“I want to get better but I don’t have time to practice.” Or: “Yeah, I wanted to get better, practiced some, but it didn’t really take so I quit.” If these sentences sound familiar, I’d like to share with you a few positive ideas to help jumpstart and maintain a healthy practice schedule:

1. Believe in yourself. This sounds cheesy, but it really is the start. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t see your own progress at first. Learning takes time and a willingness to persevere after failures and rusty starts.

2. Begin with a goal, then split it into manageable tasks. Focus on little things. Trying to learn a new song? Start with the chorus. Want to learn Bach’s Violin Partita in D minor? Begin with the first measure, and take it slow. Want to get better at improvising? Ask someone for a five-minute lesson. Any goal you have should be divided into smaller tasks.

3. Find supportive friends and mentors. Don’t listen to anyone who tries to discourage you from pursuing knowledge and honing your skills. Some people view music as a silly pastime. Prove them wrong by becoming great at it.

4. Go see live music in an intimate venue regularly. Seeing musicians perform to an audience of 10 – 300 people is inspiring. Most concerts these days are much bigger, but if you know where to look, small venues are thriving and showcasing great artists all the time. Chances are good they’ll inspire you. (The Isis Music Hall, Mothlight, Bywater and Grey Eagle are my local Asheville-area favorites.)

5. Keep your instrument tuned and ready to play at all times. Simple.

6. Keep picks and a tuner in your pocket so you don’t have to search for them each time you feel like playing. Again, pretty simple.

7. Copy the sounds of other instruments. Do you play guitar? Great. Go listen to a couple trumpet players and try to copy their phrasing, their sense of melody, their riffs. You play bass? Listen close to drummers in different genres. How do they accent the beat? Copy the way they approach a song. Conversely, if you play drums, try to illustrate the melody within your percussion, or hum the melody while you play your drum part. Again, this may sound cheesy, but there’s a lot to be learned by walking a mile in another shoes.

8. Move your fingers mindfully. Make every pick stroke deliberate, every fretted note a choice. Playing music well takes rapid fire decision-making. It doesn’t magically flow, that is until you’ve spent the time practicing those little decisions involved in making every note sing.

9.Get a gig. Having a show on the calendar is an excellent (perhaps the best) motivator. There’s nothing quite like live performance to test your nerves and hone your musicianship.

10. Don’t wait to become inspired. Learning music means walking the line between inspiration and discipline. Practice even when you don’t feel like it. There is no substitute for time spent playing your instrument. Get going!

This article was written by Asheville based musician, songwriter, and shophand, Jackson Emmer.