Desk with map and practice plan sheet

Preparing to Make a Practice Plan

The best plans, including a practice plan, start with proper preparation. It might seem funny to think about preparing to plan, but it actually makes sense if you think about it logically.

For example, if you’re trying to plan an event and need to pick a date, you need to prepare for making that plan by getting your calendar and knowing your availability.

Similarly, when making a practice plan you first need to make sure you’re completely prepared and have made all the decisions necessary to get started.

I have created a worksheet specifically for creating your perfect practice plan, which you can download for free clicking the button below:

Make Practice Time Easier By Planning Ahead!

Hands playing piano keys with a metronome and pencil nearby

Learn how to plan exactly what you need to do each day to accomplish your goals. Then all you have to do at practice time is sit down and play!

The Piecewise Practice Planner will help you make meaningful progress every time you practice, even with as little as 5 minutes per practice session.

Best of all, it’s completely FREE–to opt in, click the button below!

However, a regular blank journal will also work. The practice journal I used for many years was a medium-sized notebook. I drew a grid on each page so it looked very similar to the practice planner available above, though not nearly as neat and tidy!

One more note before you go any further: I recommend using a pencil and having a good eraser nearby.  You know what they say about the best-laid plans; It’s quite likely you will have to make at least some changes as you go along your practice throughout the month. It will be easier to keep things tidy if you can erase easily.

If changing your plan part-way through sounds overwhelming, you may like to read my post on when practice doesn’t go well for some clarity and inspiration.

Step 1: Pick Your Pieces or Exercises

Preparing Your Practice Planner Step 1

Once you have your practice planner in hand, list each piece or exercise you plan to practice along the top next to where it says “Piece/Exercise”.

There are enough spaces in the form I created for five pieces or exercises, but if you’re working on more than that you can always print another worksheet, or to save paper simply draw a line down the middle of as many columns as necessary to instantly create new columns!

In the example above I’ve decided you will be working on Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C Major from WTC Book 1 as well as the C Major scale.

Step 2: Establish Your Practice Period

Preparing Your Practice Planner Step 2

It’s important to have a good idea of the time period over which you plan to do your practice. This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with your practice goals yet. This step is actually just to recognize what dates you have available to plan on your practice sheet.

First figure out what day you plan to start this practice plan. Write that date at the top of the page next to where it says “Start Date”. Then, using a calendar to check if necessary, write the date of the last day shown on the planner (in the case of the printable, that’s 4 weeks later) next to where it says “End Date”.

In the example I have decided that your start date is October 14th. I then took a look at a calendar to see what day the fourth Sunday at the bottom of the sheet would fall on, which is November 10th.

It’s ok if your end date isn’t actually when you will be done with whatever you’re practicing. This is simply to remind yourself how far ahead you have planned your practice.

If it helps you can also mark in some dates throughout the weeks. I’ve chosen to mark the date of each Monday as this helps me keep track of where I’m at.

Step 3: Set Your Goal Dates

Preparing Your Practice Planner Step 3

Next you need to figure out your goal dates. At the bottom of the practice planner printable, beneath the days of the week, I’ve put three words: Notes, Tempo, and Final.

The first one of these to establish is Final. This can be the date of a performance, or just the date by which you want to have the pieces or exercises completely learned and performance-ready.

Tempo is the date by which you want to have the pieces or exercises completely up to tempo, and Notes is the date by which you want to have all the notes learned.

These are variable depending on your goals and preferences. I usually set Tempo to two weeks before the Final date and Notes to four weeks before the Final date.

In the example I’ve decided that your performance date is May 30th. That means that two weeks until the performance, our Tempo goal, is May 16th. Four weeks until the performance, our Notes goal, is May 2nd.

Notice that our Notes goal is within the 4 weeks of our practice period. Go ahead and mark across that line something like “Four weeks to performance”. This day is now blocked from inputting any specific assignments.

That’s on purpose because it’s important to have days like this to review and check that you’re making proper progress toward your goal. Then you can alter your plan as necessary if things aren’t going well.

The Tempo goal of May 16th is not yet within our 4-week practice period, but don’t worry about that right now. It’s still good to know it’s coming up!

Step 4: Mark Your Days Off

Preparing Your Practice Planner Step 4

In this day and age it’s very difficult to practice every single day. There are often things that come up, trips, busy days with work, etc, that make it impossible to sit down and get our music work done.

We can’t always plan for when these days will happen, but we can mitigate the damage by leaving at least one day per week unscheduled. This way if you fall behind, you have an extra day to catch up.

It can also be healthy to take one or two days off each week from practice, both for your mind and your body. I’ve often found that after taking one rest day I come back to my practice refreshed and my playing has still improved like magic!

Take the time now to look at the next four weeks on your calendar and mark any days you don’t think you’ll be practicing.

For this example I’ve decided that you don’t want to practice on May 10th because you’re going on a day trip with your mother out of town and will probably be home late, and that you will also take Saturdays off.

Once you’ve identified the non-practice days, cross them out so you don’t accidentally assign yourself anything for those days.

Congratulations! Here’s a full-sized example of what your practice planner should look like at this point:

Preparing Your Practice Planner Final Product

Now you’re ready for the next step which is planning your practice measure by measure. If you haven’t already, be sure to download the free practice planner I made so that planning your practice is super easy!

Happy practicing!

Heidi has been involved in music in one way or another for most of her life. She studied music composition in college, has taught piano, voice, composition, ear training, and guitar, and has worked as a piano tuner and technician. Before the pandemic she loved playing concerts at retirement communities, bringing the joy of music to those populations. She is currently working on learning more about the connection between music and healing.

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