At first one has doubts about Philip Johnston's book, as one has about any volume that claims to revolutionize the study of music. The breezy writing style and the bulleted and numbered headings, which make "The Practice Revolution" look like one of those innumerable self-help books aimed at the corporate world, are partly to blame. If one can get through these features, though, there is much of value here. Johnston correctly points out that the actual lesson occupies but a tiny fraction of a student's study of music, and that therefore what happens in between is crucial to the success or failure of music study. He catalogues common types of bad practicing and offers solutions for each; he shows that much apparent laziness among students stems from lack of clear communication and understanding between student and teacher, not lack of motivation. He is sympathetic to the real difficulties today's youngsters must deal with in terms of time management. Perhaps the most valuable section of the book consists of a variety of musical games designed to engender a milder form of performance anxiety in practice, so that the real pressure of a recital or contest won't come as a shocking and insurmountable obstacle. Other chapters on memorization, ironing out rough spots and interpretation, while solid, have been done as well or better in other classic texts on music pedagogy.
Johnston's book has two notable flaws, the first minor, the second major. The minor flaw is that the entire book turns out to be in the nature of an advertisement for his Internet business; while this by no means is offensively done, nor does it negate the real value of the book, it is a little off-putting to the reader to discover this. A much more serious drawback is this: Johnston seems largely to discount the possibility that many of the problems students encounter in practice, that he spends pages trying to solve, can be ironed out in advance by the teacher, simply by choosing the right repertoire in the right order. An ill-chosen assignment means the student will either be bored by something way too easy, or made frustrated and insecure by something hopelessly beyond his or her technical/musical grasp. A thorough knowledge of the literature and the strengths and weaknesses of a student, and the ability to match the former with the latter, is an absolutely essential quality of a good music teacher. I find it inexplicable that the author barely mentions this fact.