Updated: Jun 13
When first starting guitar or any instrument really, we will all come across the idea of warmups, exercises and stretches to help our muscles become limber and ready for what we want to achieve on the instrument.
Some work and some do so the idea of this article is to give you a definitive guide of what works and the right approach when it comes to warmups on the guitar.
In this article we will be going over these topics:
- What is a warmup
- How long should I warmup
- When should you do a warmup and how often?
- When is enough, enough?
- 3 warmup examples of different types of warmups
What Is A Warmup?
We should first start with the obvious question. What is a warmup?
Well, a warmup is an exercise or part of your practice that helps you develop an ability on the instrument or in preparation of gaining that ability.
Ideally a warmup should prepare you for the next phase in your practice routine if you have one. It enables you to feel more relaxed and comfortable to take on a more difficult challenge.
As what happens when you don’t warmup is that on average you will find that taking on a more difficult task that is more technical in nature, won’t feel as easy as if you did the warmup prior to taking that on.
You also can get different kinds of warmups that help you warm up in different ways I categorise them into three categories
3. Finger independence
Stretches help your tendons reach frets that are normally out of your grasp, think of it like how a gymnast learns how to do the splits, everyday they take some time to stretch to improve their flexibility
Synchronisation is important as it’s the synchronisation between your left hand and right hand that give you a really nice tone on the guitar.
If the synchronisation is off it can sound less accurate as well as unintentional so a good way to fix that is with synchronisation exercises.
Finger independence is the ability to command your fingers to work independently from each other, as often when you start doing warmups especially ones that are more challenging, you’ll find other fingers than the ones you intended to move will move on their own due to them being connected to the same tendon.
Through finger independence training you will gain the strength to define the muscles between each finger giving you a more direct connection between your brain signals and the correct finger you intend to use.
How Long Should I Warmup?
I think this is a pertinent question as some of us (myself included) have used warmups as a whole practice routine without understanding that the warmup should be the lead up to the routine and not the whole routine itself.
Often from observing other guitar players this seems to be the case with how a lot of other people practice.
The answer to the length of the warmup itself is a very easy answer, the answer being that you should warmup as long as you need to get that sensation of your fingers responding to your every command, or that sensation of feeling that they are overtly warm and ready for the next task, no more, no less.
I am repeating myself here to emphasise this point as once your fingers are warm move on to the next thing, it could take 5 minutes for some people or 10 for others, find out what works for you as all of our bodies react differently to certain pressures.
When Should You Do A Warmup And How Often?
The response to this question should be that you do your warmups the first thing when you touch your guitar.
This should be done daily as I’ve found over experimentation through the years that if you miss a day it can feel like an upward hill battle to get back to fighting form on the guitar.
I would stress again, it doesn’t have to be a whole hour dedicated to warmups but it does have to be consistent every day, it also helps to set a time every day that you will do it, because what will happen is that you’ll train your body to expect that routine to happen making it the optimal time to train.
When Is Enough, Enough?
What I mean by this question can spending too much time on warmups negatively impact you? And I would say not in a technical aspect of your playing, but it might inhibit your ability to say what you actually want to say, due to the habit of having to do something or sounding like a warmup in a musical setting.
I’ve heard too many instances of when people discover warmups to make it their whole practice and then they bring this to a live performance and to me at least it sounds very uninspiring and disconnected to the artist playing their instrument or they aren’t getting across how they feel entirely, but they are showing off their technical achievements, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just sounds incomplete.
3 Different Types Of Warmup Examples
Example 1 Stretching:
In Example 1 this is a tricky exercise. As it requires you to hold onto the previous notes as you move down the fretboard towards the nut.
The difficulty starts at fairly easy and as the fretboard spacings get bigger, so does too the stretches.
Example 2 Synchronisation
In Example 2 this spider synchronisation exercise is designed to move both the left and right hands together forcing you to pay particular attention to each hand so that you aren’t making any mistakes.
Example 3 Finger independence
In Example 3 this is the infamous spider exercise, there are many ways to play this one but ill describe the intention behind this version of it.
What I would like you to do is as you plant your fingers down onto each fret (as in the example), I want you to keep them on the prior string and move the fingers independently between each string onto the next one.
This is where the independence part of the exercise comes into play, but what I will say is this doesn’t teach you how to play notes regularly, (as normally you’d be taking your fingers off the notes) but it does train you for the independence purposes.
This also doesn’t have to be done with a metronome it takes as long as it takes. The same goes for stretching exercise too.
I hope this gave you an introduction to the purpose of warmups and how to do them effectively.