Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
Elizabeth Moreta
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Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Post by Elizabeth Moreta » Wed Sep 09, 2015 10:12 pm

I met with a musician-physiotherapist today who was helping me with some flamenco-induced RH thumb/hand pain. She explained the importance of physical warm ups for the fingers, hands and every joint including the neck and back.

Interestingly, while I have always understood this type of thing for voice I never did consider to stretch my fingers and hands before playing. I always used simple pieces as the warm up itself not a special warm up done without the guitar. The recommended warm up before practicing was 10-25 mins and before a concert 20-30 mins.

The physiotherapist told me that this would improve my ability to learn new pieces as well as make progress on difficult material in addition to preventing injury. She also told me that the muscles involved in flamenco playing are different and I need to be careful not to over-do practicing something that involves muscles which have to develop.

That all made a lot of sense to me so I wonder how many of you actually do these types of warm ups and muscle building exercises away from the guitar? Have you always done them? Where did you learn about it?

RobMacKillop
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Re: Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Post by RobMacKillop » Wed Sep 09, 2015 10:42 pm

I always give my hands a good wash in very warm water, as hot as I can take it. Wrists too. That gets the blood flowing, and warms up the muscles. If it's my first play of the day, I usually play very quietly for the first half hour, nothing strenuous for either hand. After that, I'm good to go.

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Re: Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Post by mmapag » Wed Sep 09, 2015 11:18 pm

Yes. I gently stretch my hands and wrist to start. Then I start to play a scale. (I rotate among different ones each day) I start the scale with a metronome set at 65 bpm. The first 4 times though I play staccato feeling the release of energy in each finger each note. (a Scott Tennant idea) Then transition to 4 times through legato focusing on clean clear notes without tension and good shifts. Then eights notes 4 times through. Then triplets time. Then slow the metronome by 10 bpm and do 16th notes. Takes less than 10 minutes but I am nicely warmed up by then. I may get into piece then or do some technical work like slurs. I consciously play in a softer way for awhile as Rob mentioned.
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bear
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Re: Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Post by bear » Thu Sep 10, 2015 12:05 am

I usually wash my hands before playing. I'm only concerned with warming them up in the winter or if they feel stiff.
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Re: Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Post by daryl993manggip » Thu Sep 10, 2015 2:38 am

Yes. But I don't usually stretch, unless I feel particularly stiff. An idea that you often see in sports and fitness is the idea of a dynamic warm up, as opposed to what's called static stretching. Static stretching is basically when you takes a body part a stretch it by pulling or by using gravity, like what most PE classes do, toe touches, stretching the wrist by pulling with the other hand, etc. A dynamic warm up would warming the body using actual body movements, like arm rotations, squats, walking etc. The idea is that since the purpose of a warm up is to, well, warm up (increasing the blood flow in the muscle that will be used) it's better to start with a dynamic warm up, then do static stretches later that if needed.

I believe that guitarist's and other musician's are basically athletes, we move ourselves in a certain way and in a controlled manner, so I think we can learn a lot from athletes. I usually start with simple scales, basic RH arpeggio patterns and some rasgueado to warm up. If I need to stretch my fingers, I do it by playing some stretches on the guitar (taking from the idea of using the actual movement to warm up). Only then would I do static stretching if I feel the need to.

Another thing that I do is to make sure that both the hand flexors and extensors (the muscles that close and open the hands) are warmed up. That why rasgueados are part of my warm up. So far this kind of warm up has worked for me, and it usually does not take that long. 10 minutes seems about right for me.

Disclaimer: I do not have any qualifications in physiotherapy or sports science or anything of that nature. This is all from experience and observation, plus some research.

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Re: Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Post by Bertke » Sun Nov 22, 2015 11:51 am

I do brief stretching for my hands and forearm muscles before playing. I find it helps with my flexibility and helps keep my hands a bit more relaxed. Also anything to keep me from potential injury as I do get a bit carried away sometimes and push myself!

Nick Cutroneo
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Re: Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Sun Nov 22, 2015 4:04 pm

daryl993manggip wrote:The idea is that since the purpose of a warm up is to, well, warm up (increasing the blood flow in the muscle that will be used) it's better to start with a dynamic warm up, then do static stretches later that if needed.

