How long does it take you to warm up?

How long does it take you to warm up?

I’m sure this is one of those adult beginner issues, and it’s one that I haven’t figured out a good solution for yet. One of the things that amazes me about session players is that they walk into a session, take out their instruments, tune up a bit, and then join right in on the tunes. I’ve got to play at least five minutes of scales before my hands settle into position and I’m playing in tune and everything is coordinated—-there’s no way I can just sit down and play cold.

Is this normal? Is it one of those things that just takes a long time to improve? Can I expedite the process somehow?

This fiddle is really messing with my head these past few weeks…

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Couple things are likely happening here:
1. Veteran players sound good right off the bat because even their "I’m-not-warmed-up-yet" playing is at a higher level than not so experienced players.
2. The more years you’ve carried tune around in your head, and the more years you’ve repeated all these motions on your instrument, the quicker everything comes to hand the second you pick up the instrument, or even before hand. The ritual of opening your case, rosining the bow, etc., even the simple acts of walking in the pub door, greeting the barista and your session mates, settling into a chair—all these things are part of the ritual you’ve done a thousand times before. So the "warm up" begins before you even leave your house.
3. It’s also a mental game. Get your mind on the tunes and the spirit of playing an hour before your session starts and you’ll be raring to go by the time you sit down.
4. Finally, it took me a good ten years before the fiddle started to feel like part of my arms and not some rube goldberg contraption stuck in my hands. Now, at thirty years in, it actually feels odd sometimes to *not* be holding the fiddle and bow. That’ll come, with time.

I’d encourage you to skip the scales and warm up instead on some tunes that feel easy to you under the fingers and bow. When my joints are stiff and sore, I like to slowly go through a tune like The Morning Star or Joe Derrane’s Jig just to loosen up.

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Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

I strongly suspect that even with the seasoned session players who start playing immediately they come into the session their playing improves as the session progresses. This is because they’re already good enough to have a fair command of solid technique to be able to cope even when they’re relatively cold. It happens with experienced orchestral players as well. But both types of musician will complain like anyone else if they come in from a snowstorm with hands shaking and blue with cold!

Solution? Gentle warm-up and stretching exercises. Washing your hands vigorously in hot water and drying them thoroughly before you start playing certainly helps. Remember that good solid technique takes time to acquire, and this cannot be hurried.

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

It certainly takes me some time to warm up, but it is always done by playing tunes in sessions.

My regular session has been known to play a "warmup set", which is some decently hard tunes, but ones that we all know really well (it actually bugs me when we do that, because it’s just so… uh… predictable).

In general, it takes me about 5 minutes of solid playing to really warm up - if I’m sober. If I have been drinking before I play, then it takes longer or never gets there (depending on how much drinking was involved). Interestingly enough, if I am warmed up BEFORE I drink, I am generally fine drinking while I play (up to a point, but that point is up there a ways) 😉

I will also note that the longer I have been playing, the better I can sound before I’m warmed up. So maybe the people that you’re seeing join right in the tunes are really using it as a warmup, but they’re good enough to pull it off without sounding bad.

Pete

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Right, the mental warm up, that’s a whole other story! That gets me in my lessons the worst. I go straight from work where I’ve been hunched over a computer for eight hours concentrating until my eyes glaze over, and then I get to my lesson and even if I can get my fingers to work, the brain just shuts down.

Too bad I can’t just be a professional musician and be warmed up all day every day…

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Yeah, it’s amazing how much the mental game comes into play. Just look at how well you can play at home compared to when you’re put on the spot in a session. But that game improves a lot with experience too.

And I would be willing to bet that being hunched over a computer provides you a better living (monetarily, at least) than trying to be a professional musician. At least, it does for me! (But I also feel some romantic sort of pull towards the idea of being a pro musician… Like… "wouldn’t it be great if I could just play all day and get paid for it?" But then reality takes hold…) 😉

Pete

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Yep, as the years of steady practicing went by, I noticed I needed less time to get comfortable with playing. Just stick with it, you will notice it too.

