Warm-up exercises are not just for sports. They are part of everyday life for guitarists as well.
Once your muscles are warmed up, playing is much smoother, and you minimize your risk of injury.
In this article, you'll find some great acoustic guitar warm-up exercises tailored to beginner guitarists, as well as lots of practical info on how to warm up before a practice session.
Warm your hands if they're cold first
As trite as it may sound, you have to make sure your hands aren't cold before start these acoustic guitar warm-up exercises.
If your hands are cold, you can try these to warm them up:
- Rub your hands
- Warm them up with your breath
- Hold your hands to a heat source like a heater or a warm cup of coffee
And without further ado, here are 8 of the best warm-up exercises for acoustic guitar players.
Acoustic guitar warm-up exercises
As correctly stated by this article on how to teach yourself guitar, the metronome is and will remain your best friend during warm-up exercises and practice in general.
Use this online metronome, or download a smartphone app for the job.
It will improve your sense of rhythm and timing like nothing else, which is vital for all guitar players.
For the following exercises, it doesn't matter if you fingerpick or use a pick. If you use a pick, make sure to use alternate picking.
Warm-up exercise 1: Chords
The best way to start is by playing simple chords since moving the individual fingers is a bit too challenging at this point.
Playing chords rhythmically will help you get your hands and fingers moving.
Here is an example exercise using the A-minor chord. Make sure to play slow enough to sound clean. Speed is worth nothing if you don't hit the notes correctly.
Now try this exercise with some other chords that you already know.
Once you've done this for a minute with many different chords and your notes are ringing out clearly, you can move on to slightly more challenging exercises.
Warm-up exercise 2: Ascending spider
The following exercises will train your hand coordination, especially that of the fretting hand. Your goal should be to complete one run without any pauses.
Practice slowly but cleanly, and speed up as you can.
Warm-up exercise 3: Descending spider
And do the same backward.
If you can do the exercise forward and backward without significant problems, you have prepared your hands for the next exercise.
Warm-up exercise 4: Minor pentatonic scale
Playing only chromatic notes up and down gets boring fast.
Now we come to a scale that you probably already know: the minor pentatonic!
For the next exercise, we'll use the classic A minor pentatonic scale.
Play up and down the scale a bit. This exercise shouldn't be challenging for you. If it is, practice it extensively.
Warm-up exercise 5: Minor pentatonic scale
In addition to the hands, you will challenge your brain a bit more in the next exercise.
The "formula" is:
- Two steps forward
- One step back
- Two steps forward
- One step back
It is crucial to go from one string to the next cleanly while playing and that you only pluck one note at a time.
Use alternate picking to avoid getting stuck with the plectrum or the finger on adjacent strings.
And as always, feel free to play this exercise backward as well.
Warm-up exercise 6: Finger stretch
To warm up your hands for the actual playing of the guitar and boost your concentration, here are some exercises that may seem a bit difficult initially.
Don't worry, though. Be patient, practice it, and it won't be a problem after getting used to it.
This exercise is about stretching your fretting hand fingers. The rules are:
- Your index finger always keeps the first fret pressed.
- Your other fingers have to reach the higher frets.
Let's see how far you can stretch, most people can only get to fret 5. If you reach your limits, don't stretch your hand too much. If you feel pain, stop to avoid injury.
Warm-up exercise 7: Crazy spider
I don't need to say much about the following two exercises. They repeat the basic pattern of exercise 2, only here the notes have been swapped a bit to make it more complicated.
Warm-up exercise 8: Reverse crazy spider
After going through these acoustic guitar warm-up exercises, you have successfully prepared your body and mind for your practice session.
It's perfectly OK to use these exercises every time to warm up.
They will become boring in the long run, though, which will mean you have to get creative and create additional warm-up exercises of your own.
Bonus acoustic guitar warm-up video
Here is a great video detailing why warming up is important, and how to approach warming up.
Why acoustic guitar warm-up exercises are important
As a complete beginner, I liked to skip warm-up exercises. Nothing could seem more tedious than playing the same monotonous exercises over and over again.
At one point, I felt like I could play them in my sleep.
I didn't understand how they would help me play the cool stuff.
Now that I am an advanced guitarist, my attitude and approach towards warming up are different.
I don't use the same scheme repeatedly every day. Instead, I warm up playing a combination of my favorite chord strumming songs, scales, and riffs for about 30 minutes before starting my actual session.
As you can see, warm-ups don't remain repetitive and annoying forever, but you should build on them as a beginner.
Your head and hands need constant practice and the basic skills to play songs or riffs properly.
The less you have to think about whether the note is the right one for a particular riff, the more you can focus on your hand-eye coordination and just getting each note correct.
Warm-up properly to avoid injuries
But the most important reason is to avoid injury. Playing guitar is not an extreme sport, but it can give you long-term problems in your arms and hands.
Overuse can result in carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis.
But before you go burning your guitar at the next campfire in fear of injuring yourself, remember:
Proper warm-up, adequate breaks, and awareness of pain can save you from injury. Listen to your body, take a break when you feel like you need it.