Your guitar is a beautiful instrument. It’s the culmination of centuries of musical evolution and is designed to look, feel and sound great.
But it still needs to be tuned-up before you play it.
You are also designed to look, feel and sound great. In fact, your body and mind are way more complicated, balanced and miraculous than your guitar.
But guess what? You also need to be tuned-up to play at your best.
That’s where a great warm-up routine comes in. A warm-up doesn’t just get your body ready to play without stress or injury–it prepares your mind and spirit to play by being a bridge from your regular existence into the beautiful or even sacred space of practicing guitar.
Plus, it helps you get started by giving you a small, super concrete and repetitive entry into practice, resulting in a dramatic saving of necessary willpower.
The Warm-Up Before Your Warm-Up
Here’s a highly effective guitar warm-up routine consisting of about 60 seconds of body work followed by your choice of nine level specific guitar warm-ups. Don’t hold your guitar for this…this is your ritual for before you pick up your guitar!
1) Sit up straight and comfortably. Plant your feet, put your shoulders back, and look up–I like to imagine that I’m looking out at a stadium before a show. And that makes me smile! And that makes me feel good. You should feel good, too–because at this point you can remind yourself that the definition of a guitar player is someone who plays guitar. And that means YOU!
2) Rub your hands together like you’re thoroughly washing your hands. Squeeze your fingers and just like a good anti-viral hand washing, be sure to include your wrists.
3) Now stretch your fingers by putting your palms together like you’re praying and pushing your fingers and hands against each other.
4) Finally, interlace your fingers and turn your entwined hands so that they face out. Then reach out forward, up, left and right to get a nice arm and shoulder stretch.
5) Shake it out and grab your guitar!
Try These Warm-Up Exercises
That was phase one–it only took about a minute, and I bet you already feel amazing!
Now, play along with one of the nine level specific warmups below, corresponding to each of the nine levels of Beginner Guitar classes at NYC Guitar School. They are pedagogically designed to gradually consolidate skills including picking, strumming, fretting, crosspicking, playing subdivisions and more. And they only take a few minutes!
Which one should you play?
That’s easy–play along with each in turn until you find one that is too hard. Don’t be dismayed if that means the first or second level–because these warmups get tricky!
When you do find your level of carnage, go back to the previous warmup, the last one that you could play along with. That’s your warmup!
Then make it a habit. Do it every day (or at least every time you practice if you don’t yet practice daily.) You’ll find that warmups are fun, empowering, and over time they will give you incredible fundamentals and confidence.
(By the way, a great workout for after your warmup would be to simply practice the next warmup that you can’t easily do–just make sure to slow down or pause the exercises to make sure you can play them.)