Really trivial and unimportant question for musicians

I don’t know exactly why I’m curious about this, but I am. What is the very firts thing you typically do when you pick up ( or sit down at) your instrument. I’m wondering if other miusicians fall into the same kind of habits that I do. I’m a guitarist, and whenever I pick up a guitar, the first thing I usually do is play an open A chord and let it ring out. I don’t know exactly why or when I started this, but I’ve been doing it for 20 years or more. It just seems like a good chord to check the tuning and the tone, and (for an electric guitar) the settings for the amp and the effects. I also typically follow up the A chord with a little BB King blues box run in E.

Do other muscians have these kind of habits? If you play keyboards, are there any chords or runs you always paly when you firts sit down. If you play drunms do you do a little tom run? If you play bass, is there any kind of run or line you typically play?

I suspect that most musicans are creatures of habit and have something or other they always do when they first get hold of their instrument (for the sake ofthe thread, assume you know the instrument is already in tune or close to it).

I pick up any acoustic guitar and immediately finger-pick a D chord. Really basic. Maybe a couple of hammer-ons.

But the thing is, I’m not sure I could do anything else first…it’s so automatic.

Holy crap…I just realized that my default first move on a piano is to play a little Jackson Browne snippet… that starts with a D chord.

I run through the same set of finger exercises every time I start to play my guitar. When I started playing a few years ago, I quickly discovered that I needed to give my fingers a few minutes to warm up – if I don’t do the warm-ups, and instead just try to start playing “cold”, I’ll play poorly for several minutes, and get frustrated.

On piano: Either a few random chord combinations or perhaps a small piece by Bach (lately So oft ich meine Tobackspfeife) just to get the fingers running.

On tabla I always play the tone na (or dha) 15-20 times while finetuning the drum, then some variations over a few very basic kaidas or thekas. This little warm-up routine takes 10-15 minutes.

I regularly play in a variety of tunings, so the first thing I do is strum the open strings to find out what tuning the guitar is in.

If I already know, I either change the tuning to whatever tuning I want to play in, or I play something appropriate to the tuning it’s in.

I almost always play a piece of the intro to Little Wing. I skip the part on the 12th fret and start with the hammer on the open A. Right after that comes a G5 with my thumb on the 3rd fret of the low E and my index finger on the 3rd fret of the B and high E, hammering and pulling the 5th fret on the high E. If everything sounds in tune at that point, I play through the end of the intro. If not, I tune and move on to something else. When I first learned how to play this piece, I was fascinated by it and just had to play it. Then it dawned on me that it was a good way to establish whether a few widely spaced strings were in tune. It has definitely become a habit.

I’m an entry-level piano player. I usually play Tom Traubert’s Blues when I first sit down.

Guitar: Open E chord for reasons listed in OP.
Piano: RH blues scale in C. No reason. It’s fun and it sounds good.

BUT- I came in since this reminded me of the Honeymooners episode in which Ralph is preparing for a quiz show with a Name That Tune format.

He studies a wide array of musical genres and has buddy Ed test him by playing piano tunes on an old upright. The thing is, Ed starts every song with the intro of “Swanee River.” (You know that one, “Way down upon the swanee river", etc.)

When it’s time for the actual quiz show appearance, the first song Ralph has to identify is “Swanee River” and he has no idea that this is song that Ed plays as a lead-in for every tune. During a span of a few seconds, Gleason runs through a complete range of befuddlement, panic, embarassment and finishes out behind once again.

I can’t do it from work but someone needs to track down the clip.

Open G chord for me, followed by some noodling around with other easy open chords in the same key - C, Em, D, etc.

Oh, okay. I don’t usually start with a chord at all. I warm up by riffing on pentatonic minor scale.

Open E, F, G, F, E. And then the intro to “I Feel Fine”.

Similar to digs and tanbarkie, I finger pick an open D chord and then play around in C, A, G, Cadd9, etc. Or just play “Taken At All” by CSN to warm up…

Piano: Some dominant 7th chord in the left hand (maybe just the tritone) - C, G, or Bb7, and a blues run with the right.

Guitar: Typically a quick blues run in E, then a Cmaj7 to Fmaj7 chord combo to check the tuning.

My memory on this is hazy too, but I seem to remember…

Game Show Host: “For $99,000 dollars, who wrote ‘Swanee River’?”
Ralph: “Hum-u-nah, hum-u-nah, hum-u-nah…Ed Norton?”

Great user name/post combo, Mixolydian.

Drummer, so I don’t know if I count as a musician, but when I sit down to play I usually start with the intro beat to “Lightnin’ Hopkins” by R.E.M. or the drum part of “Where The Streets Have No Name”. No idea why. They seem like good warm-ups to me.

First thing with a guitar - tune it! Tuner or tuning fork (which is always in my wallet.), then tune the open D, E, G, C and A fifths so that all of them are at their maximum acceptability.

At present, this is now the cue to start in on whatever piece of music I’m working on - I have a concert coming up where I have about 2/3rds of it ready to go, so I’m polishing that portion while desperately cramming on the other portion.

There was a period, when I had more time to spare on my hands, that this would be the moment to clear my head with silence and launch into an improvisation. Maybe in a couple of months when things ease up.

Drummers are only musicians if they count.
I heard a cool, unattributed quotation the other day. “You have to learn that the drumsticks themselves are the musical instruments. The drums and cymbals are just the things that make the music audible.” My friend thought it might have been Joe Morello who said that, or it might have been Peter Erskine…

Piano: There’s nothing in particular that I do each time to start, short of turning on the keyboard and the small stereo system that I use as an amp. If I sit down at a strange piano, though, the first thing I play is a bit of Journey’s “Faithfully” – I only have two or three things memorized, and that’s one of 'em.

Voice: I have a couple of home-made “practice” CDs that I use for serious warming up, and I tend to sing through the songs in the following order: first is an easy folk song, then a more challenging pop song, then a couple of Broadway tunes, then an art song, then two Italian arias, then “Glitter and Be Gay” from Candide.

I love both of those! I’ll have to share them with my drummer friends… :slight_smile:

Hmm - I guess I would say that if I have a fallback Go To, it would be a couple of things:

  • A variant of the intro to Fleetwood Mac’s Oh Well- I don’t close the riff correctly and I kinda veer into George Thorogood territory, but something that chugs on the E and requires a bit of digging in.

  • A quick riff that ends on an open-chord D, which is delivered with the patented Jimmy Page Raking Upstroke™. Typically some A, G, D classic rocky thing, as long as I can deliver that upstroke.

In both cases, I am calibrating my attack to the guitar. I have a heavy attack and prefer to play that way - both riffs help me gauge what the guitar can handle, if and how I need to back off while still getting the sound I am after, etc.

I will also play a cycle or two of the DAGA hybrid-picked riff I have for the song *First Cut is the Deepest *- same reason: it runs me through the strings and I can get a sense for whether I have to be gentle finger-picky guy on this guitar or I can pluck and pick harder in dynamic spots…

Guitar - Acoustic or Electric

I strum an open G first just to hear if its in tune then I play the little 12 bar blues drill shown HERE.

Oh - and Shakester? Now I really want to hear about your rig - what guitars, what tunings, what kinda music. You sure you won’t come over and introduce yourself in the GOGT?

(for the record, I play a lot in Cheater’s G, where I just tuned the A down to G and play the middle four strings - great for Stones songs and others in Open G…and when I play slide, I prefer Open E…)