Tuesday Wisdom: A Proper Warm-Up

In this article I will do my best to give you a bit more knowledge about what really means to be warmed up and how to do this properly.

Tuesday Wisdom: A Proper Warm-Up
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What is a proper warm-up? How to do it? When to stop? Do I have to do only technical exercises? And When will I feel warmed up? These are the very FAQ my students bomb me with when it comes to the subject of a warm-up. In this article I will do my best to give you a bit more knowledge about what really means to be warmed up and how to do this properly.

Step 1: What Is A Warm-Up

Warming up basically comes down to making your muscles, joints and tendons ready to play. When you warm your muscles, the blood starts to flow faster, which leads to better reaction. More blood pressure - more oxygen led to muscles. Muscle prepared that way starts to be more elastic and ready to do more than it was possible before the warm up. Warmed up joints are able to perform more movement and tendons are more flexible. Don't forget that warming up also prepares the mind, so stay focused.

Step 2: Methodology Of Warming Up Your Body

Intensity of warming up should be raised gradually. If you do a forced kind of warm-up, an injury is 100% to happen, sooner or later. As you may have noticed, I used the word body in the title, not only hands or arms. This is because playing guitar is a hard physical work for the whole body, not only arms. Here, I'll show you an example of preparing your whole body to play. 01. Start with taking a deep breath in a standing position. 02. Twist you neck, your spine and arms joints, in the way that you do when you do sports. 03. Stretch all the muscles of the upper body, especially your back. 04. Now proceed to arms - stretch and move every muscle and joint of your arms, then wrists, finally fingers. 05. If you want to make it pro, do also some squats or push-ups which will lead to even greater blood flow in your veins. 06. Repeat the steps for arms, wrists and fingers again, so focus on guitar muscles. Now you should feel refreshed and ready to rock! Feeling better? I bet you do. This kind of exercise should take you 5-10 minutes. I've seen lot of professional musicians doing it, so don't you think my advices are a little bit queer.

