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Are you a paper and pencil teacher?

Do you prefer to write things down on paper like I do? I tried to migrate to all digital, but my iPad is too big and heavy (I got the big size because I’m super near-sighted), and my thumb-typing isn’t fast enough in the moment.

I’m famous for asking my students “What do you need to write down as a reminder about what we just talked about?” and I try to help them take actionable notes that can be useful later on.

Every time I meet a new student, I notice that many of them are hesitant to write in their parts. They make the same mistake over and over again! When we finally write a note in the part, they play it correctly, and something seems to click.

I’ve been working with a student this summer who has a very casual attitude. In his July lessons, he took no notes unless I specifically dictated something to him, and he barely turned in his homework. But last week at his lesson, he said “Hold on, I need to write that down”, and at each weekly lesson, he improves by leaps and bounds.

I think that taking notes is an important step for students to learn the information we’re giving. I also think that students need to take ownership of their notes to learn effectively. In the example of my summer student - when we first started working together, he could barely get through a one-octave Bb major scale. Now he’s able to play that scale in two octaves, mostly memorized, using Left F accurately and appropriately. The difference is in the note-taking, and when students realize that their notes are a tool they can use in their practice time.

Do you encourage note-taking in class? Do you ask students to write practice reminders for themselves? I’d love to hear how you incorporate note-taking into your ensembles, and if you swear by it as much as I do.

Until next week,



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