Warm Ups – Why and How

Enjoy this article I wrote for LessonFace.com about why warm ups are necessary, and how to effectively execute them!

Think of any professional sports team, whether it be football, hockey, or baseball. What do all these teams have in common? They warm up at the beginning of each practice, and before each game! This helps them to gradually prepare their body for what is to come. The warm up increases blood flow and loosens joints. This in turn helps prevent injuries. As musicians, we too need to employ effective warm up techniques to ease ourselves into our practice, and to avoid injuries, which are all too common in musicians today.

Warming up is not only physical, but also mental. Begin your practice with mindful breathing. Close your eyes. Breathe in. Breathe out. Listen to your breathing, and steady it with each breath in and out. Tune out the problems you’ve encountered throughout the day. Try to forget about what you still need to do: your homework, walking the dog, and anything else that may be on your agenda. Clear your mind to let the music in. Think about your goals for this practice session.

Once you’ve done this, pick a note – generally the best choice is one that is easy to reach on your instrument, perhaps in the middle of your range. Gently pick up your instrument, take a good breath, and play the note. Play the note long and slow, focusing on the sound, and keeping a steady air flow. Do this a couple times until you feel a little more comfortable with it. Move onto another note. I usually go down chromatically to the bottom of my register, then return to the original note and go up from there. Play with dynamics – try the note softly, loudly, with a crescendo, or with a decrescendo. Try slurring 2 notes chromatically, keeping the sound strong and even, and then 3 or 4 notes.

No matter your instrument, there are many books that specifically contain warm up exercises, and these are a great investment. Switching up daily warm ups helps keep things interesting, and prevents players from getting bored. I usually have my flute students do long tones, followed by an exercise out of the Trevor Wye Practice Book. Although many people think of warm ups as boring, my flute students always end up loving them, and seeing them as a “calming” time to start their practice with.

A good warm up takes at least 10-15 minutes, but many professional musicians warm up for at least an hour! Once you’ve finished your warm up, you are free to move on to your other exercises – tone practice, technical etudes, and other music. Enjoy the feeling of being loose, warmed up, and ready to rock.

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