Printer-friendly version weekend vote: How do you warm up before orchestra?

The Weekend Vote

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Published: October 2, 2015 at 5:13 AM [UTC]

How do you warm up before orchestra?

As a good musician, you arrive plenty early to rehearsal, ideally. Once you've unpacked and settled in, what is your warmup routine? Do you have one? The situation is a little different than a practice room, as it's more public and social. It's nice to practice whatever music will be played for the day, but at the same time, maybe you have a warm-up routine that helps keep you from injury. Or maybe you like to play your latest piece -- I've certainly heard colleagues do so! You may do a combination of the options listed below, but please check the one that you would do first and foremost, if you had limited time.

warming up at rehearsal

The above picture is from a hilarious video by Michael O'Gieblyn about practicing your concerto before orchestra rehearsal. If that's what you do, though, it's okay to admit it! Please also share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Posted on October 2, 2015 at 11:58 AM
Before my scales/arpeggios warm-up I do shoulder shrugs with shoulder rotation, and arm and hand stretching, as recommended by my teacher and others (including members of the Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment during an orchestral workshop by them that I attended).

Generally, I don't like to hear concerto extracts during an orchestral warm-up - they're distracting and a bit too much like grandstanding - unless of course it is someone such as an orchestral woodwind or brass principal who is going to be rehearsing the concerto with us.

Sometimes, after warming up I might quietly run through a folk tune to make sure that my coordination hasn't completely packed up. One of my favorites is "The Swift", a simple 6/8 jig by none other than Paganini - so that I can say with truth that I can play Paganini :). You can view the sheet music of the tune here:

Posted on October 2, 2015 at 1:44 PM
Hello! That is a very interesting question! Usually it depends on the difficulty of the piece I have to perform/rehearse with the orchestra, which also determines the amount of time I give myself to warm-up, but usually I do stretching exercises (about 5-7 minutes), then slow open strings followed by a type of scales with vibrato so I can loose my finger knuckles and a bit of Schradieck-type exercises (about 10 minutes) and then, if time allows, some of the most difficult parts of the orchestra rep in a slower tempo.

Helena Piccazio, violinist at the São Paulo Opera House and blogger at Papo de Violinista (

Posted on October 2, 2015 at 1:55 PM
The arpeggio passages from the 1st mvt. of the Haydn C Major. Lots of scales, shifts, and the sympathetic vibration of the open strings confirm intonation.
From marjory lange
Posted on October 2, 2015 at 3:26 PM
I warm up at home, before I go to rehearsal. Unless it's hours away, that works just fine. I have a routine, combining scales and bowing exercises.
From Mark Roberts
Posted on October 2, 2015 at 3:44 PM
so if there is a bit of the orchestra part that needs attention what do you do? Play it so everyone knows?
From Paul Deck
Posted on October 2, 2015 at 4:54 PM
I play Kreutzer No. 2 or No. 10. Those don't offend anyone.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 2, 2015 at 8:26 PM
I usually warm up at home, too. When I get there I might do a little bit of the hard parts of whatever we're playing that evening, just to get in the mood again, but in the past I didn't seem to have much time right before rehearsal. There was always something administrative to deal with or a question to answer or people to catch up with.
From M.L. Scott
Posted on October 2, 2015 at 11:09 PM
I go straight from work to fast food to orchestra, and all our rehearsals are the week of the concert, sometimes with one day off, so my only opportunity to practice during the week is right before rehearsal. I might or might not do a few scales etc. Usually I use the limited time I have to quietly run through a few tricky passages from the orchestra music. Often other people in my section are practicing the same tricky passages I am.
From Paul Deck
Posted on October 3, 2015 at 4:19 AM
How about the folks who do the heavy duty tuning. You know, the guys who have to move each peg up and down 20 times before they're satisfied. That's almost as bad as a concerto excerpt.
Posted on October 3, 2015 at 12:07 PM
I just hate that moments before rehearsals or concerts when everyone plays at the same time differen things...i think its very stressfull for mind and ears also and also suffer this as public.
From Willard Morris
Posted on October 3, 2015 at 1:59 PM
Improvisation. Riffs that have nothing to do with the rehearsal music at hand.
From Jim Hastings
Posted on October 3, 2015 at 2:15 PM
I voted SOMETHING ELSE -- all in the past tense now, since I don’t do orchestra anymore.

This was during my student years. By rehearsal time, I was already warmed up, since I was practicing and playing up to 5 hours a day. Just needed to be sure, before rehearsal, that the tuning was still good and the hands were still warm enough. If so, I was good to go.

So what I did before rehearsal -- scales, etude excerpts, bits of my own improv’s -- mainly helped me pass the time. All, or nearly all, of us were going in different musical directions, adding to the pre-rehearsal jumble of sounds -- till it was time to get to work and start rehearsing the day’s repertoire together.

From Charlie Gibbs
Posted on October 3, 2015 at 6:51 PM
I have to leave work early to get to our afternoon rehearsal, so I don't have a lot of time once I get there. As much as I'd like to do some scales, I usually work on the trickier parts of our material. As to whether others would hear, as someone else mentioned, I think they're all too busy working on their own particular bits to care what I'm doing.

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