Collecting and Analysing Practice Data
Wednesday, 3 June 2020
Over the past few weeks, we have shared a number of ways to structure, revitalise, and stick to your practice routine. One key part of practice though, is analysis and correction. This is a common feature of language learning apps, which can:
- Show you how many times you have practiced (including ‘streaks’)
- Collate the words you have learned into a bank and reveal how many times you recognised those words, used them successfully, and when you last practiced them
- Show your progress over time – very satisfying.
These apps, however, decide the route you should take on your language learning journey. This is great, but with so many disciplines, genres, instruments, and technologies (as well as rapid and expansive changes in music over short periods of time, by comparison to language), musicians are often responsible for creating their own syllabus or goals.
In this article we will explore three ways of measuring your practice, and how to extract the data and turn them into measurable results.
- Goals – I usually dedicate the front page of my practice diary to my S.M.A.R.T. Goals. This way I can refer back to them when designing a routine, and add to it and revise it regularly
- 2x 3-month-to-a-page tables – I do this so I can track streaks of practice on a topic, dividing each month into days or weeks. TIP: I use a different coloured pencil to annotate each goal. If I work on all of my goals in one day, there’ll be a rainbow box!
- Journal – the most common error with journaling I see is people being too specific (and that is why they usually stop journaling). The key is to mark down the important parts of your practice, like tempos, exercises, and the specific passages/studies/ideas you worked on. I use a variation on the bullet journal method for this. You can time your practice sessions and add that in, describe how you felt overall about the practice session (monitoring your physical or mental fatigue) or take data from one of the other two methods and add that in as you see fit.
- Pick up common mistakes or traits
- Able to better know the piece by studying yourself playing it along with the score
- Accurate realisation of your tone and time feel
- An accurate record of progression over time
Apps like Yamaha Cloud Audio Recorder has made it really easy and convenient to record and upload reasonable quality recordings straight to your online storage site. However, you can spend a little more to get more accurate representations of your tone, particularly in ensemble situations; consider a Yamaha Pocketrak recorder, or a simple interface/mixing console combo like the AG Series Mixers.
- Do you take your hands away from your instrument when you make a mistake?
- Do you take your eyes off the conductor too often?
- Is your breathing shallow?
- Do you reset your embouchure before a high note?
- Is your bowing the same as the rest of the section?