Have you ever taken a music lesson where everything during the lesson was perfectly clear, but then you got home and couldn’t remember any of the information from the lesson?

When you leave a music lesson, you need to remember all of the pointers your teacher gave you, everything you’re supposed to practice until the next lesson, AND your goals for each item you’ll be practicing.

Never leave a music lesson without putting your practice items and goals in writing.  If you try to remember this information without writing it down, you are likely to forget the majority of what you and your teacher discussed at the lesson.

Make sure you have a practice journal or notebook that you use exclusively for your music lessons.  I use the Musician’s Practice Planner for this purpose with all of my students.  My wife and I created this book specifically for the purpose of helping students meet and even exceed their goals. 

Ask your teacher to give you specific goals and expectations of what you should accomplish before the next lesson.  Your teacher most likely has an expectation of what you can get done in the next week or two until you see them again.  Put this in your notebook.

One important goal to write down is a metronome setting for each item you’re practicing.  Practicing is more fun when you have tempo goals.  It can make practicing feel like a game.  You win when you can play at the speed you’ve set as your goal for the week.

During your lesson, you and your teacher can easily determine the tempo that allows you to play accurately right now.  Then, your teacher can tell you how fast you should play at the next lesson.  Write this number in our practice journal.

Another part of your practice plan guides you on how much to practice each item on your list.  This can be an actual number of minutes, but it’s more useful to know the relative importance of all the items on your practice list.

For instance, let’s say you’ve got a scale, an arpeggio, one etude, and one song on your practice list.  Some weeks your teacher may want you to focus primarily on the arpeggio, scale, and etude (to focus on your technique).  At other times, it’s more important to focus on the song.

You can determine this at the lesson, so you’re clear on your priorities for the upcoming week.  I’ve had many students who have spent so much time making their exercises perfect that they neglect their repertoire.

There are times when the scales and etudes should be used mostly as warmup exercises, with the big majority of practicing spent on repertoire.  You and your teacher can decide what’s most important to work on each week.

A big part of your practice plan needs to be the solutions to the problem areas in your music (the Tough Stuff).  At your lesson, the most difficult material often will become obvious, and your teacher can help pinpoint the exact sections of your music that need the most work.  Then, when you practice at home, focus your efforts on these specific sections.  Don’t waste time practicing what you can already play well.

At the lesson, write in your music so you know exactly where the Tough Stuff is in every piece you’re working on.  The notes in your music become part of your practice plan for the week.

Most of the progress you’ll make as a musician will happen in between lessons.  The “aha” moments usually happen when you’re alone in the practice room, not at your lesson.

Make sure you have your practice plan in writing to guide you during the time between lessons.  The more detailed the plan, the sooner you’ll have your next breakthrough!

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