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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

The Five Minute Warm-Up

A 5-minute warm-up session sounds so short as to hardly be worth the time and effort. Yet warming up the hands and fingers before playing is very important - and five minutes can make all the difference.

First a brief digression by way of an introduction. Not all players need to warm up before playing. There are many players who can pick up the instrument and launch straight into playing difficult passages at speed. This facility is no reflection of their ability, for I have known excellent players who need an hour's warm-up to play fast and accurately.

In from the cold
For the purposes of this article I will assume that most readers fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes: they need some warming up. At the beginning of a playing session, the average player feels his/her fingers a little stiff and stretches feel awkward and inaccurate. If they have come in from the cold, and their fingers are cold, then the stiffness will be even more pronounced.

The Warm-Up
1st stage - 45 seconds:
Simple chromatic scale in 5th position. Play slowly using firm rest-strokes. Repeat in different positions down to 1st position.
Purpose: loosen up left-hand fingers without stretching, simple movements in right hand.

2nd stage - 1 minute:
Right-hand open strings. Play more quickly than in 1st stage, 4 or 8 times each string. Repeat using different finger patterns.
Purpose: alternating right hand fingers.

3rd stage - 1 minute 30 seconds:
Simple arpeggio sequence. Create a sequence with a repeated rhythm, for example E - A minor - B7 - E. Start with a four note pattern per chord and expand to 16 notes per chord over 2 or 3 octaves.
Purpose: coordination of the two hands, finger extensions, left hand and arm movement.

4th stage - 1 minute:
Play a pleasing chord sequence, maybe of your invention. This could take the place of the 1st stage if your fingers feel good straight away. Suggested sequence: C - Am - Dm - G7. This sequence is part of the history of Western music from Bach to 1950's pop!
Purpose: playing notes together with good sound, relaxing hands, and balance.

5th stage - 30 seconds:
slurring (ligado) exercises. Slur two notes, then four and eight using all the combinations of left hand fingers (12 in total), starting on lower note and then from higher note, for example: 1212/1313/1414/2323/2424/3424 and then downwards 4343/4242 etc.
Purpose: slurring exercises are really demanding of the left hand.
Warning: do not cross discomfort threshold, even if you reach it in 10 seconds.

6th stage - 15-30 seconds:
Stretching exercises in left hand. Secure the little finger on a high fret and place other fingers behind, one at a time, on different strings, gradually stretching back as far as they will go, for example - the little finger on 12th fret 1st string, 3rd finger on 10th fret of each string. Now secure 1st finger on 8th fret and place 3rd finger on 10th fret of each string.
Purpose: lubricating the fingers - at least that is how it feels when I do it!
Warning: do not cross discomfort threshold, even if you reach it in 10 seconds.

TOTAL TIME: 5 minutes 15 seconds.

Within five minutes or so you will have put your hands through their paces in a gentle, progressive manner, ending on the more demanding slurring and stretching exercises. You can of course invent your own variations. If you feel good then progress to simple pieces or studies. If you still feel stiff, you may have to continue with each of the points above a bit longer.
This has been my rough guide to a five minute warm-up session.

October 2011

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=758 .
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