I believe that guitarist's and other musician's are basically athletes, we move ourselves in a certain way and in a controlled manner, so I think we can learn a lot from athletes. I usually start with simple scales, basic RH arpeggio patterns and some rasgueado to warm up. If I need to stretch my fingers, I do it by playing some stretches on the guitar (taking from the idea of using the actual movement to warm up). Only then would I do static stretching if I feel the need to.
Great piece of advice. In fact, I saw a video on Facebook this morning about this concept -- albeit for athletic exercises. Think of it this way, your muscles are "cold" at the beginning of practice. Take a rubber band and put it in the freezer. Now take it out and stretch it. Soon after it'll break. And that's exactly what you are doing to your body when you do a static stretch at the beginning.

To warm up, I usually do a hand full of exercises that involve the right hand alone, focusing on proper movements of my fingers as well as nail placement and sound production. From there I'll do some exercises that involve the left hand, some coordination exercises -- all to get my hands going. Usually 20 mins tops.
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Isabelle Frizac
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Re: Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Post by Isabelle Frizac » Sun Nov 22, 2015 4:24 pm

Dip hands in very hot water is a consulting my doctor and hand surgeon. (Minimum 2 minutes)

This practice heats the fluids contained in the tendon sheaths and the rest of the hand (joints, muscles, etc.).

And after playing, I practice some stretching.
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Re: Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Post by Mick the Ramirez Man » Sun Nov 22, 2015 4:28 pm

According to Groucho Marx, his brother Chico never practiced the piano for his movie scenes. He says that Chico would come in just before his scenes and soak his hands in a sink full of hot water for 15 minutes. He was then ready to shoot the keys! :lol:
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Re: Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Post by hesson11 » Sun Nov 22, 2015 11:43 pm

I'm not sure whether this applies to guitar playing, but there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that stretching before exercise is not really a good thing. Some studies find that it reduces athletic performance. Others show that stretching can actually increase the likelihood of injury.
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Re: Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Post by Luis_Br » Mon Nov 23, 2015 10:45 pm

I do a small walk to activate overall body circulation.
Also sometimes, a gentle massage on hands and arms. The massage activates circulation while relaxing muscles and enhancing the perception. To me it is the perfect warmup for guitar playing. I also may gentliy move some muscles, like flexing finger 1, while doing massage to other finger's muscles, which helps improving muscle dissociation perception and control. It is a muscle blood warmup together with a brain focusing warmup.
I do some stretching, but never before practicing. Right before playing I think it hinders a better perception. After playing I eventually do some gentle stretching. In some other day period (non-guitar practicing), I may do a bit harder stretches.

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Re: Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Post by Purdy Bear » Mon Nov 30, 2015 8:15 am

Thanks for the tip with hot water. I've been doing the washing up before my practice and I'm getting less aches and pains.

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Charles Mokotoff
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Re: Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Post by Charles Mokotoff » Mon Nov 30, 2015 11:33 am

I always do the hot water thing before I practice early in the morning.
Regarding the OP: I think 10-25 mins of stretching before playing is excessive.
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David Belcher
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Re: Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Post by David Belcher » Mon Nov 30, 2015 12:28 pm

Nick Cutroneo wrote:To warm up, I usually do a hand full of exercises that involve the right hand alone, focusing on proper movements of my fingers as well as nail placement and sound production. From there I'll do some exercises that involve the left hand, some coordination exercises -- all to get my hands going. Usually 20 mins tops.
This is what I do as well, along with Luis_Br's helpful advice to massage arms and hands. I remember David Russell in a masterclass once talked about playing very simple things at the beginning of each practice session—as though it were your first time playing again, for example, right-hand free strokes paying close attention to movement and tone. I do something like this, beginning with very simple RH arpeggios, allowing them to get increasingly more complex and challenging for the RH only after the fingers begin to feel agile, and then switch to the LH when the right gets just a bit tired. I find switching back and forth like this can be really helpful to not tire yourself out too much during warmup, while still doing that stretching work really well.
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Frousse
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Re: Do you physically warm up hands before playing?

Post by Frousse » Mon Nov 30, 2015 12:33 pm

I do. I believe that warming up is necessary.

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