But, re going pro—be careful what you wish for, Rev. I guess I am a part-time (very part-time) pro myself, and even that has its disadvantages. I would bet that a lot of full-time pro musicians—even successful ones—look back fondly on those innocent days before they turned it into a business.

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Mostly it’s not how long I take to warm up, but how long my flute takes. It’s an old flute, so if I don’t play about 10-15 minutes at home before the session, I’ll go in with a cold flute & it can take a while to settle into tune, at least a set or 2. I do try to listen to tunes beforehand, as Will says, to get into the right headspace!

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

It usually takes at least one Guinness before I’m warmed up. Then I’m starting to reach my stride by the second. If I have a whiskey along with the third and fourth I’m well on my way by then. Any more and there’s no turning back. I’m sorry… what was the question again?

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

On a slightly different question, does anyone else "save" the "better" tunes till later in the session so that a) there might be a few more players in by then, and b) they’ll (i.e., the person doing this) be a bit more warmed up? I do this sometimes but always feel guilty about it!

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Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Its takes me ages to warm up.
I am the same with reference to doing a few scales to remind my fingers where they need to be.

Also I’ve noticed lately that my hands get a little sore, as if they are cramping, especially my bow hand. Its very annoying, just when mt fingers are finding the right spots and I’m warmed up, my flippin bow hand goes spastic.

is there anything i can do about that?

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Hello there Kennedy;

I too , am a novice fiddle player; only been going just 3 years now, and I find that particularly practising at home, I start off all "fingers & thumbs" quite literally, until probably about an hour into practise, then there comes a glorious point when it all starts to sound fine & dandy, but sadly, this only lasts for about half an hour, and then if I overdo it, it all starts falling apart!! Likewise when I go to my teacher for a lesson, I have been practising at home and its starting to sound good; get to his house ( a mere 10 mins drive away) get out the fiddle, and my palms go sweaty, and I’m as nervous as a kitten! BUT I have to say, that it is SLOWLY starting to improve,and I’m sure as time goes by, it will get better. I find also that when I have my lesson and we are playing a piece, that the first & second times around are great, but often I get to the third repeat, and thats when I "fall off" as my teacher says, usually on a tricky triplet or something with the fourth finger (ah, that weak little pinky!!) but again, as my teacher says, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and as time goes on, this also will improve! So, you are not alone!

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

I recall one morning visiting a guy who taught me many Good Things about music. On this occasion he picked up his fiddle and started playing beautifully, but was plainly dissatisfied with what he was doing (God knows I was enthralled!). He stopped for a bit and said "Ah, I’m still waking up to the instrument!" What an elegant, loving way of putting it. Fiddling is such a physical thing, it’s like dancing with someone. You need a bit of time and space to let your heart rise up into your hands. There’s more to it than just sounding good, if you know what i mean.

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Session Savage, Cramp in your bow hand might be caused by tension in your shoulder and arm - referred pain. It’s very easy to tense up all the muscles, however if you can keep the arm and shoulder reasonably relaxed it’s less painful and you play better!

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Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

C.G.

Thanks a million. Makes sense allright, i tend to be very tense when i’m playing, possibly because i’m still concentrating really hard on my bowing. Even my jaws are clamped together when i’m trying a new tune.

Will try to relax.

Thanks

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

It’s not the physical warming up that bothers me, I am pretty dextrous straightaway (usually!).

What takes me time is getting into "Automatic Pilot Mode".

This is the stage where one can stop thinking about the techniques and mechanism of where to put your fingers to play a particular tune or actively trying to remember how it goes.
Suddenly, I find, after a while, I reach the zone when the tunes just pour out.
It’s a matter of not thinking about it too much and allowing your inherent musicality, experience, instincts and subconscious to take over.
Then I play better.
It’s also probably something to do with drinking instead of thinking as well!

