Stretching And Warm-Up Excercises

Spending 10-15 minutes every day stretching, strengthning, and coordinating your hands and fingers will pay you long-term dividends for years to come.

Ultimate Guitar
I didn't see a stretch/warm-up specifically for bassists, so I thought I'd post what I do. My routine is a hybrid of various excercises I've found from different sources. I simply combined several of these for a routine that works great for me. First, before picking up my guitar, I stretch my fingers. I begin with a static palm-to-palm/finger-to-finger stretch, concentrating on resistance to the fingers. I hold this for about 30 seconds. Then, I lightly stretch each individual finger, palm up, providing resistance with the opposite hand's index finger, and supporting the knuckle (of the stretched finger) with the thumb of the opposite hand. Provide just enough pressure to feel a slight stretch and be careful not to overdo this one. From there, I grab my bass and begin working on the the striking hand. I play two-fingers, but this excercise could be modified for any style. I start on the open E string, playing 8th notes, alternating fingers, and work up to the G and back down. Then I repeat, but begin with a different finger. I concentrate on alternating fingers/rest stroke, and utilizing the "rake" on the way back down to the E string. Here's how it looks:
I'd recommend using a metronome and striving for clear, even notes. You can increase the tempo as you feel comfortable, ultimately striving for 16th notes, at a decent tempo, using alternate fingers, with even tones. There are several variations you can use to keep this interesting. Try accenting different notes in the pattern across the strings...or, change the pattern to 2 notes per string. Or, try working from the E string, to the D, down to the A, up to the G, and back down to E. Or, come up your own variations! Next, I move to a little more complicated version of moving chromatically up the fret board by using "finger permutations." You can begin on any fret, and it's great idea to vary your starting position. Here are the permutations:
1-2-3-4     2-1-3-4     3-1-2-4     4-1-2-3
1-2-4-3     2-1-4-3     3-1-4-2     4-1-3-2
1-3-2-4     2-3-1-4     3-2-1-4     4-2-1-3
1-3-4-2     2-3-4-1     3-2-4-1     4-2-3-1
1-4-2-3     2-4-1-3     3-4-1-2     4-3-1-2
1-4-3-2     2-4-3-1     3-4-2-1     4-3-2-1
For example, begin on the A of the E string (5th fret), and use one finger per fret. lay the first pattern (1-2-3-4) up to the G string, then back down to the E string. Again, utilize a metronome and start slowly. Remember to utilize alternating fingers on the right hand AND the rake while moving back down the strings. Strive to keep perfect time and for clear, even tones. Then, move on to the next pattern (1-2-4-3, etc.). Of course, there are many variations possible. Work toward a faster tempo. You can add accented notes anywhere in the pattern. Or, begin the pattern with a different striking finger. Or, once you begin to get these under your fingers, try playing only one note on the E string, and the remaining notes of the pattern on the A string, etc. One other thing...don't spend hours on these trying to master everything the first time out. You don't need to and you could injure yourself. Work through them each day for 10-15 minutes, and move on. As you become somewhat comfortable, add another challenge by increasing tempo, adding accents, etc. Or, try coming up with your own variations. Hope this helps!

13 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Actually this exercise is very simple but very effective, one of the best for beginners or to train speed of fingers especially.
    I have been using something like this but not as exact. I will be trying this next time I practice. Thank you very much for the post...
    The "rake" is letting the finger that played the last note on the previous string (ex. G string) also play the first note on the next lower string (ex. D string).
    I've been playing bass for almost 5 years, and this is quite helpful, since I'm self taught, and have never had much for warm ups.
    Another way to keep challenging yourself is to change your starting finger...for example, one week, start the permutations with your index finger...the next week, begin with your middle finger...or, alternate within the excercise...thanks for the kind comments and glad to see this is helpful.
    wow i find this permutation excercise kinda hard to understand as a beginner,but i will practice this and hope that it help me in my studies,thank you!
    Very helpful, interesting way to start with the stretch with the fingers. Some other ideas would be to include doing some "phantom" notes - just lightly placing your fingers on 3,5,7, and 9th position, creating a very high pitched sound. very helpful overall, though. Thanks!
    I am entirely self taught and have never done anything in the way of a "warm-up", and have had nights where I have paid the price. I will work this routine into my practice schedule, and also run through it before a gig. Thanx for the post.
    dhunting: Self-taught here, too...I took a few guitar lessons as a kid, but long-term. I've found even if I can only go through the "1-2-3-4" a few times, it really helps loosen my fingers...not to mention relax me, before a gig. Glad this is helpful!
    I'm just getting back into playing after about 2 years of not picking up a bass in any serious context... this looks like a good way to try & unlock some of the agility I've lost in the intervening years.