• The Warm-Up Session: 90% Of The Musicians I’ve Come Across Skip This

    in Exercises,Experienced players,General Music,Piano,Piano Exercises

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    If you’re interested in learning about the warm-up session, this lesson is for you.

    By virtue of  observation and interaction, I have come to find out that 90% of musicians skip the warm-up session – which is arguably one of the most vital segments in a practice session.

    In this lesson, I’ll define the warm-up session, tell you the important things to do during a warm-up, as well as outlining the benefits of the warm-up session.

    “Preparing For The 5%…”

    Every musician is involved in two process; the mental and the physical process.

    The former takes up 95% of the entire process, while the latter takes up the remaining 5%.

    The 95% accounts for the theory, perception, and conception, while the remaining 5% is directly involved in the execution of the ideas (the 95%). In a nutshell, a musician undergoes two processes – the conception and the execution.

    Although the physical process (of execution) accounts for 5%, its importance cannot be over-emphasized and this is because without the execution, the concept remains an idea unexpressed.

    “Now Let Me Tell You The Truth…”

    Have you ever conceived a keyboard run or lick, and tried to play it and for one reason (or the other) you got stuck playing it? Believe it or not, there’s a gulf between the processes of conception and execution.

    That you’ve conceived it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll execute it easily. If you want the processes of conception and execution to be interwoven in such a way that you can effortlessly execute an idea as soon as you conceive it, all you need is to acknowledge the preparation that lies in between both processes.

    It takes 5% physical effort for anyone to execute an idea, however, to guarantee a smooth execution all the time, preparation is indispensable. Contrary to the popular belief that it’s all about conception and execution:

    Conception -> Execution

    …there’s a place for preparation:

    Conception -> Preparation -> Execution

    …and only 10% of the musicians I’ve come across know this. Preparation helps you overcome the technical and mechanical difficulties associated with the physical process and increases the dexterity of a musician. Consequently, execution becomes effortless.

    A Note On The Concept Of The Warm-Up

    A warm-up is a preparatory activity (like an exercise) and is not peculiar to musicians alone. Athletes, footballers, and other career people involved in one physical activity or the other prepare for physical exertion by exercising their body before hand with a warm-up.

    Experts recommend the warm-up because it stretches the muscles, and keeps them fit and ready for performance always. The same way it is important for an athlete to warm-up properly before running, it is equally important for a musician to warm-up daily or ahead of a performance.

    “What Is A Warm-Up Session?”

    A warm up session is a special practice session, dedicated to activities that prepare the hand, and increase the dexterity of the fingers.

    Although the warm up session can be done separately, experts recommend that every practice session should be preceded by a warm up session, to prepare the fingers for any other physical activity.

    Similar to what you have in a training session, a warm up session features a variety of physically engaging activities ranging from playing scales with both hands for two to four octaves consecutively, to playing arpeggios for triads and seventh chords in all inversions possible with both hands, etc.

    In addition to scales and arpeggios, there are technical exercises (formulated by experts) that have helped musicians develop their dexterity. A classic example is the Hanon Exercise that focus on the development of finger independence.

    “90% Are Doing It…Doesn’t Make It Right”

    From my personal statistics as an experienced educator with over 10 years of experience, 90% of musicians don’t add the warm-up session to their regular routine. Only 10% of the musicians I’ve come across do a regular warm-up and 8 out of 10 are getting it all wrong.

    Could this be why it’s difficult for the average musician out there to either improvise or execute a complex idea with ease?

    Could this be why you can hardly find musicians who can play traditional scales with both hands on the piano – using the right fingering?

    As sad as it may seem, that’s why!

    The warm-up session is an integral part of an overall practice session and must be taken very seriously. That 90% of musicians are not doing the warm-up doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

    The warm-up session gives you the right preparation that bridges the divide between conception and execution.

    [Tweet “The warm-up session gives you the right preparation that bridges the divide between conception and execution].

    Final Words

    The benefits of having a warm-up session consistently cannot be over-emphasized. Any of the top players you know will tell you how they’ve benefited immensely by making the warm-up a daily affair.

    There are long-term and short-term benefits of the warm-up session and we’ll cover them in a subsequent post. However, we’ll be covering 3 top things to do in a warm-up session in another post preceding it.

    See you then!


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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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