How to Warm Up
Frequent, careful and focused practice is the key to improving your overall skill. But how do you make sure you’re in tip-top playing condition in the short run? An effective warm up routine is essential. It doesn’t need to be exactly the same each time, but you may be able to work out an exact routine that you want to stick with – just because it works for you and helps you play comfortably and with ease, without any stiffness. Everyone’s different and you should feel free to mix and match any of the tricks I outline in this post.
Stretching is the most basic part of warming up. You don’t actually have to be warming up to play to do it, either; you can just do some stretches throughout the day as and when you wish. Some people go as far as stretching their arms across their body – go ahead if you think that will help, but I’ll be focusing primarily on your fingers and wrists.
First of all, try just wringing your hands. You could pretend you’re an evil villain, plotting against mankind if it helps, just make sure you’re strong but not rough and can feel a bit of stretch all around your hands. Next, I like to have a shake-off. Just imagine you have soaking wet hands and need to get all the water off, give them a good old flap in the wind. Now, wring your hands one last time.
Another stretch I like to do is going to be really effective for those of you who are double-jointed, like I am. One by one take your fingers (and thumbs) and twist them gently but firmly, you should just feel a little bit of tug and stretch and everything loosening up. Then, slowly and carefully, pull each digit back as far as you can without any discomfort. It should feel like your hand’s “woken up”.
Final, simple things to try are just stretches like rolling your wrists, making a fist and then stretching your hand out and so on. Whatever works for you and is comfortable is great!
Fretting Hand Exercises
I like to split the main part of the warm up into fretting hand and picking hand exercises. Your fretting hand is the one that hold the neck and presses down the strings. To start with, you just want to take one finger per fret: index on fret one, middle of fret two, ring on fret three and little finger on fret four. It doesn’t really matter which string, but I like to start on the low E because I have strong fingers. If your fingers aren’t so string, start on one of the thinner strings. All you need to do is hammer 1-2-3-4 and then 4-3-2-1 a few times; it’s really simple and you don’t even need to pick, just press down.
After a few cycles and your fingers feel a bit warm, step it up. Take pairs of fingers and move them around the strings. What exactly do I mean by that? Take fingers 1 and 2, pick 1 and then hammer 2. Then repeat on the next string. When you reach the high e strings, revers the pattern and use pulloffs. This will really get your fingers going and you should stop and shake out your hands if they feel tired.
Picking Hand Exercises
As you might expect, these are exercises that focus on warming up the hand that plucks the strings! I’ll be focusing on exercises for flat pickers here, fingerpickers should find it easy to come up with their own variations.
Just like the fretting hand exercises, we’ll start on one string. Any string you want, it’s even less important where you start for these exercises. The most strenuous action for your picking hand is alternate picking – that’s picking down-up-down-up – so I’ve based this simple warmup on building up to that, so even if you’re doing easier stuff it will feel effortless after warming up.
Exercise one if to just down pick. Down-down-down-down. Make sure you only hit the string you mean to hit and the other strings stay silent. I suggest just playing an open string but you may fret a note if you wish. The key is to keep it slow and consistent, like the ticking of a clock – make sure your breathing’s calm and you aren’t tensing up.
Then, start switching between down-down-down-down and down-up-down-up-down-up-down-up, picking twice as fast in the second pattern. This is why I said your down pick should be slow, you don’t want the double speed section to be impossibly fast!
The final step is to move up one more gear, make the down-up pattern your basic and then switch between it and a speed that’s even faster.
Make Your Own Routine
You can use this article as a step by step or you can just take bits and pieces. You can even just use it for inspiration to come up with your own ideas.
Either way, it can’t hurt to start warming up before you play!
image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/-5m/