Step 3: Warming Up On Guitar

So, if we're through with body warm-up, let's proceed strictly to the guitar part of it. The first thing you can do wrong is focus on the fretting hand, and leave the picking hand not to be properly used. Never forget about your picking hand! Or it's going to wither and fall of to punish you! What is it you have to warm-up in your hands? Again, muscles, joints and tendons. It can be achieved by performing certain guitar exercises. I divide them into several categories as follows: 01. Fret hand fingers warming up 02. Fret hand fingers stretching 03. Fret hand fingers strength 04. Picking hand warming up 05. Picking hand loosening 06. Both hands speeding up. Now, in order to show you how it's done I'll post some tabs representing that kind of exercise. 01. Fret hand fingers warming up This exercise is a basic spider exercise that makes all your fingers move. It's a good start to practice. Remember to use metronome and do the 1-2-3-4 combination that you probably already know. It's a warm-up, not a practice, so when you warm, you should do only the things that you're familiar with. Start slowly and precisely.
E |----------------------------------------------------|
B |----------------------------------------------------|
G |--------------------------------------1--2--3--4----|
D |--------------------------1--2--3--4----------------|
A |--------------1--2--3--4----------------------------|
E |--1--2--3--4----------------------------------------|
--------------1--2--3--4--4--3--2--1----------------|
--1--2--3--4--------------------------4--3--2--1----|
----------------------------------------------------|
----------------------------------------------------|
----------------------------------------------------|
----------------------------------------------------|
----------------------------------------------------||
----------------------------------------------------||
--4--3--2--1----------------------------------------||
--------------4--3--2--1----------------------------||
--------------------------4--3--2--1----------------||
--------------------------------------4--3--2--1----||
02. Fret hand fingers stretching Play this pattern up and down using your 1 and 2 finger, then using your 2 and 3 finger, then 3 and 4. Then, move it one fret lower, until you reach frets 1 and 3. That's not going to happen overnight, so be calm and don't get overwhelmed.
E |--12-10---------------------------------------------||
B |--------12-10---------------------------------------||
G |--------------12-10---------------------------------||
D |--------------------12-10---------------------------||
A |--------------------------12-10---------------------||
E |--------------------------------12-10---------------||
When you can do this, raise the gap to two frets (so play 12-9) with your 1 and 3 fingers, or 2 and 4 fingers. Then again move down the fretboard until you reach the widest gap you can possibly play. 03. Fret hand fingers strength. This is a example of practice for your left hand fingers strength using barre chords. Play them clean, let all the notes ring and move one fret higher. In this example, there are major chords, but when you're finished with them, move onto other combinations. Remember, the slower the better!
E |--1--2--3--4--5--6--7--8----||
B |--1--2--3--4--5--6--7--8----||
G |--2--3--4--5--6--7--8--9----||
D |--3--4--5--6--7--8--9--10---||
A |--3--4--5--6--7--8--9--10---||
E |--1--2--3--4--5--6--7--8----||
04. Picking hand warming up Play an open string, using alternate picking as slow as you can and gradually speed up to your max speed. I mean gradually. Yes, really gradually. Spend around one minute to speed up, catch the whole spectrum of speeds that you're capable of playing. Mute the remaining strings and stay at the max speed. Then, slowly go back to the slowest tempo. Got that? Repeat that on every string. That's fun! 05. Picking hand loosening By saying loosen the picking hand I mean to make it flexible and fresh. Raise your right arm and loosen the wrist. Now, wave it a little bit in every direction. Not so fast, stay relaxed. Do it for a minute and catch a chord. Good old C major will do the job. Now, try all the ways of strumming that chord in various grooves as you possibly can think of. Try them all and stay relaxed with your picking hand. Do wide swipes and gentle strums. Hard Kerrang's and almost romantics sweeps. Feel relaxed? I've totally forgotten, you can change chords from time to time. 06. Both hands speeding up We've been already speeding up at the point 4, yeah? Yep. But this time we're not only doing mindless speeding exercises, but also we'll build some coordination. This part is just the same as part 1, but you should do it in a manner that part 4 was about. Got the idea? Take the fingering (1-2-3-4) for an example and speed up. Then slow down. And again. And again. It's not so hard to notice that the speed of that type of exercise is much lower than the speed of playing the open string, and they will never be equal, but, huh. You can try. If you have a lack of ideas for substituting the 1-2-3-4, here you go.

In Closing

And, that's all that I've prepared for you this time. Your muscles should feel relaxed and ready to rock by now. They are ready for new challenges, so give them what they want! If you feel that you're not warmed up enough, or your hand feels stiff, have a break and do some other exercises, and have in mind that you have to relax your muscles. When you feel that you reached the top of your efficiency, you're ready. Slayer guitarist Kerry King claims that it sometimes take one hour until he's ready to play at his max speed. So, don't be sad that after 15 minutes you are not ready. Thanks for reading. Feel free to share your opinions and ideas with me. Comment and rate. If you like my lessons, share them within your friends. That's the best appreciation I can get. Daniel Kaczmarczyk lodzgitara@gmail.com 2012 P.S. Thanks to everyone for their submitted materials! If you wish to see YOUR article featured in the next Tuesday Wisdom, please send it at submit [at] ultimate-guitar [dot] com. Cheers!

