Are You Warming Up Wrong?

A few tips on how to make the most of your warm-up time.

Ultimate Guitar

Most people think the purpose of a warm up routine is to get yourself loosened up and ready to play. But there is more that can be done during this precious time.

Precious you ask? Very precious. When you first pick up your guitar, this is the best time for you to "program" your hands and brain. As your practice session continues, your mental and physical memory skills will gradually diminish.

Why just loosen up and get ready to play, when you can ALSO teach yourself to do something new? Something new, you ask? Like what?


• A new song you are learning or part you are having trouble with.• A new solo that you are learning.• New chord shapes, melodic sequences, techniques, etc.

These are just examples. You may have any number of items that need learning and will get the most benefit by being used as a warm up item. Such an item may be completely new to you, or somewhat familiar, or just not yet fully memorized.

Practice these items slowly, gently, precisely, and remember that the goal here is to learn these items. Later on when you are warmed up (and the item is learned) you can train yourself to play them better.

During your warm up stay away from playing anything very strenuous. Once you are well warmed up, it's amazing what you can do, but before then it's disturbing how easily you can hurt yourself. So take it easy.

Do not warm up with mindless technical exercises which you already know how to play. This may get your muscles working but is otherwise a waste of time and energy. And, working specifically on technique is a training item that should only be done once fully warmed up.

Do not wait until later into your practice session to work on an item you can't remember how to play. Get these items into your warm up routine and get the learning and memorizing work out of the way first thing, so you can spend the rest of your practice session training and coaching yourself to play them better.

Your warm-up time is precious and once it's gone you can't get it back. So make the most of it!

About the authorRob Hiemstra has been teaching and performing music for over 20 years and is now running his own website.

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    to be honest, i wasnt thrilled with this article. you dont really go into much detail on what we SHOULD be doing to warm up. you just say to practice what we're trying to learn slowly (which is common knowledge). also, i dont think you should be totally discrediting exercises. they certainly shouldn't be the focus of the warm-up, but loosening up your hands/fingers IS pretty damn important. if youre not physically prepared, how can you expect to properly practice?
    Warming up is easy , just play a bit ,but if you want to learn new stuff it's best to do it first before your fingers go into auto mode .
    I usually have a couple of exercises I use to warm up, mainly to get some synergy between my left and right hand, so this includes all different types of picking and string skipping. (if I recall correctly, a Paul Gilbert instructional DvD has some quite nice warm up exercises) the main thing I notice is that things like string skipped arpeggios and sweep picking sound terrible if you don't slowly warm up first.