When starting a practice session, it can be tempting to jump right into the latest song that you’ve been working on. But just as it would be ill-advised to run a 5K without first stretching, so too is it a bad idea to practice without warming up both hands.
So how do you warm up on the guitar? In a Here’s How lesson that originally ran in the September/October 2019 issue, AG contributing writer and Gypsy jazz guitarist Paul Mehling recommends some gentle calisthenics, starting with the picking hand working on the open strings, before involving the fretting fingers.
“Warm up slowly. Do it right and build on that foundation of perfection; there’s no use in repeating mistakes. As you increase your speed, remember to keep an eye and ear out for any places where you can tighten up or improve what you’re doing before moving on to the next tempo,” Mehling suggests.
If you carve out ten or 15 minutes a day before a practice session to work on exercises like these, you’ll be rewarded with looser fingers and healthier playing habits.
In one of AG’s most popular videos, jazz phenomenon Julian Lage explains some of his warmup and practice ideas. Lage, who overcame a debilitating hand injury brought on by practicing as many as 11 hours a day for years, talks about the benefits of playing quietly on the acoustic guitar. He says, “You think when you play an acoustic guitar you have to work harder, or play with more muscular tension, or somehow manifest a sound. One of the things that has helped me a lot, is practicing extremely quietly, and touching it very gently. Try to get in touch with your guitar’s ability to turn whatever you do into a beautiful sound. That’s why acoustic guitars are cool, they are doing a lot of the work for you.”