Just Get Started

This week is all about getting started. Similar to the law of inertia where an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion, you just need to get the practice ball rolling. We have all had the day where you scheduled time to practice and then you decided to check another email or stayed on YouTube or Facebook for a “few” more minutes and ended up not practicing because it got too late or it was time to leave for the next appointment. For me, once I start and get going, I quickly get in practice mode and don’t want to stop and regret not having started earlier and cutting my time short. Here are a few tips to help stop procrastinating and start practicing.

Having a set of warm up exercises is a great way to start your practice session and it doesn’t require a lot of brain power or creativity. Warm up exercises are the broccoli of practice time; they are good for you but everyone wants to skip right to the main course. It is important to understand why you are doing any exercise and the warm up routine should get your fingers loose, stretched out and ready to play. You don’t need to spend too much time on this part of your daily practice but you will see healthy results if you stick to the plan.

Variety is a good thing when it comes to warming up. There are many different left hand fingering patterns that you can choose and this is a good time to review scales as well. If you have been working on scale sequences or solo transcriptions and feel that you have them up to speed, put those into your warm up routine. Etudes also fall into this category and they are meant to be short pieces that target certain techniques but sound more musical than just running scales up and down. If you are having technical issues with any of the scales, solos or etudes, then save them for a more focused practice time after you have warmed up.

Sometimes you just want to start off with a song you love playing that will inspire and motivate you for further practice. This is a great idea as long as you don’t get carried away and play another song, and then another song and then whoops….out of time. Get your hands loose with one song and make sure that you have thought out your practice routine and move to the next section right away.

Another tip for getting started is to have a designated practice space. Not having to clear an area for practice and already having your equipment set up can save a lot of time. I tell my students to get a guitar stand and keep the guitar out of the case and on the stand during the week so that they can quickly grab it and start playing. During the winter you might have to keep your acoustic guitar in the case with a humidifier so keep your case right next to your music stand and other equipment for easy access. If your practice space is easily accessible and ready to go with your music and equipment, you will be surprised at how much more practice time you will find.

Creating the habit of getting started and actually playing your instrument will make you feel good and likely want to practice again the next day. Practicing can be fun if you are in the right frame of mind and don’t consider it to be a chore that you have to do. There are a thousand excuses for not practicing and most of us are skilled in the ways of procrastination so have a plan just for starting your practice session and remember, you could be doing the dishes or taking out the trash.