Warming up before playing is a crucial part of your long-term progress as a guitar player. One of the benefits is that you prime your fingers to make the most efficient motions and use the minimum amount of pressure each time before playing. In the long-term, you drastically lower the risk of developing any physical injury to your hands.
However, a common mistake amongst many players is that their warm up routine isn’t as effective as it should be. Instead, many players just go through a series of already familiar motions during their warm up. Their minds aren’t fully engaged since their fingers are doing something they are used to doing.
Stimulating the mind
Working on familiar exercises puts you in autopilot mode and easily allows for inefficiencies to creep into your playing. The key to an effective warmup routine is to work on an exercise which you are not familiar with.
You need to find something which stimulates your mind and requires your full attention and concentration. When you are fully engaged, you are able to analyse each minute detail of the motions you are making and make necessary adjustments with regards to efficiency and relaxation. Ask yourself the following questions: Are my fingers/hands making any wasted motions? Am I as relaxed as I can possibly be? Am I constantly using the same area of my fingertips to fret the notes? Is there any tension creeping up in any of my body parts?
Use every finger & finger combination
Your warmup should consist of exercises which involve not just every finger, but every finger combination. A great way to warmup is to use unfamiliar sequences over scale shapes you’re already familiar with. Playing scale sequences are a great way to make your warmup not only more interesting but also sound musical. Chromatic exercises and sequences are great too but can easily start to feel boring since they do not have any real musical use.
Play all over the fretboard
A crucial part of your warmup is to cover as much of the fretboard as you possibly can. This is because every area of the fretboard feels different and requires slight adjustments in both hands. In the interest of time, you may divide the fretboard into 3 or 4 sections and rotate through each section everyday. This way you cover every area of the fretboard in smaller chunks over a few days.
Do not speed up
Your warm up routine should always be played at a slow to moderate tempo. At slower tempos, you allow yourself to better analyse what your hands are doing and make necessary adjustments while playing. It also allows you to better analyse the quality of each note you produce. Fight the temptation to speed up as what you’re playing starts to feel more natural. Maintain the same tempo. You may use a metronome as well.
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