The Warm Up


Warming up is one of the most important things, if not the most important thing, to do as a guitar player. It’s often ignored or in my opinion done wrong. Think of this analogy. If an athlete is about to play a sport would they not stretch or loosen up their body to properly perform at their peak ability? Playing guitar is no different.

The best way to warm up is to do a simple exercise that will not only warm up your fingers, loosen your joints, but also improve your guitar playing ability. Think of it as killing two birds with one stone. The exercise is a simply chromatic pattern beginning on the high E string that should be done with a strict alternate (down and up) picking pattern. So, if done properly you will loosen up and at the same time become excellent at alternate picking causing you to sound very fluid at picking. If you have a metronome (you should!) set the count to 100 bpm and do simple quarter notes or eighth notes.

E – 1 2 3 4
B –            1 2 3 4
G –                       1 2 3 4
D –                                   1 2 3 4
A –                                               1 2 3 4
E –                                                          1 2 3 4

Down stroke on 1, up stroke on 2, etc.

After you reach the 4th fret on the low E string slide your pinky up
to the 5th fret and begin the following pattern.

E –                                                          5 4 3 2
B –                                              5 4 3 2
G –                                  5 4 3 2
D –                       5 4 3 2
A –            5 4 3 2
E – 5 4 3 2

This pattern should be followed ascending up and down the neck until you reach the 12th fret. Always slide up to the next fret using your pinky while descending from low to high or your first finger while ascending from high to low. Then I would suggest you repeat for up to twenty minutes or until your fingers feel loose and warm. This exercise is great for everyone and even better if you’re from the cold northeast like Boston where your fingers are ice cold due to the climate. I lived through many Boston winters and this exercise was my key to not being injured or sore from playing.

So, now that you’re warmed up go ahead and play a song or two next. There is no other better way to loosen up your wrists and fingers than to play a song. The rhythmic quality of strumming chords or playing riffs is great for getting loose. Following those few simple rules you will avoid injuries, loosen up your fingers, arms, wrists, and improve your playing abilities. So many guitar players aren’t very good at alternate picking which causes them to be forced to downstroke insanely fast casing a very staccato sound or causing them to sound choppy.

Lastly, remember that so much of sounding fluid or natural on a guitar comes from your left hand being synched up perfectly with your right hand. From chord work to melodies to shredding you must be synched up and confident. From my twenty years of playing nothing will improve this better or faster than the chromatic exercise shown above.

So, best of luck with these tips and remember play your guitar! If you want to improve there is nothing that beats playing and just working your skills. If you put the time in, it will show when you play.

Thanks for reading.

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