School of Rock

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Warm Up Guide - All Instruments

Warmups are a crucial ingredient in a good, healthy music practice.


They help us connect to the basic movements and fundamental skills required to play our instrument, and how our body feels when doing so.


One fundamental is that practice, performance, and warming up should never hurt, acutely or chronically. Fatigue is normal, but joint pain, needing to cough, and unnecessary tension are things we are actively looking to avoid.


Tension can manifest as uncontrolled movements of the fingers, face, or body that are not needed to accomplish the task of producing a sound on an instrument.


This could be unused fingers popping up too high off the fretboard, stiff wrists, elbows coming off your torso for drummers, facial tension, holding your breath, hunching, and more.


The best way to get a lens on our warmups and practice is to record, hopefully with video, our work on exercises, concepts and repertoire. This will literally “take you outside” of yourself, and allow you to be more objective of the sound, and efficiency of your movement.


In general, ECONOMY OF MOTION is the goal of technique, and therefore, should be the focus in our warmups. Practice a scale, or part, or concept, and look at your recordings, assess for tension and extraneous movement.


Key points for each instrument:


Straight back, hopefully sitting high enough that your hips are very slightly higher than the plane of your thighs gently sloping down and away from you

Breathe! Think about how speed comes from reducing movement and using smaller muscle groups. Loud and slow? Full elbow strokes are possible. Wrists can be used for most mid range speeds, fingers and Moeller “push-pull” for very fast.



Assess if you can find a way to use all four fretting fingers for a given exercise or part. Omitting the pinkie is a bad habit that will lead to bad technique that you hardwire through muscle memory. That being said, there are plenty of great rock guitarists who get a lot of mileage and play great without using the pinkie much, and therefore a lot of blues rock LANGUAGE that is pentatonic where two fingers are fine to use.




Feet shoulder width apart, shoulders relaxed and down. Breath should be a movement that starts and ends in the stomach region! If you struggle with shoulder movement when breathing, sing flat on your back and feel your stomach move with intention.

Singing is more about restricting airflow than it is about MORE AIR. We want to learn to compress our air supply, and use it sparingly. We want to breathe strategically thinking of when we need to sing a high or challenging part. The most extreme forms of air compression are the choked off “punched in gut in action movie” HYUH sound. The puff of air on H, and the rapid closure to create an almost “wheezing” sound is what we’re feeling here.

If you’re struggling with a high, intense vocal, try to emphasize the high syllables, and de-emphasize the un-accented syllables that are lower. You can actually hear a lot of singers do this when they belt. Adding a “LOUD quiet” two note emphasis pattern is called a “trochee”.

Projection is significantly aided by intensifying consonants, especially hard Cs, Ps, Gs, Ss Ts and Hs. It also takes your mind off of “high”, and puts it back squarely on “driving the sound with compressed air”.



Important to all mechanics is wrist movement, as a driver of up and down movement as well as horizontal movement in order to achieve speed. Finger dexterity in addition to placement and wrist gestures must work together to produce smooth and relaxed execution.

We want to think of our wrist as being a rotating system as much as a button pushing one. It can be useful to visualize and to aspire to lean your weight from your thumb to pinkie when doing scales, or thumb to thumb.

We should have straight wrists, as possible, hands fully above the keys, and our fingers will often be in a gently curved position above them. In some cases, sliding FORWARD on the keys will allow you to get better leverage on first inversion minor chords with a flat note under the thumb.


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