Setting up a Badass Practice Manual / Practice Log / Journal

What you are about to feast your eyes on was originally the first lesson from BTB’s upcoming course for comeback trumpet players, The Ultimate Comeback Kit.

The idea was to organize practice notes, insights and questions in one location, as well as offer a place for the comeback player to journal about their journeys as they returned to trumpet greatness.

Despite the insanely practical and awesome benefits of staying organized in this way, the BETA testers for Comeback Kit had a surprising reaction.

They griped, moaned and groaned like a bunch of babies!

And so, the journal was cut from the Comeback Kit.


But their loss is your gain! Take a peak and see if there’s something you’d like to add to your own practice system. If you decide you’d like to set up a practice journal like the one described, you’ll need a notebook.

What you Are About to Learn:

In this Lesson you will setup and start using your Practice Manual to…

  • Transition from aimless noodling to a systematic, organized and easily managed practice style.
  • Eliminate doubt and save time on the road to trumpet greatness.
  • Focus your practice sessions to spend less time in the practice room and more time enjoying your results.
  • Stick with the program, snowball your momentum and crystallize excellent playing habits.
  • Morph into a trumpet-playing machine!

Your Practice Manual

The Practice Manual, or Master Plan, or Operations Manual of Trumpet Badassity, or whatever you want to call it, is a place to take notes on your progress as a musician. It will act as a place to keep info on the various strategies you experiment with, the particulars of your practice day, and a system for organizing insights and ideas so you can design a personalized Practice Plan that meets your needs.

Essentially, your Practice Manual is going to keep you on track for the long-haul.

Now before we go any further, I want to acknowledge that fact that more than one trumpet player has complained about setting up their Practice Manual. But, once put into action, they’ve eventually come around to the benefits of systematizing their practice.

So if you’re “not a journal person…”

…snap out of it!

I thought the Journal was an interesting idea but now that I have mine done I think it will be vital to my comeback. The lack of a journal may be why I’ve failed with my comebacks in the past.”

“…I went to the journal and checked off the box in daily tracker and then remembered to go to the practice log and log it.   I realized all of sudden that writing it down made me want to do more so I immediately added (another exercise).  Again, it was something relatively easy I loved to do but failed to do it with daily consistency.  Now it’s in the journal and part of my new daily.”

“I am happy to report that I’ve been keeping on track even with recent visitors. I think the journal is key to keeping on track, I love writing in it about what I am learning and practicing.”

Grab a pen and notebook. Right now. Any notebook with some blank pages will do. If you don’t have one on hand, it’s worth running to the drugstore for a $.99 Composition Notebook before venturing any further.

Also, it is valuable to actually WRITE, so for now, leave technology out of it. Something about writing by hand really gets the juices flowing, and it’s a great way to anchor what you learn.

Let’s go!

Practice Manual Overview

The basic Practice Manual consists of five parts.

  1. Index
  2. Daily Tracker
  3. Rotation Tracker
  4. Practice Log
  5. Open Categories

Let’s take a peak at each of the sections. After that, the video below will walk you through setting up your Practice Manual.

The Index

Have you ever kept meticulous notes on something only to lose track of where the information you want is?

The Index puts an end to that.

Otherwise known as a Table of Contents, the Index is where you’ll keep all the contents of your Practice Manual tightly organized. This way you’re able to quickly find exactly what you’re looking for down the road and keep related information in one categorized place.

Here’s the Index from an old journal. Don’t worry about the contents of the Index. Minus a few key items, your Index will be unique to your trumpet-life.

This is just to show you how unbelievably nerdy you can get about your practice time.

The Daily Tracker

In Lesson 2 of the Ultimate Comeback Kit we dive headfirst into the psychological know-how of creating a Daily that you’ll stick to.

At its core, the Daily is just picking something, anything, and committing to doing it every day. The Daily will evolve as you continue along, so it’s helpful to have a place where you’ll log a) what the Daily is at any given point, and b) the days you’ve completed it.