24 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Maestro1600
    Warm up: 1: Pull van into pub car park. Yank up handbrake, thus giving left arm exercise. (Left arm, cos I'm a Brit!) 2: Force open jammed rear doors of van, giving right arm exercise. 3: Carry equipment into pub, using nonsense around-the-houses route landlord insists on. Exercise for both arms and legs. 4: Yell at drummer for not pulling his weight. Try and use full vocal range, insulting him across two and a half octaves. Exercise for voice. 5: Argue over last minute setlist changes. Exercise for brain. Then exercise for right arm again, as it'll probably come down to an arm-wrestle with bassist who wants to drop a difficult song. 6: Lift pint with right arm, while tapping left fingers on table. 7: Lift pint with left arm, while tapping right fingers on table. 8: Rock out! 9: Pack van, go home in a sulk, resent lead singer.
    Hydro_O
    Those 6 steps of warming up your entire body sounds more like a preperation for all the groupys you're getting after the show instead of the actual playing.
    Hippykiller
    I like to complete an Iron Man triathlon before I even consider touching my guitar...
    Used2HaveHerpes
    I warm up the other end of a doobie before I play. The rest is overrated. Maestro's way is more rational, anyway
    skeeter-
    iommi600 wrote: I always warm up my hands before playing... Jynx Maze helps me with it.
    Hahaha!
    rhcpjhlz
    I don't care to read this article, Maestro1600 put all I need to hear. Hilarious!!
    sim_1113
    I warm up by first drinking hard liquor to loosen my body and then a myriad of stimulants and depressants Doing hammer-on trills rapidly between each finger is a good warm up as well
    MountApple
    iommi600 wrote: I always warm up my hands before playing... Jynx Maze helps me with it.
    haha I had to look her up before understanding the joke. At first I thought Jynx Mazewas was a band.
    OxMxGxTACOS
    StrykVladzimsky wrote: Or just pull a Dimebag and chug some JD before going on stage.
    I'm going with this.. because Dimebag is arguably..well God. This goes without saying.
    CoolMcAwesome
    want to thank the guy who posted this. I have been playing for about 15 years now, and developed some bad habits - one of them not warming up properly. AS a result I have developed tendonitis in my left wrist. it hurts! I have been looking for something just like this article, so again my man - thanks!
    xiaoxiao115
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    Skullivan
    My tutor taught me that you should never try to stretch more than an adjacent fret away with the 2nd and 3rd (middle&ring) fingers. Said it can cause terrible strain. Of course that may nit be the case for everyone since he's a classical tutor.
    Maiden95
    Maestro1600 wrote: Warm up: 1: Pull van into pub car park. Yank up handbrake, thus giving left arm exercise. (Left arm, cos I'm a Brit!) 2: Force open jammed rear doors of van, giving right arm exercise. 3: Carry equipment into pub, using nonsense around-the-houses route landlord insists on. Exercise for both arms and legs. 4: Yell at drummer for not pulling his weight. Try and use full vocal range, insulting him across two and a half octaves. Exercise for voice. 5: Argue over last minute setlist changes. Exercise for brain. Then exercise for right arm again, as it'll probably come down to an arm-wrestle with bassist who wants to drop a difficult song. 6: Lift pint with right arm, while tapping left fingers on table. 7: Lift pint with left arm, while tapping right fingers on table. 8: Rock out! 9: Pack van, go home in a sulk, resent lead singer.
    +20 sir. I am a drummer and I laughed my ass off
    killektrika
    Maestro1600 wrote: Warm up: 1: Pull van into pub car park. Yank up handbrake, thus giving left arm exercise. (Left arm, cos I'm a Brit!) 2: Force open jammed rear doors of van, giving right arm exercise. 3: Carry equipment into pub, using nonsense around-the-houses route landlord insists on. Exercise for both arms and legs. 4: Yell at drummer for not pulling his weight. Try and use full vocal range, insulting him across two and a half octaves. Exercise for voice. 5: Argue over last minute setlist changes. Exercise for brain. Then exercise for right arm again, as it'll probably come down to an arm-wrestle with bassist who wants to drop a difficult song. 6: Lift pint with right arm, while tapping left fingers on table. 7: Lift pint with left arm, while tapping right fingers on table. 8: Rock out! 9: Pack van, go home in a sulk, resent lead singer.
    On an unrelated note, good article.
    sewoo55
    I just play the major and minor scales going up and down, then in triplets and quadruplets
    DreadDune
    About the "03. Fret hand fingers strength", you maybe should make the first frets, as F and those, the last you should take in that exercise. They are the hardest place to make barre's.. I can, almost, easily take chords like B on the seventh fret, but i got difficulties taking an F.. Elseway, nice 'guide'