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The Importance of Warming Up

The importance of warming up for violinist and violists

What’s a dog’s first action when it gets up from a nap? That’s right—it has a good stretch, a yawn, and a thoroughly good shake. That’s a dog warm-up before it launches into the extraordinarily intense activity of checking out the food bowl.

Seriously though, many violinists and violists underestimate the importance of warming up their muscles before a rehearsal or performance. Like a dancer or an athlete, string players place intense demands on a complex array of muscles throughout the entire body often for many hours at a time. Just ask any violinist or violist who has played through another long ballet or opera season how they feel after 80 bars of sustained tremolo if you don’t believe it.

Following a gentle daily warm-up routine is good practice for any violinist or violist no matter the age or playing level. Research has demonstrated that adequate warm-ups prepare the body for activity and may help to:

  • Enhance performance
  • Prevent injury

But warming up is about so much more than preparing the muscles for action. When you perform warm up exercises with real alertness and mental clarity you are reinforcing strong healthy neural patterns. In other words, a good warm-up offers you the opportunity to strengthen those vital connections between mind and body; between your vision of how you want to sound and what you need to do to get there.

The renowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, emphasises this whole mind, body, spirit relationship with the instrument when warming up:

“When I make the first sound, I always want it to be a friendly sound. You’re not gunning the motor; you’re trying to just ease it in and feel the lay of the land, because you’re about to enter into some kind of partnership.”[1]

Warm-up time can also present a more relaxed space to work on particular facets of your playing such as tone or smooth string crossings.

Numerous anecdotes indicate that the great violinist, Fritz Kreisler, never warmed-up before a concert. Kreisler thought too much preparation lessened the acuteness of his imagination and tended to deaden his alertness. But at the same time many of those observers also say his intonation was often quite wayward in the first few pieces.

In reality, Kreisler’s approach probably won’t work very well for most of us either in the short or long term and there are other ways to encourage spontaneity.

Pro-am Strings is offering a free opportunity to learn some great warm-up techniques that will help all violin and viola students, young and old, beginner or advanced to practise more effectively. Get some real help with your violin or viola playing by taking part in the Pro-am Strings free live online class, ‘Warming Up’. Join Ariadny Alvarado, your online violin/viola teacher and a wonderfully supportive violin/viola community, as she shares some priceless tips and techniques to help you get the most out of your playing.


[1] http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17966410

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