In the following photo, the numbers on the calendar signify a change in the contents of the Daily, and the X’s following each number are the days that particular Daily was completed.

The Technical Rotation Tracker

Alongside your Daily, you’ll also want to move through a stable of fundamental exercises to improve your playing mechanics, technique and sound as you go. Similar to the Daily, it’s useful to keep a place for notes on the specifics of your technical routine, as well as reminders of things like key, range and practice tempos.

With all of this information kept in a single location you’ll find it very easy to progressively improve your technique for months, even years, using very simple methods of slowly but surely developing your playing fundamentals.

To give you an idea of what this might look like, here’s a pic of an old Routine Tracker.

(Technical Rotation circled in green. Numbers signify tempo.)

The Practice Journal

As you move along, you might find it’s helpful to log any insights or how you are feeling about your trumpet practice. The Practice Journal is the place where you can include notes about what you practiced that day, are thinking you might like to practice in the future, and any feelings you have about the process.

My Practice Logs contain lists of what I’ve practiced, notes from lessons I’ve taken, mantras I’ve brainwashed myself with, as well as pages upon pages of vented trumpet-frustrations.

(That’s a lot of frustration)

Admittedly, the Practice Journal is the part of the Practice Manual the “non-journaling” folks take issue with. But remember, much of your success is reliant on creating habits. And by definition, once a habit is established, it’s something you will do automatically without having to think too much about it.

As logging your practice becomes habit, you’ll find your Practice Journal becomes increasingly valuable the longer you keep it up. This is because after Journaling for a period of at least a few months, you’re in possession of an incredible resource for assessing previous practice time, and gaining perspective on how you’d like to move forward.

“…I especially like the Practice Log. Great way to keep organized and track what you are doing.”


After your Trackers and Journal, the rest of the Practice Manual can be used to compile related information, for easy retrieval, by using Categories.

For example, say you take a private lesson from one of your trumpet heroes. You simply title any empty page, “Lesson with Trumpet-Stud on xx/xx/xxxx,” and then immediately write that title and page number in the Index. Now anytime you’d like to review those lesson notes, you just refer to the Index and…bingo!

You can compile notes on anything you like; “Breathing Ideas,” “Articulation Drills,” or “Songs I Want to Learn” are good examples. This is also where the magic and flexibility of the Index starts coming into play, as well as where your Manual starts to move in a personalized direction.

The only thing to keep in mind about Categories is that once you set one up, you need to index it right away. Otherwise, it’s easy to forget and not Index the category at all, which kind of defeats the purpose

Setting Up Your Practice Manual

The following video walks you through setting up the Index, Daily Tracker, Rotation and Practice Log in your Practice Manual. Remember, this was a BETA video aimed at comeback players so don’t mind the constant referrals to “comeback this and that.”

Also, if you don’t want to draw your own calendars you can print the trackers linked below the video.

Very exciting stuff!

Most months will use a 5-week tracker. Occasionally you’ll need 6-weeks to make it work (eg: April, July, December 2017). If drawing calendars isn’t your idea of a good time, just cut these out and tape them into your Manual!

5-Week Daily Tracker Printable PDF

6-Week Daily Tracker Printable PDF

Now that you have your Practice Manual set up, there’s one more thing to keep in mind. Due to the flexibility of the Index, you’ll discover better ways to personalize it as you go. View using the Manual as an exploration. If there’s something you want to include, figure out a way to work it in. Over the next several weeks and months you’ll discover better ways to use your Manual based on the particulars of your practice.

So don’t worry about starting with a perfect system. Just get in the habit of using the Manual and improve your methods as you go.

Happy Logging!

– James

If you found this article helpful please comment below!

2 thoughts on “Setting up a Badass Practice Manual / Practice Log / Journal

  1. Pingback: 3.28- Goals for a New Year – The Tuning Slide

  2. “…babies…” I think there was a song written about this….Its my comeback and I’ll cry if I want to. Or something like that. Just when I am getting ready to set up my practice log for the new year this information descends from the heavens.

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