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What Is A Good Warm Up Exercise On Guitar?

What's A Good Warm Up Routine For Guitar?

Today is day 6 of my 30 day guitar coaching challenge. And today's question is one I'm very passionate about!

"What is a good warm-up exercise or routine that I can use as a beginner when I'm practicing guitar?

I'll show you a really good exercise, but first let's talk about warming up in general. When you warm up before practicing or playing guitar you're doing 3 things:


  • Getting your fingers ready to play
  • Getting your mind ready to play
  • Starting off with good technique

I'll always start my practice session by stretching my wrists out a bit. I think of stretching as a pre-warm up. This is important at any age, but especially as you get older. These stretches go a long way to prevent joint pain, arthiritis, and general stiffness and discomfort.

I've outlined a few of my favorites in this article. There are a lot of options, so find a couple that feel best for you. 

OK, onto the warm up. Warm up exercises should get your fingers warmed up. This gets the blood flowing and your fingers (and hand/wrist) ready to start playing. If you go in cold you're more likely to have a tougher time getting in the groove.

Warm up exercises should focus your mind. It's like telling your brain that it's time to practice. Have you heard about the power of telling yourself "I can do this!"? The same concept is in play here. You're resetting your mind, changing modes.

And lastly, warm up exercises should start your session with good technique. This is really important. When you start with good technique you've set the benchmark for your session. You know what to aim for with whatever it is you're learning. 

What's A Good Warm Up Exercise For Beginner Guitarists?

This exercise is simple but very effective. It's simple enough that you spend your mental energy thinking about the details, not trying to remember a complicated exercise. A short time with this exercise will really set your practice session off on the right track.

Let's start on the 6th string (the lowest one). Play the string open, then put your index finger on the first fret and pick the string. Then put your middle finger on the 2nd fret and play the string. Then, you guessed it, put your ring finger down on the 3rd fret and play the string. 

Now you move onto the 5th string and do the same thing. Play an open string, then the 1st fret, 2nd fret, and 3rd fret. You'll do this all the way up to the 1st string.

This exercise is called a chromatic exercise. Which just means you're playing notes sequentially as they are on your guitar. Not necessarily out of a scale. 

The point of the exercise isn't speed. Though over time you'll be able to play it faster. What you want to do is pay close attention to where you're putting your fingers. Go slow enough so you can do that. Make sure your fingers are close enough to the fret that the note doesn't buzz. Make sure you're fretting with the right amount of pressure (just enough to let the note ring out clearly). 

Check your thumb position. It should be somewhere between the middle and top of the neck. Your hand should be relatively relaxed. Avoid tensing in your arms, shoulders, and neck. When you feel yourself tensing, stop what you're doing and shake your hand out and reset.

When you're relaxed you'll play better. This can be difficult when you're learning something new. But the extra focus will help out tremendously. 

Variations Of This Warm Up Exercise

Once you're comfortable with this you can do a couple variations using the same techniques. The first variation is to do this whole thing backwards. After going all the way up, from the 6th string to the 1st string, you can reverse direction. 

To do this, play the 3rd fret of the high e string, then the 2nd fret, then the 1st fret, and then play the open string. Move down to the 2nd string and play the 3rd fret, 2nd fret, 1st fret, and then the open string. This is a bit more challenging so take your time and go slow. Really focus on what you're doing. 

The second variation is to add your pinky and play the 4th fret of every string. Your pinky is the weakest finger and it often gets neglected. Adding it in is a great way to build pinky strength early on in your journey. This can be tricky, so be patient with it.

How Long Should Your Guitar Warm Up Be?

I like to dedicate about 15% of my entire session warming up. If you're practicing for 25 minutes, that's about a 3-4 minute warmup. This varies depending on your skill level, what you're going to be playing, and how long you're going to practice.

Some days you'll spend a couple minutes warming up and will be feeling great! Other days you can warm up for 10 minutes and still feel tight or stiff. So it really can vary. But a small amount of intentionality, and getting your mind and body ready for your practice session, will set you up for a successful session.

The more successful your practice session is, the more confidence you'll gain. And the more confidence you have, the more you'll enjoy playing guitar. And that's what we're all in if for!


Thanks for joining me today, and in this 30 day guitar coaching challenge! This really is quite the challenge. But I've found that creating a routine and blocking out time is very helpful. Try this for your practice sessions. Set aside a little time every day. Even as little as 10 minutes of intentional time will give you good momentum.

But you let me know. Do you warm up before playing? If so, let me know what your favorite warm up exercise is.

If you don't warm up, do you find this lesson and exercise helpful?

>> Check Out Day #7 :  Do I Need To Read Music To Play Guitar?

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