How to Perform without Warming Up First

June 19, 2008 at 05:43 PM · How to Perform without Warming Up First

I just found out that there will be no place/opportunity to warm-up at my upcoming recital (in 4 days). Normally, it can take me as high as 30 minutes to an hour to get prepared – especially to perform.

Any suggestions on how I might warm up when I can’t physically play would be greatly appreciated.

Replies (30)

June 19, 2008 at 05:51 PM · You can:

1) practice at home for fifteen minutes before hand.

2) mental practice rather than physical---i mean, doing everything that you would normally do while practicing, except without an instrument.

3) go cold...

Whatever works for you. I don't play well if I've practiced a whole lot before a concert. I do better if I practice scales and individual phrases a little before. And if I'd had loads of slow practice beforehand. :)

June 19, 2008 at 06:12 PM · Program a 5 minute first piece that has a lot of vibrato, that is loud, and is technically easy to play. You and the violin both warm up nicely.

Ted Kruzich

June 19, 2008 at 07:10 PM · Wow a whole hour to warm up? On days of recital I don't practice any of the music I am going to play. If I don't know it by then a half hour of practicing isn't going to help me much.

My warm up consists of a half hour of stretching, meditation, and some scales to put me in "the right frame of mind." I only need 5 minutes of that time physically playing before I'm warmed up. I use the rest of the time to stretch and calm my nerves.

It doesn't take that long to warm your hands up really, in fact you could just be expending too much energy that you could use on stage. And if worse comes to worse you could always just use a practice must or playing without the bow.

June 19, 2008 at 07:35 PM · It does seem like a long time I know, but I really never play my best on less than a 1/2 hour of playing before a performance.

I'm not at all worried about my solo - I require this kind of warm up for most of my solos and chamber music work. I usually work on scales, maybe an etude and and often I improvise and play by ear. But, until I've played for a while my sound is very "strained / tense", for lack of better terms.

I'm sure there are methods I can learn to warm-up faster for the future, but for now I'm just trying to get ideas for this Sunday.

June 19, 2008 at 08:17 PM · How long does it take you to get from your home to the recital venue? I'd suggest warming up as usual for your accustomed length of time at home right til the last minute you leave for the recital, then when you get to the hall, do some stretching exercises, arm movements as if bowing, finger movements ditto.

June 19, 2008 at 09:42 PM · Rosalind - thankfully the hall is about 8-9 miles away. So I will definitely be warming up at home to some extent.

The recital is estimated to be around 4 hours and I know I'm going to be somewhere near the end, so I also thought I wouldn't sit in on the whole thing and maybe show up during middle - as long as I don't miss my time to play :-)

June 19, 2008 at 09:59 PM · It's strange that you think there's no opportunity to warm up. Get there an hour early and do it in the wings. The audience gets two recitals for the price of one :) If that isn't possible, then outside the back door. If that's not possible, then in the parking lot...

June 19, 2008 at 10:03 PM · "The recital is estimated to be around 4 hours "


June 19, 2008 at 10:41 PM · Normally Jim - I would agree with you, but the recital is being held in a library with the music/meeting room connected to the main library itself.

I suppose I could serenade the patrons while I was waiting - should work wonders on my stage fright...hahaha

June 20, 2008 at 01:29 AM · Ah. I know those places. Outside there's a lawn and way over to one side there's a couple of trees, maybe mimosa, maybe ginko, and some kind of big bush with giant white flowers on it. Face the bushes so nobody will pay attention, and warm up to your heart's content. Go back in 10 min. before time to go and if there's someone speaking sit in the back and make sure he can see you. You can keep warmed up if you want by doing silent vibratos with the fiddle across your chest or something. If there's no place to sit, stand against the back wall. If there are a lot of empty chairs in the back, don't stand or he might be a joker and ask you to sit.

June 20, 2008 at 02:02 AM · The Kingbird used to perch on the lowest Branch of our Mimosa--it spread out across the Pond and provided the best vantage for bug-watching. When the Tree died, it gradually folded its long lanky Limbs up--like a Flower closing.

