Warm Up Exercises Part 1

I'm calling this post "Warm Up Exercises Part 1" because I suspect that I will come up with other warm up exercises later, so this will be the first installment. I'd like to share these because, while these are not difficult, challenging, or groundbreaking, had I known how to use them years ago, I would be a much better guitarist today.

Stretching

Just like any athlete, you shouldn't attempt an exercise without first loosening up your muscles and joints. This may seem silly, but there are many guitarists who swear by this, including John Petrucci, and I've found that it really does make a difference. Here are a few stretches that you can use to loosen up BOTH HANDS:

  • Forearm: bend your hand at the wrist as far forward as it will go until you feel a stretch in your forearm; similarly, do this the opposite way bending your hand backwards until you feel a stretch across the inside of your wrist and forearm.
  • Wrist: make a fist and rotate your fist, bending at the wrist, clockwise and then counterclockwise.
  • Fingers: use your opposite hand to spread your fingers far apart until you feel a stretch; do this between each set of fingers on each hand and do it in all directions (v-finger/Spock stretch, YellowPages walking fingers position and reverse).

Linear Patterns

After stretching, I like to begin with some linear patterns that stay focused on one string and adjacent frets.

1-2-3-4

The 1-2-3-4 pattern is really simple. You start on the 12th fret, play ascending chromatic notes until you land on your fourth finger, then you slide down a fret and do it again. Repeat this until you get to the 1st fret, then come back up the neck with the same pattern except sliding up one fret after each series of 4 notes.

e|-12-13-14-15-|-11-12-13-14-|-(etc.)-|
B|-------------|-------------|--------|
G|-------------|-------------|--------|
D|-------------|-------------|--------|
A|-------------|-------------|--------|
E|-------------|-------------|--------|

4-3-2-1

The 4-3-2-1 pattern is just the reverse of the 1-2-3-4 pattern. You start on the 15th fret, which positions your first finger on the 12th fret, and play descending chromatic notes until you land on your first finger, then you slide down a fret and do it again. Repeat this until you get to the 1st fret, then come back up the neck with the same pattern except sliding up one fret after each series of 4 notes.

e|-15-14-13-12-|-14-13-12-11-|-(etc.)-|
B|-------------|-------------|--------|
G|-------------|-------------|--------|
D|-------------|-------------|--------|
A|-------------|-------------|--------|
E|-------------|-------------|--------|

With both the 1-2-3-4 and the 4-3-2-1 exercises, make sure you articulate (pick) each note in order to work on your right/left hand synchronization. Use this exercise to work on even timing with down and up strokes with the pick.

Complex Patterns

These patterns cross strings with more complex patters that are good for warming up, but you should do these after the Linear Patterns.

Cascade Pattern

The Cascade Pattern is similar to the 1-2-3-4 pattern except that you go to next adjacent string on each note. The pattern cascades from the 1st string to the 6th string and then from the 6th string back to the 1st string. After you complete the patter across the strings and back, move down a fret and repeat, just like with the other exercises.

e|-12----------|-------------|-------------|
B|----13-------|-12----------|-------------|
G|-------14----|----13-------|-12----------|
D|----------15-|-------14----|----13-------|
A|-------------|----------15-|-------14----|
E|-------------|-------------|----------15-|

e|-------------|-------------|----------15-|-(etc.)-|
B|-------------|----------15-|-------14----|--------|
G|----------15-|-------14----|----13-------|--------|
D|-------14----|----13-------|-12----------|--------|
A|----13-------|-12----------|-------------|--------|
E|-12----------|-------------|-------------|--------|

Try this exercise two different ways: try it with alternating up and down strokes and also try it with a sweep-picking technique where you rake the pick across the strings in the direction that you are fretting (i.e. the first 3 bars will be swept with an up stroke, the last 3 bars will be swept with a down stroke).

Rotate Inner/Outer Pattern (John Petrucci Exercise From Rock Discipline)

I learned this exercise pattern from the John Petrucci video Rock Discipline. I like to use this exercise to maintain and build independent movement among my fingers for quick changes between chords. The pattern focuses solely on the left hand, so you can just strum the chord shapes straight. The important part is to try to only move the necessary fingers to get to the next shape and move them in time (all at once so they hit the chord on time). This one doesn't sound quite so pretty.

e|-15-15-12-12-|-(etc.)-|
B|-14-13-13-14-|--------|
G|-13-14-14-13-|--------|
D|-12-12-15-15-|--------|
A|-------------|--------|
E|-------------|--------|

As I said, focus only on moving the fingers necessary to get to the next shape; leave the others down. From the first shape to the second, you only need to move your 2nd and 3rd fingers. From the second shape to the third, you only need to move your 1st and 4th fingers. From the third to the fourth shape, you only need to move your 2nd and 3rd fingers again. Now slide down a fret, reset your fingers and repeat this all the way down the neck.

After you've reached the first fret, now repeat this same pattern on the A, D, G, and B strings. That is, do the exact same thing, just do it on the middle 4 strings.

e|-------------|-(etc.)-|
B|-15-15-12-12-|--------|
G|-14-13-13-14-|--------|
D|-13-14-14-13-|--------|
A|-12-12-15-15-|--------|
E|-------------|--------|

Now do it one more time on the E, A, D, and G strings (upper 4 strings).

e|-------------|-(etc.)-|
B|-------------|--------|
G|-15-15-12-12-|--------|
D|-14-13-13-14-|--------|
A|-13-14-14-13-|--------|
E|-12-12-15-15-|--------|

Chromatic Scale

There's no replacing the good ol' chromatic scale. You can cover all the notes in a pattern that you typically wouldn't play. I like to start in A (because that's as low as you can go with this pattern without hitting the nut) and run the scale up and down and then move up a fret and repeat until I'm somewhere above the 12th fret. Try this with a variety of picking techniques to keep it from getting monotonous and to exercise the right hand as well.

e|---------------------------------|---------1-2-3-4-5-|
B|---------------------------------|-2-3-4-5-----------|
G|-------------------------2-3-4-5-|-------------------|
D|-----------------3-4-5-6---------|-------------------|
A|---------4-5-6-7-----------------|-------------------|
E|-5-6-7-8-------------------------|-------------------|

e|-5-4-3-2-1-----------------------|-------------------|-(etc.)-|
B|-----------5-4-3-2---------------|-------------------|--------|
G|-------------------5-4-3-2-------|-------------------|--------|
D|---------------------------6-5-4-|-3-----------------|--------|
A|---------------------------------|---7-6-5-4---------|--------|
E|---------------------------------|-----------8-7-6-5-|--------|

There, now you should be warmed up and ready to begin playing or practicing. I think you'll be surprised to see how much more smoothly you can run scales after warming up properly.

Category: 

Add new comment

You can optionally provide your email address, which will remain private, if you wish to be contacted directly about this comment.

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Refresh Type the characters you see in this picture. Type the characters you see in the picture; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.  Switch to audio verification.