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

I share Madame B’s problem of things sometimes going haywire between home and lesson. There seems to be a kind of ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ principle at work, however kind and unthreatening the teacher: I am expecting to mess up, therefore I do!
Also, doing any kind of warm-up in front of the teacher can feel a bit pretentious, so I tend to plough straight in- with predictable results!
On the plus side, I have been working on an intensive consolidation programme (kindly suggested by Will on the ‘Tips On Holding On To Tunes’ thread), one of the spin-offs of which is greater confidence, and less time to get going each time. Not that I can hit the ground running yet- the first tune still tends to sound ropey!- but you do seem to hit your stride more quickly, once the instrument begins to feel like an old friend.

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

you think you fiddle players have got problems? Try tuning up a set of pipes that have gone from cold weather to a warm pub… fecking nightmare i tell ye!

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

In a biography of the Fritz Kreisler I read, it said he never warmed up at all. He’d arrive for a big gig, waggle his fingers in a bowl of warm water and get straight on the stage. And we’re talking finger crunchin’ top flight concertos. Maybe the concertos were his warm up to his encores

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Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

I’ve been playing trying to learn flute, which seems like an eternity to me.
I cannot get a decent tune out in any way shape or form with out practicing each feckin note for at least half an hour.
Its pi*sing me off

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Scrappy, at least if your pipes are out of tune, you can blame the reeds (or no reverb, as I once saw Paddy Keenan do). If I’m out of tune, it’s all MY fault!

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

This is an interesting thread because (in addition to my ‘day job’) I am a professional church organist/pianist with thirty five years experience, and am a relative novice box player.

I show up on Sunday, hammer through a few bars of some old saw by memory, sight read a couple of bars of whatever tripe the Liturgi-Nazi picked for that morning’s efforts and I am fine (more or less depending on how much Guiness was enjoyed the previous evening and how late I got to bed).

On the box…..Not an hour of play. But a good 15 minutes. But like the church stuff, I’ve found playing something I know by memory to build confidence, and then play something that is a bit newer, or even sight read something very new).

I’m with the ‘mental game’ group on this thread. Get your head into it half hour or hour before. The hands seem to follow.

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Jack and the Rev have a good combination of ideas. A whistle-whetting (or is it "wetting?" I should look it up but can’t be arsed) pint is good if that’s possible in your circumstances. And start with the same set of tunes every time so that you you can really get up to speed on ‘em at home and you feel really secure and you know what’s coming once the tuning-up’s done. Our lads (pub A) alway start with Wise Maid/St Anne’s, or (pub B) Flowers of Edinburgh/Soldier’s Joy (yeah, yeah, I know…). Once we’ve got through them we’re off. I could rephrase that.

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Kevin Burke once told me that the trick to the mental game is to realize that the tunes are *always* there (as in, floating around our heads in the ether) and all we do is let them come out through our instruments. Somehow that seems less challenging, and I like the notion that all the notes are indeed already "there."

Kerri (a member here) had a great image for this—she said (paraphrasing here) that our aim is to "lift the tune out of our instrument, not grind it out."

For me, the key to getting in the zone is to forget any worries about making mistakes or somehow sounding bad and focus instead on how it feels to play effortlessly. Everything relaxed and easy, nothing rushed or pressured. Even "mistakes" sound good when they played effortlessly. 🙂

The more you let that happen in your own playing, the easier it is to conjure up on a moments notice, from the second you sit down and crack open the case. Practice that mindset like you would any other aspect of your playing, and it will become second nature.

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Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Yeah, a pint is a good lubricant, but it can also be a crutch. The ideal is to be at ease and play well without needing a drink.

Then again, the sip of black beer or golden cure becomes a warming part of the whole blessed ritual, eh? And an enjoyable ritual it is.

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Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Ooh well said will.

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

How long does it take me? Less time than it used to, and the transition is largely a result of Will’s fourth point, above: the fiddle still feels somewhat awkward in my hands, but not nearly as much as it used to. During my first few months playing, everything had to be *just so* in order for me to be able to play anywhere near my best: I had to be sitting in the right chair (or standing up); my hair had to be tied back; I couldn’t be wearing a shirt with a collar, and if my shoulder rest was skewed by half a degree off its usual angle, then forget it…the list goes on. And lessons were frustrating: I’d take my fiddle out, tune up, and then be asked to play without any warmup at all. And I’d do so, and get frustrated that I’d played that same tune far better a dozen times the previous day.

