might be thinking about flute shopping there.

Hannah B Flute | NFA: Flute Shopping

Well, I’m right there with you. I’m not sure if I’ll actually buy a new instrument, a new headjoint, or nothing at all. But I will be spending some time in the exhibition hall looking at all things flute.

In this installment of my NFA series, I’m going to share some tips for flute shopping as well as other flute products you could buy.

Know Your Budget.

Flutes can cost upwards of $20K, but you probably don’t have that much money to spend. Right? So make sure you have a budget for spending at the convention.

Do you want to purchase a new flute or piccolo? Or are you planning to stick to the small stuff, like sheet music?

Decide how much money you can and are willing to spend at the convention before you go. Then stick to that budget as best you can.

You could create a daily budget or a budget for the whole convention. Your budget could also have different sections for things like sheet music and instruments.

No matter how you separate things out, have an overall budget in place so that you don’t get sucked into those amazing 18k gold, really expensive flutes. Unless that’s what you’re looking for, that is.

Stick to Your Budget.

Obviously, if you’re budget is less than $5000, you won’t be able to get a gold flute. Certain brands might also be out of reach with that budget. That’s okay.

When you approach a booth and ask to try flutes, tell the salesperson what your budget is. Flutists and vendors are nice people. They WANT you to buy something. So they’re gonna be willing to work with you.

If you’re curious about what you can get for $X, look online at FluteWorld, FCNY, or Carolyn Nussbaum. These online flute stores list the prices of various flutes (and their specs).

By researching different flutes beforehand, you will know what specs you can get and which ones you might need to save for or skip. Adding specs like a C# trill, split E, a gold riser, and more can significantly increase the cost.

Related: Flute Specs

Decide What You Want.

Do you want to buy a flute? A piccolo or low flute? Do you just want a new headjoint? Or are you going to jump on the LeFreque train?

Once you have your budget and know what you can afford with that budget, decide what is most important. If you’re headed off to music school, you will probably want to upgrade your flute followed by piccolo, then maybe an alto flute.

If you are an amateur, you may not need or want a professional level flute. But you may decide that you want a bass flute so you can join a flute choir.

Maybe you’re fine with your set of instruments and you want to test out a new headjoint or a LeFreque.

Now, some people might say you should decide what you want BEFORE setting your budget. That can work for some people, but usually finances aren’t as negotiable as what we choose to purchase. Do what works for you.

Try Lots of Flutes (etc.)

When you get to the convention, try as many flutes, headjoints, etc. as you can. There will be a ton of vendors there (view last year’s exhibitors on pg. 199). Check out different vendors, try out different brands, and test different models within your budget.

Even if you have your heart set on a (insert flute brand here), try others. Your “perfect” flute may be one you never expected.

This is also a great time to ask the flute vendors about flute trials. If you find a couple flutes you really like and want to test out a bit more, see if you can take the flutes on trial. You could either test them during the convention or maybe even take them home. (Again, ask the vendor)

You can also look into financing, if that is something you’re interested in. Financing can help you get a flute without having to pay for it upfront. You usually have to make a downpayment, and there will be interest. But for some people, it’s worth it.

Other Things to Buy

If you’re not looking at flutes, what else can you buy at the convention? You can buy anything from sheet music to cleaning supplies. If your budget is too small to pay for a new instrument, you can also look at different upgrades.

Whether you want to get a LeFreque or a new headjoint, there are low cost ways to upgrade your current instrument.

One thing that I would recommend looking at during the convention is sheet music. Yes, there are tons of places to buy sheet music online, but a lot of them don’t provide free samples.

You can’t actually see what the music looks like, or how it’s layed out, unless you’re in person. I am fortunate enough to live close to a well stock sheet music store, but I know a lot of people don’t have that luxury.

So consider looking at some sheet music while you’re in the exhibition hall. You might just find a new favorite piece.

So…

Will you be flute shopping at the NFA convention this year? Let me know in the comments!