Notebooks are one of the most valuable tools musicians and songwriters can have. Used regularly, they become your holy grail of inspiration, ideas, hooks, titles and great phrases. Notebooks for musicians are the perfect system for keeping track of anything and everything that can make your creative vision become a reality.
The most prolific musicians usually have a notebook and pencil close at hand all day long. Inspiration could strike at any time, and that’s how to be ready when it does. Always have a notebook and pencil close at hand, wherever you are.
Improve Your Musical Instincts by Cataloguing Your Experience in a Notebook
The way you write can affect what you write. Every notebook is unique. And each may pull out something unique from inside of you. The space and the tools you use can influence you in different ways. For example, you may find different ideas being drawn out of you depending on whether you’re writing on a page with musical staffs versus a dot grid layout, or a blank page. Try out different notebooks and page layouts frequently to keep your creative juices churning.
Checklists Musicians Might Keep in Their Notebooks
It’s super convenient and effective to keep all your checklists in one place. Some types of checklists musicians have told us they keep are:
- Songs you’re working on, or want to work on next.
- Set lists.
- Travel packing lists.
- Lists of things to bring to a performance.
- Lists of people.
- Studio gear.
- Gear wish lists.
And there are many more. Whatever your checklist needs, having them all in one place will be helpful, and will increase your productivity and efficiency. Some artists like to separate a dedicated group of pages in their notebooks as space for current and future checklists.
Notebooks for Musicians are the Perfect to Document Your Ideas
One of the most common uses of notebooks for musicians is to document your ideas. As an artist, ideas are the lifeblood of your creative endeavors. And ideas can come at any time! Don’t be caught off guard and lose an idea that might have resulted in one of your musical successes.
Keep your notebook with you everywhere you go, and you’ll be prepared to record all the ideas that come to you. There’s power in having all those ideas in one single place, nice and organized for future access when you’re ready to work on them.
Keep Track of Daily Practice in Your Notebook
Scientists have studied music learning and performance for decades now, and the latest scientific discoveries from psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science all play a part in getting the most effective, focused practice sessions.
A daily music journal to track your progress is for more than just recording what music you’ve worked on. It’s a tool you can use to strengthen every part of your performance – from execution to knowledge, to inner game.
Look for a journal that provides space for you to record your daily practice time, as well as notes on technique, listening exercises, and sight reading. Keeping a record of these things will allow you to improve faster and recognize your long-term progress and growth.
Give Your Brain a Space to Recharge
Creating music is hard mental work. As such, you need to take time for your brain to rest and recuperate. You could dedicate a section of your notebook for this. Maybe doodling relaxes your brain. Or making lists of things not related to your creative work. This will allow you to be fully creative when you get back to work on your music.
Ideas for Organizing Your Musical Notebooks
Here are some ideas you could use to organize your notebooks. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and if you spend some time thinking about it, you’ll doubtless come up with several more to suit you individually.
Inside of the cover, and maybe on the first few pages, record quotes you’ve heard and things that have happened during the year. Then start an index page of musical ideas, song titles, etc. Include the date you wrote it. The rest of the pages can be dedicated to the music and songs you’re writing.
You could use the back half of your notebook, starting from the back cover and working toward the front, as an area for recording ideas, thoughts, journal entries, etc. Whenever the back half and front half meet, it’s time for a new notebook! Remember to keep completed notebooks in a place that is safe, but also easily accessible for whenever you want to go to your well of inspiration.
One technique several of the songwriters we talked to employ is to use the left-hand page of their notebooks as they’re writing the song, putting a line through the lyrics as they make changes, but never erasing anything they wrote. Then on the right-hand page of the notebook they write down the final lyric in nice handwriting.
One final idea you might find useful is to keep several different sections in the same notebook. The different sections could be used for things such as lyric ideas, melody ideas, instrumentation ideas, song title ideas, hook ideas, etc. The benefit of this is that when you’re working on a new song, you know exactly where to turn to when you need some ideas for those different aspects.
What to Look For When Purchasing a Notebook for Your Music
You should consider several things when deciding which notebook to purchase for your music journey. Take the time to put some thought into it rather than just going out and buying the first notebook you come across. These are some of the questions you should answer for yourself before you start shopping for this important piece of equipment:
- What is your budget? How much do you want to spend on your notebook? Some musicians prefer to spend as little as possible, and some like to go all in with very high quality notebooks that cost a little more.
- Do you enjoy the look and feel of it?
- Is it constructed with durable, quality materials?
- Is the size of the notebook right for you?
- How many pages does the notebook contain?
- Do you prefer a hard or flexible cover?
- What about the binding? Many musicians prefer a style that will lay flat on a table.
- Is the paper of high quality? Is it thick enough to prevent bleed through to the other side?
- How durable will the the notebook be? Can you toss it in a bag, or rip out pages without ruining the binding or bending the cover?
- Is the notebook available in a color the speaks to you?
- Do you prefer to have a pocket to store loose items with the notebook?
- How about the line spacing? Is it too short or too tall? Or just right for your preference? Do you want pages with musical staffs? Or blank pages? Or maybe you prefer a mix of all of the above.
Do You Have Some Ideas About Notebooks for Musicians That We Didn’t Cover?
There are probably a lot of other uses, considerations and ideas you have about notebooks for musicians that we didn’t cover above. If so, please share your ideas in the comments below so that other musicians can benefit from your ideas and experience!