Guitar warm up exercises are the subject for today’s guitar lesson here at Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. Why? Well, how many times have you picked up your guitar with the expectation that you’re going to immediately play at your always awesome guitar master best only to find that you start fumbling all over the place, dropping notes and chords and finding that for some reason, your guitar playing generally sucks? Then later, things start to click and you can play like your normal virtuoso self again? The cause of this very annoying little problem is possibly due to the fact that you haven’t “warmed up” sufficiently. Or maybe this is just a me problem, I don’t know.
I used to get this a lot in rehearsal rooms although looking back, it was probably down to the fact that rehearsal studio owners in my area were cheap and didn’t heat the buildings very well so my hands were always freezing cold and as stiff as a board when I first got my gear set up so some guitar warm up exercises were pretty much essential. This is just one example of where the warmup exercises we look at below will prove useful but these exercises are not just useful before a band practice. Many of you will need to “get in the swing” before your guitar playing starts sounding good even when just practicing at home and they’ll certainly prove useful for those of you that gig.
Not all these methods will work for all of you in every situation but try them all out where appropriate and see what works best for you. Don’t just disregard one of the methods because it’s tricky either. Yeah, I see you. The guy that’s going to zone in on the simplest of the lot.
Let’s get started.
Guitar warm up exercises method 1 Don’t even think about picking up that guitar!
This first approach to warming up is a tip that I actually stole from guitar master Steve Vai and this is something that we’re going to do before we even pick up our guitars and start playing. We’re going to do some very simple and effective finger stretching to help get that blood flowin’.
I guess the only way to demonstrate this is with a picture of my own hands…
As you can see from the above image, I’m using one hand to GENTLY push the fingers on the other hand backward. Don’t push back too hard. I don’t want you breaking your fingers or causing damage because I can assure you, I won’t give a s***. Use your common sense.
You’ll feel the stretch and your brain will tell you when to release the pressure. Repeat this for both hands as it’s important to stretch the fingers on both your fretting and your picking hands. Also, repeat the same logic for your thumbs.
Great. Now all your guitar playing digits have had a good stretch. Next, we’re going to pick up our guitar and take a look at some exercise based stuff. It’s worth pointing out that one can probably go further with stretching and also you could use some basic finger massage which is something worth looking into as I do this occasionally but we really don’t want to be spending much time on things that don’t include playing the guitar. There are also lots of images on the Google which show good finger sretching technique if you’d like to go further than my very basic example image from above.
Guitar warm up exercises method 2 The chromatic approach
Let me start off this little section by stating that we’re looking for accuracy here. Not tempo. The speed will naturally come in time but make sure you’re performing this exercise, and all the other guitar warm up exercises with one hundred percent accuracy before trying to blast through them at a million miles per hour. Or beats per minute. That reminds me, a metronome will probably prove to be a useful tool for this guitar lesson.
The best way to explain this exercise is by simply showing you the TAB. Or at least, a snippet of the TAB.
As you can see, we’re starting up at fret 1 on the low E string and playing the 3 following notes at frets 2, 3 and 4 before moving down to the A string and repeating the process. We do this until we’ve covered all 6 strings and then, we go from high to low which eventually brings us back to that very first note.
Afterwards, we move the shape up a fret and start the entire thing again at fret 2 on that low E string.
Now then. I’ve only gone as far as fret 3 because it’s my hope that you’ll use those brains (lol) of yours and conclude that you can repeat this exercise across the whole fretboard. It’s not a mandatory requirement to cover every single note on your guitar but do try and go further down because as you know (hopefully), playing notes on one area of your fretboard doesn’t feel the same as playing the notes in another area.
One last note on this one. I need you to be ALTERNATE PICKING through the entire thing. Do not deviate from alternate picking for any reason. It’s probably also best to point out that your first finger plays fret 1, your second finger plays fret 2, your third fret 3 and your fourth fret 4 before shifting the shape. I know that most of you would have come to that conclusion but I just know there’s that one person out there who would screw it up.
Guitar warm up exercises method 3 The chromatic approach only with string skipping!
This next exercise is also chromatic based and it also follows the same logic as the previous exercise too. You’ll be using one finger per fret as you were doing previously, and, I’d like you to shift this shape up the fretboard in the same way as I advised before. Basically, all the advice and guidance I gave for the previous sexercise is exactly the same for this one. The only thing that is different is the actual order of the notes you’re playing because this time, we’re incorporating string skipping.
This exercise is naturally a little harder than the previous one because of the skipping but it works very well. Here’s the TAB. Remember to stick to alternate picking without deviation.