I recently attended a session in Winnipeg, and left my fiddle at home because the alternative would have had me keeping it in the trunk of a car for several hours in minus thirty degree temperatures. One of the regulars lent me her fiddle, and it was set up for her, not for me - different chinrest, different shoulder rest, dimensions of everything just *slightly* off from mine…when I joined in on the first tune that I knew, my intonation was so bad that for a few seconds I was seriously wondering if they playing in a different key, and my bowing was atrocious. Fortunately this fiddler had left her mute on! Anyway, I don’t know what your setup is like, but it might be worth experimenting with a shade.

The suggestion of warming up with tunes instead of with scales is one that’s helping me too. It helps that at my (very friendly) session, we always start with the same set; I can see how this could get boring and predictable after awhile, as Reverend says, but it’s a godsend for beginners like me. So I start with those tunes when I practice. Even still, it takes me a little while to adjust to my fiddle every time I put it back up, so I’ve taken to playing very quietly at the beginning of tunes, raising the volume only when I’m confident that my left hand is where it should be, and I have the bow under control.

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

State of mind is important. I can walk into a session and play most tunes reasonably well (although I tend to start with the easier tunes) but after I’ve sat listening to twelve giutars for an hour and have lost the will to live I can hardly play a note.

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Funnily enough my band just drops right into the groove, but in ITM, where I still regard myself as a learner, it can take time to feel that things are going just right. Experience in a particulat genre is half the answer, although being satisfied with ones own performance is a different thing to satisfying an audience.

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

My comments about the pints and whiskey wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, but the comments about it made me think more about the topic. I practice so much that I’m almost always in a state of being ‘warmed up’. I rarely go for a day without playing at home… if ever. I can’t remember the last time. One of the reasons I spend so much time practicing is a result of my obsession, but one of the things that drives my obsession is the desire to feel relaxed at a session. The ability to arrive and have a pint before I start playing isn’t really a warm-up, but rather a perk for being practiced enough to feel comfortable about the situation. However, that has come with a price of thousands of hours practicing at home while other people are out having other kinds of fun, watching TV eating in restaurants etc. And I don’t use the drink as a ‘crutch’ but rather just enjoy it on it’s own merits. Being able to arrive, drink a pint and chat with friends before sitting down to play tunes and then feeling comfortable and able to play from the start with a fair amount of agility is something I thoroughly enjoy, but never take for granted.

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Yes, a glassful is a pleasant part of the whole experience.

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Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

I’ve discovered that I do *much* better on the fiddle if I warm up and play on the guitar first. If I start out on fiddle, I never seem to get to the same level of fluidity (whatever that means). I have a vague notion of why that’s true, having to do with the fact that I’ve play a thousand times more guitar than fiddle. I can get into guitar mode without excess tension and that warmed-uppedness carries over to the fiddle. I think I just don’t spend enough quality time with my fiddle.

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

My throat needs more cooling down than my fingers need warming up.

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

It’s taken over forty years… should hit my stride in another thirty… optimistically speaking.

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Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

LOL. I know that feeling….. 🙂

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Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

Was just thinking about the session I had in the Cobblestone on a friday when I was in Dublin.

We usually got started at about 19.00 and then others would come in at about 21.30

But I remember always just warming up and getting into it by about 21.00 when the punters and other muso’s would come in as we were just getting it right. funny that.

That was great craic!

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

I usually soak my hands in hot water (or hold them under a running faucet) for a few minutes before I play. It helps get the blood flowing.

I can begin to warm up mentally by thinking about or visualizing the moves I make while playing a tune. Picture the moves in my mind while mentally "playing back" the music. Best not do this if I’m driving though.

Re: How long does it take you to warm up?

it takes me half an hour to an hour to warm up at home, but with my teacher i’m usually ok in about five minutes, which is probably a bit odd. As for sessions as a newbie at all this i’m about warmed up just before home time : )