Reflecting on My First 100 Days of Practice Challenge

Doing something every day for 100 days seems like a really long time. At least, it did back in the fall when my piano students and I embarked on our practice challenges.

Most of them wrapped up their 60 Days of Practice Challenge around Christmas Break, so they are in the early stages of their 100 Days of Practice Challenge. I’ll share some of their thoughts once all the surveys have been turned in.

Last Thursday, I completed my first 100 Days of Practice Challenge. As I went straight into it after my 30 day challenge, I had practised for 130 consecutive days. I don’t think I have ever practised 130 days straight as a student.

Was it hard? Yes and no. There were definitely days in which it was 11:30 at night and I hadn’t gotten to any practising because of other commitments. There were days when I could only do a short practice. But once I made the commitment to my students and online, I felt honour-bound to see it through.

Did I make any life-changing discoveries? Nope. If you do something regularly, you’re going to see some improvement. But I knew that going in. There are countless studies on that.

If anything, this challenge was an opportunity for me to get back in touch with the way I used to practice at university and whilst preparing for my ARCT in Piano Performance. Here are a few things that stood out as I look back on this challenge:

Goalsetting is Important

The only goal I had going into this 100 day challenge was to show my students (as well as any aspiring musician) what practising is like. Yes, practising can be difficult. Yes, it can be unglamorous. However, with hard work and perseverance, you can attain those victory moments. The practice clips I shared on the studio Instagram page reflected this. The majority of them featured me drilling trouble spots in my students’ repertoire as well as my own. It also featured me racing from the moment I got the song list to prepare for church the following day.

It may have seemed like a hodgepodge, unlike the other #100daysofpractice musicians who were sharing the development of their audition or recital repertoire. However, I think the clips gave a good representation of what we as music teachers and those who perform work through in a day.

To help keep me on track, I resurrected the Practice Journal. My daily practice tracker was fine for giving me a bird’s eye view over a month. The journal gave a much clearer insight on what exactly I worked on. More importantly, it showed how each session went and what needs more work. It was nice to just whip out my journal and share an insight with a student that I had with one of their pieces.

At the end of most practices, I sketched out a practice plan for the following day. This worked extremely well as the plan and my practice tracker showed that I cycled through my students’ repertoire (Grade 3 - 10) and piano technique quite regularly.

I must admit that in the past few years, my practising consisted of occasionally running through my students’ trouble spots but mainly focussed on racing to get songs ready for church as soon as I got the list for the next day. I did listen to my intermediate and advanced students’ repertoire regularly, however, thanks to my YouTube playlist. Needless to say, my practice frequency wasn’t as regular as it could have been.

Reviewing Your Practices is Important

Often, we go through the motions of a task without much conscious thought, be it exercise, a musical instrument, writing, photography, dance, and so on. If we want to improve however, we need to improve our self-evaluation skills. Effective practice is mindful practice. That means asking yourself if a section getting better? If not, why not? What else can you do to get it? Who can you ask for help if you are stuck?

I used to record my practice sessions fairly regularly during my university days and when I was preparing for my ARCT. Then, I fell off the “Record & Review” wagon hard, although I told my students they should be doing it.

With my public practice log being the studio’s Instagram account, I had no choice but to record photos and/or video of my practices - and to review them. I actually wound up letting the clips play while I was folding laundry or washing dishes, which helped me plan out future practices and lessons with my students.

Flexibility in your Practising is Important

Having practice goals and a plan is all well and good, but what if you just had a crappy day? This was the precise reason why I didn’t specify a practice time length for my students or myself. Quality over quantity.

On the days I was completely drained, mentally or physically (sometimes both), or when I had to work longer than anticipated, I needed a “light practice” plan. For me, that included everything from “playing” with music ed apps, scorestudying (with our without the piece playing in the background), reviewing practice clips, or rhythm work. One night, I was so tired from a long week of teaching and ushering that I fell asleep in the middle of an ear training drill on the Perfect Ear app.

Someone asked me recently how long my daily practices were. They ranged anywhere between two minutes to over three hours.

