Don’t Skip the Warm-Up
One of the most important things we should do in our practice session is a proper warm up. This can be something very short, just to get the fingers moving again, or something longer that can also double as technique work. There are a number of reasons why it is good to warm up before diving into repertoire practice. Most importantly, it helps us avoid injury by getting the blood flowing and muscles moving before attempting difficult repertoire. Also, it allows us to play our repertoire better when we get to it. By skipping through the warm-up and going straight to repertoire, we play the pieces by pushing our hands beyond their comfort level. We end up missing notes and playing with less than the best sound, and probably even less musically. Of course, if we play through the piece enough times our hands will warm-up, and by the third or fourth attempt they will be ready to tackle it. However, those few times that we’ve played imperfectly, we have actually practiced playing imperfectly. We’ve practiced missing the notes, playing with bad sound, etc… Here is when the “practice makes permanent, not perfect” saying really comes in. The less time we spend playing “messy” the better. By always striving for clarity and musicality, we train our hands to only play that way, and hopefully, forget the inaccurate “messy” playing.
Whatever your warm-up routine, it is best to include some of the most basic technical elements, such as arpeggios and scales. Those are the two most basic technical elements that we use. Everything we play is a combination of either a scale or an arpeggio. The warm-up time will differ depending on how much time there is to practice that day and what we have to accomplish. We also need to consider individual needs. If I’ve been practicing three to four hours daily, my need for a warm-up time will be considerably less. So I might do a couple of minutes of arpeggios, some scales and slurs, then move on to repertoire. However, if it has been a while, or if it is really cold and my hands are colder than normal, I might need a longer warm-up session. Some people like to put their hands under warm water, to warm them up before playing. I, personally, prefer to warm them up by playing, very slowly at first, until the blood starts flowing. That way, I’m sure that my hands are warmed up from the inside, through exercises, and not just superficially. They also remain dry. I don’t like wetting my hands before playing. Since the skin and nails get softer, the way the string feels under the fingers is different. The calluses do not protect as well and the nails can wear out sooner, since they have been softened by getting wet.