Yes, it does happen from time to time, that you just don’t feel like doing your guitar practice today. It happens to those most dedicated to their learning. It happens to the amateur. It happens to the pro. And I can tell you it certainly happens to me too! We’re all human, not mindless, lifeless robots, so it’s completely understandable.
When you find yourself in this situation of not feeling like practicing it’s important to examine why it is that you don’t want to practice, or have minimal appetite for it, and act on that. I had a bit of that feeling this weekend, for example, and taking a look at why I didn’t feel like practicing may be relatively easy to understand – 6 aeroplane flights in the preceeding 5 days, working away from home in various locations all week, cramming Christmas parties in, shopping and family stuff all into a 48 hour period. I could possibly be forgiven for wanting to flop on the couch and watch just one more episode of Game Of Thrones! But crack on with practice I did!
We can’t help situation and circumstance – Yes, I am busy. Yes, I am tired. And I completely understand where those of you are coming from who also have busy lives in terms of practice. But this is not excuse enough. Well, not for me anyway.
I’m saying this in a “let’s be hard on myself, go, go, go, more, more, more” kind of way. Nope. I’m saying this in a “consistency is key” kind of way. Even picking up the guitar for 10 or 15 minutes and working on just one small thing, I know from experience, has absolutely undeniable benefits.
It comes down to choice. You can choose to do something else other than practice (and sometimes if you’re really super tired that’s probably the right choice!). You can also choose to pick up the guitar for even just a few minutes, reconnect and play at least something. And more often than not I make the choice to practice, if if I do feel like flopping on the sofa!
How do I do that? Well, here are some of my top tips for practicing when I don’t feel like practicing:
(1) I firstly examine whether I’m just being lazy or am genuinely tired. I also look at my schedule coming up and when I’ll next be able to practice if I don’t get a session in now or today. If I’m away for a few days and the next practice session is looking like it will be 3 or 4 days away then it’s a bit of a no-brainer – pick up the guitar and get on with it!
(2) But if I am genuinely over-tired (to be honest it doesn’t happen that often that I’m just being lazy!), then it’s simple. I may tinker for a little on the guitar, play a few favourite tunes to keep the fingers moving, but I won’t do what I call proper practice. You need a more-or-less switched on brain for that!
(3) I remind myself that I don’t have to sit there for the next 90 minutes! I tell myself to give it just 10 or 15 minutes. More often than not I end up then getting into the swing of it and practicing for 30, 40 minutes or more. Getting started can sometimes be the most difficult bit! Once you get going though you’re often off and on your way.
(4) I remind myself that picking up the guitar for just those 10 or 15 minutes I’ll be one step closer to getting that piece under the fingers and understanding the music than the same time yesterday, rather than two steps back (potentially) if I’d not practiced. Every little bit really does count when it comes to practice.
(5) I’ll often seek some external inspiration by listening to a favourite recording or a recording of a piece I’m learning. I’ll listen in to the sounds and shapes of the music, and think about how I’d create that myself on the guitar. This invariably starts the fingers itching for some play and practice.
(6) Set a schedule – practice is an art in itself, it’s true. You can also say it’s about habit. Set yourself a regular time slot, if possible, six days out of seven and stick to it. You may have to encourage yourself to practice in this manner for a while, but like practice the habit soon begins to stick with you.