by Linda Ratcliff
Goals in writing are dreams with deadlines.
Make a Goal List in Your Journal … Every Week
My husband and I recently moved in with my daughter and her family about 4 weeks ago (there are now 7 of us at the dinner table), and she donated her formal dining room for me to set up as my music room. I LOVE it. I have all my instruments set up within easy reach. And as soon as everyone is out of the house, I usually pick up my hammers and practice for a while.
But I just noticed something today about the way I have been practicing lately. I am simply playing whatever comes to my mind, rather than selecting tunes with a particular goal or result in mind.
I know better. When I took piano lessons, I had a spiral steno pad (how many of you remember those?). My goals (aka assignments) were written down for the week, for the month, for the end-of-the-year recital. I knew what I needed to practice for the next lesson, for the next month, and when I needed to have a piece ready to play in public.
The Bible says, “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it” (Habakkuk 2:2). So I have turned over a new leaf. I pulled out a new journal, and dedicated it to my music practice time. I drew lines horizontally across the page, dividing it into these five sections.
- Warm-up Exercises: Even though I am an experienced player, I need to consistently review the hammering drills in our Hammering Skills section, so I don’t get rusty.
- Old-Time Jammin’ Tunes: I find I like old-time hymns the best, and tend to play something like “It Is Well With My Soul,” or “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” when I have a moment to practice. But I have neglected to practice the old-time jammin’ tunes like “Old Joe Clark” and “Golden Slippers” regularly. I scheduled 2 of those for review this week.
- Something New: I noticed I haven’t challenged myself with a new genre lately. So I decided to work on expanding my Celtic tunes repertoire. This week, I assigned myself Caledonian Club and Dorsett’s 4-Hand Reel.
- Free Exploration: This is something we don’t do often enough. This is how you will expand your musical vocabulary and see greater potential with your instrument. Take something familiar and try new rhythms, new chord progressions, or add new embellishments to the melody.
- A Good ‘Ole Favorite: To close your practice, you should randomly play something you really enjoy. Have fun with your instrument, and end your practice time on a positive note.
A good work-out like this would take me an hour, because I entered TWO things in my journal for each category. I think I might have been overly optimistic. I don’t usually have an hour, and you probably don’t either. Next week I may just give myself just one assignment per category and see how that goes.