Warmups for any musical instrument

Most people don’t play as well if they haven’t warmed up, if you’re one of those people we will be explaining how to warm up most instruments and different styles, so you can choose the one you like the most.

This post is aimed at beginners, since professionals already have a lot of dexterity (hopefully) and most likely experience with another instrument they can use as a reference. It’s also explained in the simplest way.

Why warm-up at all?

The reason is for flexibility, performance, and safety. Starting cold is harder because you can’t stretch far or move that fast, that makes you play a little bit worse and it may even feel uncomfortable, that’s not to mention that if you force it, you may even hurt yourself.

Is the same reason someone warms up before exercise, of course, the reason why a lot of people don’t do it is that it is either boring or time-consuming, so you need to find a warmup that you find fun and takes as much time as you want. 

Types of warmups

We have looked at warmups for instruments in every category (brass, electric, keyboard, string, percussion and woodwind), here are warmups that apply to all of them:

  • Playing any scale.
  • Playing a simple song.
  • Holding notes as long as possible.
  • Playing complicated songs slowly.
  • Improvising chord progressions or solos.
  • Doing exercises from music books.
  • Play as fast as possible, trying to miss fewer notes every repetition
  • Play the notes muted, in your head or without making a sound at all.
  • Do hand warm-ups instead of instrument warm-ups.

Fastest warmups

Warming up can feel like a waste of time if you can’t play for a lot of time, let’s say you can only practice 1 hour a day and then you hear people saying that they warm up between 10-30 minutes at a time, that leaves you with no time for actual practice, so what is the solution?

We suggest doing hand warm-ups before you start practicing, on the bus, on the class before the teacher even arrives in the bathroom. Then you can go a step further and practice with an air instrument and when you get the instrument play a complex song without worrying about missing notes, just do it a couple of times trying to miss less each time.

This should take no more than 3 minutes and considering you started before the practice time, you should be ready to go immediately.

Warmups for beginners

As a beginner, there is a way to do both warmups and practice at the same time, since playing fast and complex pieces is not an option, try instead playing either an exercise you’re doing slowly, now the exercise can come from a book of exercise or can be a particular thing you have trouble with.

For example, if you play guitar and you have problems with vibratos, spend the whole warmup doing vibratos, if the problem is fingering, spend it practicing fingering, just make sure to do it slowly at first and speeding up. 

That way if you’re playing a song during practice that only has 1 vibrato in the middle, you will be ready and won’t get bored practicing the vibrato of the exercise for 1 hour, instead it will be the one in the song.

Warmups that aren’t boring

If the problem with warming up is that you can’t find a reason to do it, we get it, you want to play the songs, not 100 scales that you won’t use. For that, we suggest warming up slices of songs.

Think about it, what are the exercises in music theory books but parts of songs (usually bad ones).

Find a song you want to learn, get a section that you can play, and play it a couple of times for the warmup and when you have downtime. You’ll learn from memory simple songs at first just by warming up and will improve your skill, then you’ll be able to warm up complete songs.

A lot of people do this subconsciously, if you go to a music store, you’ll see people trying instruments before buying them, and what do they do? They play a simple song, (usually Wonderwall, Stairway to heaven, smoke on the water, or Highway to hell), the only problem with that approach is getting comfortable with the songs you already know and not getting a new section of a new song, because it will start to feel boring again.

Warmups for people who can’t warm up

Let’s say you want to warm up on the subway, your school, or the night meaning you can’t make a sound without bothering someone, in that try playing muted, if your instrument can’t be muted (like a piano) you can practice in your head, and there is science behind it, like the next video shows.

The mental practice is at 3:40

Conclusion

There are a lot of ways to do it, you can play rhythms, songs, exercises, you can even warm up without the instrument, I suggest that once you feel you’re done, you play a little bit of the hardest piece you can play to see how good you’re playing for a fact and of course at the end, you should feel warm (that’s why it’s called warmup) and even lighter or faster if you don’t you know you need to do warm up a little bit more.

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