People always ask me, "how do you warm up?" My response can get quite detailed depending on the time allotted to answer the question, but the short answer is this: I don't! The reason I don't is because I never let myself get cold—I never stop playing for even one day. I know this doesn't work for everyone, because we all don't play guitar for a living. But the reality for me is that I'm addicted to pushing strings around every day, and I don't feel good about myself if I don't get an opportunity to play.
I've often said that I find my center as a person through practicing guitar. This sounds a bit cosmic, I'm sure, but if I'm not up on my playing I don't feel my true worth as a human is being achieved. So to keep that healthy mental balance I need to play, and during the Holidays it gets pretty crazy around here; parties, shopping, relatives—you know the drill—and it all adds up. The upheaval of my normal schedule means I'm scratching out 10 minutes here and 15 minutes there, but no deep practice.
So in an effort to keep my chops up and continue advancing on guitar, I have leaned a few little tricks over the years:
1) Pick a single technique that you occasionally struggle with like harmonics or hybrid picking or cross picking on just one particularly difficult line, or blowing on "Giant Steps."
2) Only work on that singular technique every time you pick up the guitar for the entire week. That way you have a mission and you don't waste time figuring out what you want to do.
3) Get a 50-foot cable so you can hang with the family (with your amp down the hall) while playing. Or use a semi hollow body electric like a Thinline Telecaster that needs no amplification.
4) Re-harmonize “The Christmas Song,” so your wife will think you're serenading her while you' re actually working out new chord voicings!
Happy New Year everyone! —Carl Verheyen