WINTER IS COMING
Why bother warming up? -
Warming up is extremely important for musicians because it is the first line of defense against injury. As someone who has dealt with and overcome injuries in the past, I can say that warming up properly has allowed me to be nearly injury free for years now when it comes to things like tendonitis, carpal tunnel, etc (knock on wood, actually knock.) Warming up is also for the mind as it helps us transition mentally from more mundane activities into an activity that requires immense focus, and mental clarity, practicing our instruments.
So now how do we warm up? Well Ideally it should start before you even touch your instrument. It all starts with blood flow and raising the body temperature.
When we sleep our body temperature drops so it’s really imperative that we warm up sufficiently, especially if we practice soon after waking. When our body temperature is higher and our blood is pumping,, our fingers, hands, arms etc are more limber and flexible, allowing us to perform more demanding activities with less risk of injury. Our Blood vessels become dialated, helping deliver that much needed oxygenated blood and nutrients to every cell of our bodies.
I think the warm up process should start before you even touch your instrument.
First off, I’m not a fan of elaborate warm up routines with 15 different exercises that you spend 3-4 minutes on each. I like to keep it simple with 3 easy steps.
Warm the whole body-
Activate the muscles and tendons-
Activate the neural system
The first step is to warm the whole body
You can: walk, run, sprint.
Some other options. Drink hot tea or coffee, or just some warm water if you don’t like those things.
Put on extra layers, this is one of my favorite in the winter, because it is the most effective way of staying warm for long periods of time while only relying on your natural body heat.
When it’s nice outside I try to get a short walk in, but on very cold days I’ll take a hot shower and then sip on coffee while wearing this cozy sweater. Sometimes I’ll even sit in front of this heater until my skin reaches boiling point.
Next we want to Activate the muscles and tendons
For this I’ll do some very simple warmups with just my Hands and arms for maybe 5 minutes total.
I don’t really have names for these so lets make some up.
And my personal favorite
Rocking prayer hands, this one mimics the pronation and supination that hands often must perform as musicians.
Notice all of these warm ups are MOTIONs not static stretches. I am of the belief that sttic stretching should be for after your hard work is done for the day, as there is a lot of scientific literature showing that while stretching is great for limbering us up, it temporarily weakens the muscles. I want to practice while I am at my strongest so if I do stretch ill do it when im done practicing or after I’ve done at least a few hours.
The pre-practice heating up and warming up might take 10-15 minutes. 15 minutes a day that can allow you to remain injury free for years. I’ll admit some days I forget to do this, maybe I’ve got an early morning rehearsal or I’m traveling for a performance and have to rehearse soon after landing. even if you do this 6 days out of 7, you will be protecting yourself against injury and probably will notice a greater efficiency when you practice.
Next I like to do scales. SLOWLY This allows me to focus on fundamentals like sound production, and pitch while my body revs up for tougher work afterwards. It’s also somewhat meditative so I’ll even close my eyes to get a few more winks of shut eye before the real fun begins.
After 15-20 minutes of that I’ll move on to playing Bach. Bach for me is a form of musical cleansing, because you can’t get away with anything in Bach. It requires purity of sound, articulation and intonation, and starting with Bach is my favorite primer for practicing all other rep.
Another note is that Some say that our instruments need to warm up as well. Especially if you play a stringed instrument, when you think of all the individual parts, the strings, the bow, the bow hair, thebridge, the tailpiece, the sound post, the wood itself, these materials act differently when they are at rest for many hours vs when they are being played on and vibrating and resonating. So your instrument will thank you as well if you warm it up properly.
And that it’s!
3 simple steps, warming the body, activating the muscles and activating the neural system.
Do this consistently and you will be protecting yourself for a lifetime as a musician.
Stay warm out there!