Playing the guitar places an enormous amount of strain on the muscles, fingers and tendons in a player’s hands and also requires a great deal of finger strength. It is for this reason that it is vitally important that all guitarists, from beginners to expert, should perform some form of warm up routine before they begin their daily practice session or performance. Failure to do so can easily result in hand strain or even serious injury to the tendons in your fingers which can put a stop to your playing for anything from a few days to months on end.
An athlete, or weight lifter wouldn’t dream of hitting the track or gym without doing a thorough warm up to minimise the risk of injury, and neither should you.
Even a small warm up is better than nothing, so try and get into the habit of playing a few chromatic scales, doing a bit of light finger stretching or gentle string bends before you let rip on the fret board.
As your playing progresses and you begin to take on ever more strenuous exercises and solo’s etc. the need for a substantial and thorough warm up routine becomes much greater.
Instead of thinking of warm ups as being a hassle or waste of time, try to think of them as a necessary element of your playing which also happen to be great for getting the boring things like practicing scales and chromatics out of the way before you start the fun stuff.
Warm Up Routines
1. Begin with Chromatics.
It’s a really good idea to get the fingers moving with as little strain and effort as possible, so begin your warm up with a few simple chromatic scales.
This exercise should ideally be used with a metronome and played using alternate picking.
Once you get used to these, it should only take a few seconds to get through these first few basic chromatics. If you want to improve your finger strength, speed, timing and agility as you warm up, try and get through the more advanced chromatic exercises posted in my chromatic scales section. Remember to give the string skipping exercises a try while you are at it.
2. Hammer On’s and Pull Off’s
Try this exercise to improve your finger co-ordination with hammer on’s and pull off’s. It seems quite simple, but you may find it awkward at first as you build muscle and agility between your 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers.
Make sure your fingers remain across frets 1 to 4, placing one finger in each fret. Do not move your hand position as you progress through the exercise. Instead use fingers 1 and 2 to hammer on/pull off frets 1 and 2, fingers 2 and 3 to h/p off frets 2 and 3 and fingers 3 and 4 for frets 3 and 4.
And back down using pull off’s and hammer on’s.
3. Try Some Scale Patterns.
If you have been learning a few of your 7 scale patterns, try and cycle through a few of them as warm up exercises. Start off with the easier ones such as the blank pattern shown below and then use them to tackle your major and minor scales in your favourite keys.
Here’s an easy blank pattern to get you started.
Position 1 – G Major Scale
See my guide on scales for more patterns and detailed explanations on how to use them to learn your major and minor scales across the fret board.
4. Try Some Killer Warm Up Exercises
Now your fingers are warmed up a little, try out some of my ‘killer warm ups‘. Guaranteed to really stretch your fingers to the max and give you something to moan about.
Click here to try out some Killer Warm Up Exercises
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