This post will cover a basic guitar warm up routine for the left hand; a rapid warm up that is guaranteed to get your fingers moving fluidly across the strings.
How many of us bother to warm up our hands before picking up a guitar to play? Is it in your top five things to do first on the guitar? Possibly the thought of initially having to do mundane exercises is similar to Rob Flemming’s reaction to the Monday morning tape incident*: something to be ignored. Or maybe, as described in this blog post on warming up for auditions by Dr. Kageyama, it is a fear of being judged.
What ever the response the routine outlined below is a basic warm up that will get the blood circulating around the hand and limber the fingers up; more importantly it is short. It targets very simple finger movements along with string skipping and chords; watch the video and download the aide de memoire sheet below. Try it before picking up the guitar and playing a piece, see if it helps you progress into your next guitar session.
This deceptively simple exercise is just your fingers walking across the strings, in position, chromatically. Begin with forward 1 2 3 4 motion, once that is mastered try it in reverse 4 3 2 1. Once those are secure try it with 1 then 2 string skips.
This exercise is a vertical stretch idea with opposing muscular motion; in other words when one finger goes down the other moves up however at the same time. It should be done in the following two finger left hand combinations which begin with the strongest fingers and work towards the weaker ones.
1 2 ; 1 3; 2 3; 1 4; 2 4; 3 4
Stretching should be a part of any warm up routine this exercise moves fingers 1 2 3 4 slowly one fret at a time down a string. Yes, the video is fast however that is for demonstration purposes; treat this exercise like yoga, the slower the better.
4 Chord Cycle
This exercise utilizes four major open string chords, E A D G, in a cycle of five progression. Nothing difficult there! Except that finger 1 on the left hand cannot be used to form the chords! First get used to the chords and practice this slowly, then challenge yourself and speed it up. Once that is comfortable switch your focus to the right hand and how it coordinates with the left hand weaker fingers. Challenge yourself: how fast can you change the chords whilst still playing clean notes?
Combined with scales and arpeggios this routine could become an effective warm up and technique builder. This routine is by design different as it approaches each hand as separate entities; coordination is as viewed as a distinct key skill and will be delved into in a later post.
This warm up routine utilizes simple finger motion however its possible to extend all of the exercises. Could you find another more challenging way of doing them? Warm up routines can be as fun or as boring as you make them; hence the High Fidelity reference in the beginning in the second paragraph and the last little chord progression using the weakest fingers of the left hand. However don’t just take our word for it here at Classical Guitar Rocks. Here is another take on warm up routines from the Bulletproof Musician Blog, it is a nice simple exercise to get yourself into the zone: breathe!
Free DownloadWarm Up Sheet
*Be warned there is some rather colorful language in this Youtube clip.