I don’t know whether practice makes perfect and I certainly don’t believe that practice makes permanent. I’ll cite the myriad of songs I’ve learned and practiced incessantly only to forget them a few months later. But the one pithy little phrase that does ring true for me:
You Play How You Practice
Over the last few months, I’ve been tearing apart my personal practice routine. Admittedly, I’ve wandered into Noodle Town a bit too much for any real progress.
Ever been there?
Noodling is picking up the guitar with no real purpose. There’s nothing inherently wrong with noodling. Actually, some of my best licks come out of noodling but you can’t stay there.
Noodle Town is a nice place to visit; you just can’t live there.
I’ve been obsessed with getting results and equally obsessed with settling into a routine that works. On this journey, I’ve divided my practice time into 3 distinct phases:
- Warm Up
- Focus Area
You should spend time in each of these phases to have a complete and fruitful practice session. Each phase is important. But, if you want to really sabotage your results, skip the warm up phase.
Warming up before you practice guitar is critically important. If you’re just going to noodle around for 5 or 10 minutes before you head out for dinner, you have my permission to skip the warm up. But, if you plan to play for more than 10 minutes and you want to see any progress, you simply have to warm up.
Your fingers have tiny muscles in them and the same way you wouldn’t attempt to run a marathon without a little job and a stretch or two, you can’t expect to play 36 bars of Blind Boy Fuller without properly warming up your hands. Both of them.
How Long Should I Warm Up?
The answer to this question can vary from player to player and even vary depending on the amount of time you plan to practice. My rule of thumb is that I will warm up for at least 15 – 20 minutes if I plan to play an hour or longer. If I plan to play for 30 minutes or less, I’ll warm up for 5 – 10 minutes.
Your own hands should be your guide. Run through these exercises and when you feel loose, you’re done!
What Should I Play to Warm Up?
There are hundreds of warm up exercises.
Don’t get stuck searching for the perfect one. Just start playing something that’s designed to get your fingers nice and loose.
In this lesson, I share my current warm up routine. The exact exercises change from week to week, but the concept is constant. I deliberately focus on one hand at a time. First, I’ll warm up my fret hand with some basic chromatic exercises. Then, I’ll run through an exercise for my picking hand. The warm up routine is split evenly between the two exercises.
Hopefully sharing my routine with you will help you consistently warm up. I really can’t stress this enough. I put my hands through some pretty tough days on the guitar and I can tell you, if I don’t warm up first, everything afterwards is more difficult.
So, warm up and I’ll see you in our next lesson where we talk about Phase Two: Focus Area.