Just like an athlete needs to warm up before a serious exertion, a pianist needs to warm up before playing. Not only can it prevent an injury, it can also develop your fluency a great deal. The traditional piano technique doesn’t include scales and arpeggios to annoy you. It's done to improve your skill as well as finger strength and independence. Because a pianist usually plays more notes per piece than other instruments, warming up is essential. Let's take a look the importance and some of the benefits of warming up before you get into your practice routine.
You may be wondering how it’s possible to hurt yourself if you’re just playing the piano. The reality is, good piano playing relies on proper posture, relaxed shoulders, strong wrists, hands, and quick fingers.
As your hands move quickly and stretch over the keys while you play, you can hurt your muscles like any sports player.
If you don’t warm up before an extensive practice session, you run the risk of hurting yourself; making it impossible to play for weeks, or worse, for longer. You could end up with a painful injury like tendinitis or carpal tunnel.
Remember, when you warm up, you are not only warming up your hands, but your mind too. It’s a part of preparing yourself to soak up all you’re going to learn during your practice session.
When you start playing the piano, the hand positions and motions may feel awkward and strange. That is where muscle memory comes to the rescue.
By warming up, your fingers, wrists, and hands become more accustomed to the positions and motions.
Your hands become familiar and more comfortable when you repeat similar warm up exercises before your practice session.
This serves to reinforce your muscle memory, one of the most important aspects of mastering any instrument.
Warming up will also help your muscles to get used to playing challenging melodic patterns or changes, long and short phrases, and fast and slow tempos.
Improves Ear Training and Harmony
As boring scales and chord progressions may be for some piano players, it’s important for training your ear and improving your technique.
By including it into your practice session, you learn how to be aware of music theory through analyzing what you’re playing.
The better your knowledge of music theory becomes, the more your ear and harmony will improve.
Create a Personal Warm Up Routine
Playing scales and arpeggios isn’t necessarily the best way to warm up for everyone. Each player has different strengths and weaknesses to take into consideration when planning their practice session.
Even though scales and other exercises form a vital part of your development as a pianist, you don’t have to include it into your warm up routine every day. So, it’s best to create a warm routine that works for you and then change it every now and again.
Your warm up routine shouldn’t feel too much like a challenge you have to complete. Just like a sprinter doesn’t warm up by running as fast as they can, you should also save your energy for the difficult tasks.
The main focus of your warm up should consist only of exercises that you’re competent to control – more or less. Keeping it simple will help you prepare physically and mentally. Just remember to not treat your warm-up routine as a senseless exercise because it’s easy.
In other words, you should warm up by doing something you’ve mastered already and enjoy playing. This gives your hands and fingers a chance to adjust to the more difficult tasks later in the practice session.
If you’re scared that you will start playing your warm-up routine like a robot, try changing it on a regular basis. By doing this you will keep it fresh and more beneficial on a musical level.
Tips for Creating a Good Warm Up Routine
As you play around and experiment with different exercises, you will learn what works best for you as a pianist. And if you struggle, don’t worry. Every musician hits a musical bump now and again.
Here are a few tips for planning your ideal and an interesting warm up routine:
Just as yoga holds benefits for singing, always try including a physical warm up like yoga into your routine. Stretching before your practice session will reduce your chance of a physical injury and increase your playing time.
If you decide to play standard technique and exercises for your warm up, make sure to play a wide variety of scales, arpeggios, and chords that are appropriate for your level of skill.
Just stay aware of the musicality and don’t repeat it without thinking. You must listen for accuracy and quality of sound, as these technical exercises focus on awareness and dexterity.
Practice slowly. Just like athletes take it slow at the beginning of their training session, so should you. When you practice slowly, you have more control. You also develop a greater awareness of the music and your approach to it.
Instead of doing your usual exercises, do sight-reading as your warm up. Over time your reading skills will improve and benefit your music training overall.
Don’t be afraid to change things from time to time. The more you keep your warm up routine interesting, the better off you will be in the rest of your practice session. Not only will it help you to avoid from getting bored and frustrated, it will also speed up your improvement in the long run.
Remember, when you warm up you are releasing the tension in your hands and wrists. It's extremely important to develop a routine of warming up in order to release this tension before commencing with your piano playing session.
Warming up is essential because you will train your mind and body to connect better as you break through the boundaries of your musicianship and forge ahead in your own personal journey of creating music.
About the Author: Helen Baker
I am a freelance teacher and writer based in Ann Arbor, MI. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Music, I spent some time teaching English in Paris and, thereafter, returned to Ann Arbor where I was involved both in the media and academics. Currently I am a stay at home mom, working as a freelance writer and teacher. I love all my guitars and I also have an affinity towards old grand pianos. I love singing, traveling, reading, writing, watching films and spending quality time with my husband.