This notebook has been around a while. I enrolled at Berklee College of Music in 1993, and in the fall semester I was assigned my first private trumpet teacher, Jeff Stout. As you can see, I still have the notebook! And there are all kinds of important notes, exercises, and musical pieces in there. I still refer back to it. In fact, this notebook contains some music I have never seen anywhere else and I have even used some of these pieces with current TIA students.
Every music student should really have a notebook. At least, that would be my preference and hope. I try to tell every new private student of mine to have one. I know that I like to write in student notebooks personally (even though I know my writing is horrendous). Some parents like to keep their own and write notes and practice plans on their end, and that’s fine too. But I think there is value in having us, their teachers, write in them. We’ve walked the long journey of learning music. We’ve struggled with difficult passages and patterns. We’ve struggled with not knowing where to start with practice when we sit down.
Group class students are a little different. Faculty likely won’t write in the notebooks because of time constraints, but students should have notebooks and develop a habit of writing notes as needed and definitely writing a list of what to work on for the next week.
What’s in the notebook?
Here are three different elements that we might put in your student’s notebook, and one that I think we could all challenge ourselves to do more of (I’m speaking to myself as well here):
- Technical notes intended to reinforce something taught on in a lesson. These may also help you the parent in observing and encouraging your child.
- What to practice: I generally try to give at least three very specific and different pieces, exercises, or components to work on, sometimes more.
- Suggestions for music to listen to or videos to watch, etc., these of course we would suggest only with your approval as parent.
- Here is a challenge for us and something I would have liked to have seen more of, and I hope we at TIA can make a best practice, a note of encouragement or celebration. What is the student doing really well? What can we celebrate? That is something significant and worthwhile.
How can parents use the notebook?
Here are a few suggested ways you as parent might help your children, especially younger children with their practice, using their notebook:
- Plan a time even if briefly to sit down and ask your student what they covered in lessons or classes this week. Ask them to show you what we wrote in their notebook.
- Ask them if they have a plan for a few times to sit down and work on their practice components for the week. They might need help planning. Ideally I would recommend a minimum of five minutes per component at least two to three times a week. This means that most young students could feasibly have about fifteen minutes of serious practice in on each component each week. More advanced or older students could easily double that.
- Follow up with them about five days or so after their lesson, see how they are doing. Praise them for their discipline and efforts if they’ve been working on their practice components! Challenge and encourage them if they need that.