Guitar warm up exercises method 4 The tongue twister
For this next approach, we’re going to move to something chord based and this is an exercise that I stole from Joe Satriani and I like to refer to it as the tongue twister… You’ll see why when you try the exercise for yourself. Here’s your TAB. Once again, this is a snippet.
You can use basically the same logic as the previous exercises to finger the chords. So, first finger first fret, second finger second fret and so on. Also remember this is a snippet, not the entire exercise so you’ll once again want to continue with this exercise beyond the shown TAB and higher on your fretboard.
The tongue twister can feel a little fiddly but it does become quite a fun warm up once you master it. Remember, accuracy over speed! Speed will come in time. One more to go and yay, its string skipping based.
Method 5 More string skipping
As I mentioned in the previous section, and the heading, this next (and final) exercise in this article on guitar warm up exercises is a string skipping based exercise but it’s not as straightforward as the last one that we looked at. Well, it isn’t and it is. When you look at it closely, you may spot what’s happening. Here’s the TAB (snippet of the full exercise once again).
Wow okay. What on earth is going on there? Seems very random doesn’t it? I’m sure some of you out there have spotted the logic but for the record, it’s a broken down major chord shape (plus an extra third) that (you guessed it) gradually moves higher up on the fretboard and yes, you’re to continue the pattern beyond what you see in the TAB until you reach say, fret 12 with the E root note.
If there’s an exercise that’s going to trip you up in this lesson, it will be this one.
That about concludes the exercises but we aren’t quite finished yet. So far in this exploration into guitar warm up exercises we’ve covered a lot, but about zero percent of what we’ve looked at has been musical.
Creating interesting or even good sounding music isn’t the purpose of guitar warm up exercises but wouldn’t it be nice if you could kill two birds with one stone?
You can. Quite easily. Let’s go over a couple of ways of how you can do this.
Method 6 Play something EASY!
So, the problem that many guitar players have is that they try and tackle something extremely difficult the moment the pick up their guitar for a practice session. Don’t do that! Ease your way in mate. Play something EASY! Strum some chords, play an easy song, play a handful of easy songs. This is a much more musical approach to the exercises above and it works just fine. Then, when you feel like you’ve warmed up, you can move onto the trickier material.
Another thing you could do which is related to the easy method is to have a simple 12 bar blues jam either with other musicians or to some form of backing track or even just flying solo. I originally had this as a separate section but it kind of just fits nicely here so I wedged them together.
It fits nicely here because a blues jam is about as hard as you make it. If you show restraint and control, a 12 bar blues based warm up could be the perfect answer for you. I use this all the time.
Another great thing about warming up with a 12 bar jam is that you can gradually build up what you’re doing and slowly yet surely increase the complexity and difficulty of what you’re playing.
If the not great sounding exercises don’t appeal to you, an easy to play musical approach works just fine and can be great fun too.
You may find that some of the content in this guitar lesson works for you and you may even find that all the content here works for you but whatever methods/approaches you use, there is one thing that you should consider with all of them and it’s important so don’t skip it.
Don’t spend long on guitar warm up exercises!
Heading says it all doesn’t it? Guitar warm up exercises are just that. They’re intended to help you warm up your hands and get you shredding away like a pro as fast as possible. They are not practice routines or methods to build technical ability. Improvements in your guitar playing are merely a side effect. You should be spending in and around five minutes on the material in this lesson and then moving on to more important things. If you’re using the musical approach, you can spend longer than this but all the stretches and exercises are designed to be used for just a short period so do not go wasting big chunks of your guitar practice session on warmups.
That concludes this guitar lesson on guitar warm up exercises. There’s nothing much more to say on this topic so just be sure to take away these key points alongside the actual warm up methods.
Try all the methods/approaches to warming up that I’ve provided here. This is the only way you’ll find what works best for you and you may be surprised.
Accuracy is king. Speed will come in time but make sure that you’re performing this material with one hundred percent accuracy. This is naturally aimed at the exercises. A metronome is your friend.
If running the exercises, remember they are not very musical and they aren’t designed to be so you don’t need lots of volume. In fact, you don’t need to plug in at all if you’re using an electric guitar.
Don’t overdo the stretching and don’t use excessive force. I take no responsibility for your stupidity.
Lastly, time is valuable. Warm up and move on!
Speaking of moving on, why not move on to some other Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat content? How about checking out the last song tutorial I wrote which was the Pride and Joy TAB and guitar lesson. Or, how about the latest article I wrote for the site which was the Rockstar review. Or, why not learn a composition trick such as this one on how to change key on guitar.
Hello. My name is Ryan J Mellor and I play the guitar. I’m also the creator of Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. I’ve ben a guitarist for many years and my guitar playing has been described as “above average”. My guitar and music knowledge is somewhat impressive but most importantly, I have a passion for creating great guitar and music related content.