My college had female Ginkos all over the place. We used to step on the Fruit and track it into the Classrooms. I had to be careful on Rollerblades on that Stuff!

The Rhodadendrums are all bloomed out but the Dogwoods are in full bloom as are the Mountain Laurel, so you should be able to find a big Bush with white Flowers somewhere.

June 20, 2008 at 02:23 AM ·

June 20, 2008 at 04:37 AM · i have warmed up in the kitchen of a restaurant before...

June 20, 2008 at 04:39 AM · As my pro mentors once said to me, if you think you need a warm up, you need to alter your thinking.

No true pro I know ever needed a warm up - each was ready to play the moment he/she raised his/her instrument.

Once I learned the mental discipline, I too no longer needed a warm up. Prior, alll the warm up did was increase the fatigue of the performance. After, I trained myself to relax, and began to enjoy performing, and my stamina increased measurably.

You need to discover better ways to control your nerves and angst. Confidence and relaxation are the keys to excellent performances.

June 20, 2008 at 06:12 AM · Where were your pro mentors from? Every pro orchestra I've heard has this racket at the start that's people warming up. Call those mentors and tell them there's lots more ways to skin hosses in this world than they know of. Call them while they're sitting in an audience somewhere, to see if they turned their phones off.

June 20, 2008 at 12:33 PM · Jim - I don't think orchestral performers are warming up on stage, they're practicing!!!! lol.

Ron, my teacher said pretty much the same thing. He believed this whole "warming up" business was just a lot of drama and calling attention to oneself. He taught me to just stretch a bit, play through a couple of scales with vibrato if you had the time and you're set to go. He even told me to get rid of my shoulder rest completely because "one has to be prepared to play without it if you forget it."

But then again he didn't believe in etudes either, and rolled his eyes if I wanted to play scales for him.

June 20, 2008 at 02:14 PM · These posts are interesting, because years ago I fought some minor pain in my left hand, and was told that it was caused in part by my not warming up before launching into my music.

So is this a common pratice for performers to not warm up? Playing the violin is very physical and I couldn't name one other sport out there where the players/performers would go out without warming up or stretching beforehand. That's just asking for injury...

June 20, 2008 at 03:24 PM · You should warm up at least some, like Marina is talking about. But thinking you need an hour is a little excessive. I think it's a developmental stage though, or at least I think it was for me. I think it's really like you think you need as much time as possible to learn the music, including demonstrating to yourself that it's right under your fingers as near the performance time as you can. If the music was real simple, you probably wouldn't feel the need for that much warming up. So as you catch up to the music eventually, you'll have less of that need. But what I said about facing the bushes and playing, after you mentioned stage fright, will let you in effect experience playing for people who are being completely uncritical and might help condition you a better way. But having said this - not necessarily:) I was taught to do whatever it takes. So if it takes a ritual forever then do the ritual forever. In the end, after as much learning of every kind that you can cram into your head, do whatever it takes for you personally. But I'm guessing it's a stage, like I said.

June 20, 2008 at 03:55 PM · Ron, aren't you a brass player?

I don't know any trumpet players that would play Mahler 5 without warming up beforehand...

June 20, 2008 at 03:43 PM · You could have a point Jim - it could be excessive and/or a phase.

I think that since my wrist issues put me out of commission for nine years that I might be just being overly cautious.

Anyway, like it or not, as long as I'm with my current teacher learning to perform without warming up is going to be required - so I might as well learn to deal with it.

P.S. I do find it interesting that several people who responded to my question automatically associated my long warm-up sessions with a supposed insecurity in my ability or confidence to play _________. I'm curious why you would make that connection?

June 20, 2008 at 04:13 PM · Probably because there's no physical reason it would take an hour. At least no physical reason that we have personal experience with.

June 20, 2008 at 04:36 PM · I agree about it not taking an hour to physically warm up, and there could have been a misunderstanding from one of my earlier posts when I mentioned my music sounding strained under I had played for a while. But, for me, to just physically warm-up takes me 5-15 minutes.

