Who remembers their Chester’s Music Practice Book from when they had lessons as a child? I do, and I have a feeling I’ve still got mine somewhere. These tiny little books, the size and shape of which matched nothing else, were the mainstay of lessons for me and many others during the early 1990s.
You can still buy them, along with a range of other practice diaries, so you may be forgiven for wondering why we need another. In this review, I want to focus on a new practice diary created by Alex Bowen of Stepping Tones. Alex is a piano and music theory teacher, and Dalcroze specialist based in Derbyshire. To quote Alex:
The vibrant Stepping Tones Practice Diary provides an exciting and creative way for young musicians to keep track of their lessons, practice, ambitions and achievements. This book is brimming with fun features to engage curiosity, with special tools to help pupils love practising regularly and efficiently!
I think the most intriguing thing about this diary is that it is A4 in size. When it comes to practice diaries, we are generally used to A5, or even A6 productions. I think this is a huge advantage because no longer do teachers have to cram everything into a small space, but also, the diary will be similar in size to the students’ books themselves.
There are 40 double-page spreads for the lesson notes and practice charts. At the start of the book there are examples of ways in which these can be used, but the intention is clearly that they should be adapted to the needs of each individual student and teacher. Alex intends to supplement these examples with some short videos which will show how the diary can be used in practice.
One innovative feature of the practice diary is the ‘flexi-stave’ pages. These can be used both for text (covering both large and small handwriting) and music notation. This feature is hugely beneficial for both teacher and student and again, can be adapted to a wide range of different needs. Each double-page spread of the 40 weeks includes a practice tip and a musical word of the week.
At the back of the book there are some pages to enhance and develop theoretical knowledge such as dynamics and tempo, and quick reference guides such as those for the circle of fifths. There are also a number of puzzle pages and further blank staves. Right at the back there is space for students to set targets and a sticker chart.
It is clearly presented, and above all, adaptable. It is sturdily wire-bound which should last longer than standard comb-binding. As well as enough for a year’s worth of lesson and practice notes, the added extras really enhance this beyond the standard practice diary.
I would have no hesitation in recommending this to teachers who still utilise a paper practice diary, and at just £5.99, it is excellent value.
Stepping Tones Practice Diary is available to order direct from Alex here at £5.99.
I was sent a review copy of this book free of charge; however, this review is my honest opinion as a teacher. You can find my Reviews Policy here.
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