My 100 Days of Practice Log

For ease, I’ve compiled links to each of my 100 days below, for those who want to check out the clips. If not, scroll down to see what’s the next practice challenge:

Day 1: Mass of Glory | Day 2: Mass of Glory | Day 3: Come Now is the Time to Worship | Day 4: Spanish Alleluia | Day 5: Morning Prayer | Day 6: Pirates of the Caribbean | Day 7: Nocturne in e minor, op. 72 no. 1 | Day 8: Oath Sign | Day 9: Etude in A-flat Major, op. 30, no. 19 | Day 10: Oath Sign | Day 11: Someone to Lava | Day 12: Perfect Ear app drills | Day 13: Pirates of the Caribbean | Day 14: Game of Thrones Medley | Day 15: Danza de la moza donosa | Day 16: Oath Sign | Day 17: Oath Sign | Day 18: Basic cajón exercise | Day 19: Game of Thrones Medley (tap practice) | Day 20: Prelude & Fugue in d minor, BWV 851


Day 21: Danza del viejo boyero | Day 22: Dance of the Aborigines | Day 23: Grade 10 RCM piano technical exercises | Day 24: Seven of Hearts | Day 25: Perfect Ear app drills | Day 26: Samba groove rhythm work | Day 27: Samba groove drill on cajón | Day 28: Danza del gaucho matrero | Day 29: Foggy Day Blues | Day 30: Nocturne in e minor, op. 72 no. 1 & Our God


Day 31: O Canada & Awesome God | Day 32: Choir practice photo | Day 33: Sight singing and Boomwhackers | Day 34: The Avengers | Day 35: Lied | Day 36: The Avengers & Lied | Day 37: La Puerta del Vino | Day 38: Ear training: singing intervals | Day 39: Ready the Way | Day 40: Scorestudy Sunday photo

Day 41: Pirates of the Caribbean & Sonata in g, Hob. XVI: 44 (1st mvt.) | Day 42: Mighty to Save | Day 43: French Suite No. 3 in B minor BWV 814 - Minuet and Trio & Mass of St. Ann | Day 44: The Avengers | Day 45: Child of the Poor/What Child is This? | Day 46: Funky scales & trying out the lyre | Day 47: Perfect Ear app drills | Day 48: Technical Exercises | Day 49: Prelude & Fugue in d minor, BWV 851 | Day 50: Be Unto Your Name


Day 51: Sing We Now of Christmas | Day 52: Danza del viejo boyero | Day 53: Mass of St. Ann | Day 54: Perfect Ear app drills | Day 55: Pirates of the Caribbean | Day 56: Prelude & Fugue in d, BWV 851 | Day 57: Nocturne in e minor, op. 72, no. 1 | Day 58: Days of Elijah Clip 1 & 2 | Day 59: Days of Elijah Clip 1 & 2 | Day 60: Choir Practice photo


Day 61: Perfect Ear app drills | Day 62: Sonatina in B-flat Major, op. 12, no. 5 & God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen | Day 63: Child of the Poor/What Child is This? | Day 64: Nocturne in e minor, op. 72 no. 1 | Day 65: Cassandra’s Dream | Day 66: Sonata in D, K 33 L 424 & Fly Me to the Moon | Day 67: Go Tell it on the Mountain | Day 68: Perfect Ear app drills | Day 69: Pirates of the Caribbean & Ready the Way | Day 70: Sing We Now of Christmas & Mass of St. Ann


Day 71: III maj7 - VI maj7 - ii7 flat 5 - v7 - i7 progression | Day 72: Days of Elijah | Day 73: Gentle Waltz | Day 74: Joy to the World | Day 75: Holy is His Name | Day 76: O Come all Ye Faithful | Day 77: Choir practice photo | Day 78: The Most Amazing Sheep Game | Day 79: The Most Amazing Sheep Game | Day 80: Child of the Poor/What Child is This?


Day 81: Let Heaven Rejoice | Day 82: The Most Amazing Sheep Game | Day 83: Note Rush app | Day 84: Perfect Ear app | Day 85: Perfect Ear app | Day 86: Perfect Ear app | Day 87: Arpeggii practice | Day 88: Tetria A Theme | Day 89: Perfect Ear app | Day 90: Pirates of the Caribbean


Day 91: Seven of Hearts | Day 92: Nocturne in e minor, op. 72 no. 1 | Day 93: Game of Thrones Medley | Day 94: Perfect Ear app | Day 95: Choir practice photo | Day 96: Perfect Ear app | Day 97: La puerta del vino | Day 98: Hotel California | Day 99: Prelude and Fugue in d, BWV 851 | Day 100: Gentle Waltz, Seven of Hearts, Nocturne in e, op. 72 no. 1 & Pirates of the Caribbean

#100DaysofPractice Round 2

After taking several days off, I’m going to restart the challenge tomorrow. Part of me wants to start tonight, because I did feel a little lost on my days off, but there are some studio administrative tasks I need to take care of first.