There is no way to accurately describe this but I’m a very private person in every way. When I play for an hour before performing I don’t play anything remotely classical, except 5-10 minutes of scales. The remainder of my time is spent playing by ear and improvising anything I feel moves me at the moment – it’s like my personal preparation time to share myself / music with the audience.

Strange, I know – but it’s the best explanation I can give without writing a thesis.

June 20, 2008 at 04:47 PM · Very interesting comments about warm-up or not to warm-up. I know from my own experience that I just like to do enough that I feel my violin is warmed up more than perhaps me... Again it is one of these things that is hard to explain but there comes a point, maybe 15, 30, 45 minutes into starting to play after getting the instrument out of the case where myself and the violin feel "ready to go"... I can't put my finger on it more precisely than that! But I know I'd feel uncomfortable if someone suddenly materialised before that "ready" feeling and said "Time for you to play NOW"

June 20, 2008 at 05:16 PM · I can't put my finger on it more precisely than that! But I know I'd feel uncomfortable if someone suddenly materialised before that "ready" feeling and said "Time for you to play NOW">

Thank you Rosalind! You said it much better than I did.

June 20, 2008 at 05:22 PM · No one is questioning the need to be prepared to play, which includes warming up. I also suffered from tendinitis in my left elbow which I must constantly think about. I always warm up, even before I practice much less perform. The questioning came in that you said you need an hour and then you said you need 5-10 minutes. It's kind of confusing. Anyway, I don't believe an hour is necessary for warming up neither do I think an athlete needs that long for warming up either.

By the way does anyone do any cooling down after they play?

June 20, 2008 at 05:37 PM · I agree it was confusing my reference to needing an hour to warm up and then the comment of 5-10 minutes. I think of a warm up as more than just physical so it never occurred to me to clarify on that point.

June 20, 2008 at 06:15 PM · Hi Megan.

I'm a former brass player. long story. But whatever the instrument, a pro is a pro. Either you can play, and are ready to play, or you are not.

Mahler 5 does require preparation and practice, as it is certainly a challenge for brass. I would not attempt it without some serious practise prior.

Learning to play a piece is not the same as preparing oneself to play the piece. There is a big difference between the student and the pro.

But prep is not the same as a warm up prior to performance. The only "warm up" I would take would be to ensure the mouthpiece is actually warm prior to play. It is true that a cold mouthpiece is more difficult to play, especially during winter. Mahler 5 is so demanding that playing any portion of it prior to performance would definitely fatigue the player somewhat, and perhaps enough to risk the performance. For brass, fatigue is a big factor.

I attended performances "ready to perform". No amount of warm up can replace preparation, assuming one has all the requisite skill.

Others may disagree. So, please suit yourselves.

June 20, 2008 at 06:51 PM · Ron stated: No amount of warm up can replace preparation, assuming one has all the requisite skill.

Ron - if you read the post more carefully, this was never debated.

This was about a personal preference of spending time warming up before performing and finding ways to get around when it was not an option.

As for your comparison between professionals and students - it's just simply not a well thought out statement.

I've seen and worked with both extremes in professional players and students most of whom were very prepared, and some who should have been ashamed of themselves for their lack of it, and all of whom had their own ways of warming up or not.

And the idea that professionals prepare in advance and students only learn their music is just insulting.

No amount of logic could justify such a broad and unsubstantiated generalization.

June 20, 2008 at 10:00 PM · I always play at the end of the recitals I have for my students, and therefore have had to deal with playing a piece cold, without any warm up. I also have the luxury of playing whatever I want to, so I can pick a piece that I can ease into.

Because I hold my violin and bow while the students play, I do slow rocking vibrato with the violin in rest position. I also do gently hand massages, which helps with the flexibility.

Another thing I do is practice playing that particular piece first thing in the morning, before I have played anything else. That helps me get used to playing the piece cold, so the recital performance doesn't seem like such a shock.

June 21, 2008 at 08:14 AM · Greetings,

can I suggest you take a look at my March blog`The Warm up of death?`

Or not.



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