Warming up is a rather overlooked part of playing an instrument, but essential to playing your best.
The good news about warming up is that you really don’t need to allot much time. I find that 10 minutes of playing is enough to get someone ready to roll in most cases.
I have Raynaud syndrome, which causes circulation issues in my hands and as a result makes them colder than average. Needless to say, warming up is important to me and I have found several things that have dramatically helped:
1) Don’t warm up too fast
This is one of the best tips I can give anyone. You may think that playing fast scales and technical parts will get you where you need to be faster, but it’s actually highly counter-productive. I have found time after time that as I am eager to get warmed up quickly I overdo it and end up making my muscles tense and strained.
The preparation time before getting to go on stage can be exciting, but you’re always better off taking it slow and steady. When I first grab my guitar I just simply play some low-key rhythm or very simple riffing to get the blood flowing.
2) Stretch after warming up
This is something that I see many people do wrong. It is a big misconception that you need to stretch before doing exercise and playing an instrument.
You have to increase the temperature of your muscles to loosen them first. Otherwise, you can make things worse. If you want to warm up your whole body quickly, do a quick plank (yes, we’ve done this backstage on the road).
In general, stretching is very important. I do forearm stretches every single day, when I’m warmed up, to help keep them from tightening up over time.
3) Try light Gua Sha muscle therapy
Here’s a unique tip that was relayed to me through our drummer’s chiropractor that’s helped a lot. Gua Sha is a type of Chinese muscle therapy that is based on scraping the muscles to loosen muscle fascia.
It can be done rather gently, without pain, and is not dangerous. I use a stainless steel tool I found on Amazon for $15. All you do is take it and push it down your forearms towards your hands several times and you’re good to go. There are plenty of videos online explaining this process.
4) Try a topical balm for muscle relaxation
An artist who was dealing with neck pain once gave me some pain relief balm to use on my forearms before playing and I was shocked by the outcome. I felt ready to play instantly and had no tension in my forearms throughout the entire set.
I prefer the more natural extract-based products, and there are plenty of options you can find online. Many times I’ll use them before using the Gua Sha tool, especially if I’m playing in a cold environment.
5) Find a song that gets your hands moving
My go-to warm-up song for many years has been one of the first songs I’ve ever learned: “Can’t Stop” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I play this nearly every time before going on stage (but only after more simple warm-upswarm ups beforehand). I like this song because it:
A: Is fun and has energy
B: Gets the right hand moving
C: Forces you to be accurate by muting strings with your left hand
D: Makes you play across multiple strings
In the end, find a fun song to play, don’t stress out, and always invite God to play through the gift He’s given you.
What are some other ways that have helped you warm-up before playing? Leave a comment below!
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