I do have a different set of goals for this round. Although I will continue to practice my students’ repertoire and pieces for church, I’ve decided that I’ll focus the public practice log on three pieces, for the most part. That way, I can at least achieve my goal of building up my own repertoire.

I’ve chosen something old, something new, and something for all my non-primary instruments. This will also give you and me the opportunity to hear how these pieces develop over the course of 100 days. The pieces I have selected are:

1 - Danza del gaucho matrero (Alberto Ginastera)

When I first learned Ginastera’s Danzas Argentinas for my ARCT programme, it took me one day to learn Danza del viejo boyero ("Dance of the Old Herdsman") and two days to learn Danza de la moza donosa ("Dance of the Beautiful Maiden"). This one, the third dance, took me over two months to learn and then at least another two to bring up to speed. Since I’ve already relearned the first two earlier this school year, it’s time to finish the set.

2 - Papillons, op. 2 (Robert Schumann)

When Irina Ginzburg, one of my most influential teachers, passed away, I inherited her score of Papillons. I dutifully kept it in my music library - untouched - till now. I can’t help but wonder whether there is a lesson in this work that Mrs. G would like me to learn.

3 - Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s version)

What better way to ensure that my non-primary instruments get regular practice than by choosing a song and learning it on all of them? I am thinking of doing a virtual ensemble performance on voice, ukulele, melodica, and cajón.

Join the #100daysofpractice Challenge!

Whether you are a musician or photographer, writer or athlete, consider taking the 100 Days of Practice Challenge. You may start the challenge at any time and set up your parameters anyhow you wish. As a guide, here’s what I set for my first round:

  1. Practice for 100 consecutive days, unless I was too sick. Restart the count if any healthy days are missed.

  2. No time limit. Focus on quality, mindful practice versus quantity.

  3. All instruments counted (piano, voice, cajón, melodica, ukulele, playing & singing, conducting).

  4. Practice away from one’s instrument counted. That means: theory, tap practice, scorestudy, record and review, studying recordings, ear training apps, and my students’ fave: The Most Amazing Sheep Game.

  5. Keep a daily log. After seeing what other musicians and music teachers did, I opted for sharing my posts on Instagram. If your log is online, don’t forget to use the #100daysofpractice and #100daysofpracticechallenge hashtags. Of course, it doesn’t need to be online, but I must say that I’ve enjoyed interacting with others who have been doing the challenge.

  6. Reward yourself once you complete the challenge! Here’s my victory dinner:

I’m actually planning on taking the challenge with my budo practice as well. Although I’m not grading this year, I have over 120 kata and techniques that I’m trying to keep straight in my head and lock securely into muscle memory. Not sure if I’ll start that tomorrow as well.

You can check out what Hilary Hahn, the originator of the challenge did for hers. Here’s her interview for Strings Magazine and her Instagram. You can also follow other artists and athletes on Instagram by following one of the aforementioned hashtags.

If 100 days seems too daunting, you could start with a smaller number, such as 30 or 60 days.

If you do participate, let me know so we can keep in touch and cheer each other on.

January 22, 2019 update

I forgot to share my challenge parameters for the budo portion of my #100daysofpracticechallenge. They are:

  1. Study/train for 100 consecutive days (at the dojo or at home), unless I am too sick. For each healthy day that I skip, I must restart the count.

  2. No time limit. Focus on quality, mindful practice versus quantity.

  3. All disciplines that I study (Iaido, Jodo, Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, and Choken Battojutsu Kagéryu). Kata, kihon, waza, and other related drills.

  4. Studying the training manuals, notes, photos and training related videos count.

  5. Martial arts demonstrations count (they are usually on less than ideal conditions, so as sensei says, “Epic training conditions!”).

  6. Keep a daily log.

  7. Reward: Dinner most likely at a Japanese restaurant. Japanese martial arts, after all.