Are you one of those people that likes to just pick up a guitar and get straight into it? Do you wonder why you can’t always play everything you normally play until a few minutes into it? The reason is simple and it’s all because of something that the majority of guitarists don’t do (I’ve been guilty of it myself) – finger stretches and warm ups.
Think about it like this, if you go to the gym and get straight into the heavyweights without a proper warm-up you run the risk of injury, so why is the guitar any different? When you look at the amount of stress that is being placed on your fingers and hands it’s not surprising that things like R.S.I. (repetitive strain injury) are so common amongst guitarists. It doesn’t need to be this way, and you can confront this head by learning to play guitar with the least amount of pain and stress. Let’s take a look at 3 ways we can do this:
What stretching does in its basic form is elongate the muscle and keep elasticity, with the result of more control, flexibility, and range of motion, which is great for guitarists to remember. Focus on both the hands and the fingers as they both work in guitar playing, and you can do a variety of exercises. The aim is to loosen and warm up both the hands and fingers before playing to prevent injury, and to give you more control over what you do on the fretboard.
It may sound funny to some to do hand workouts, but you know how important finger strength is for holding barre chords, bending notes, and the list goes on and on, you’ll know what I’m on about…so why do so few people work on strengthening their hands and fingers? Whether or not you do any form of exercise for the rest of your body is a topic for another site, but here the importance of strengthening your hands is all we’re concerned about. Have I mentioned that hand strength is important yet? Well, it is. If you work out already then you’ll know that just doing weights for the rest of your body strengthens your hands as well.
I’m not talking about hand strength now, but a series of patterns on the guitar that challenge right from the start. There a lot of different ways to do this from odd shaped chords to massive stretches all over the neck, but my favourite even though it sounds a bit dull (but this is all about finger warm up here and not sound) is chromatics.
Practice playing them up and down like scales, try alternating the fingering and challenging yourself as you go and then get into you’re playing. A great way to do it is to start with all fingers together in the natural chromatic progression, and then gradually increase the spacing. If you play on frets 12,13,14,15 with fingers 1,2,3,4 then simply play frets 12,13,14,16 with the same fingers to get a stretch. The next time around you might play 12,13,15,16 and move the 3rd finger up one and continue in this pattern and then back down until you’re back at the starting position. This is just one example but a good starting place.
If you take the time to do this for even a few minutes a day, it will make your practice time more efficient and as a result your playing will improve at a faster rate than it would have before