I have used several warm-ups throughout my drumming career. I pass them on to my students, and generally feel that using these exercises is a positive way to begin playing for the day. However, there is a potentially disabling side to warming up which is worth considering.
To illustrate, let’s look at two conflicting concepts about being musicians:
1) Musicians are similar to athletes. As such, we must warm up to bring our muscles and mind into the zone for the event.
2) Music is communication, similar to talking. It is so integral to our make-up that we can do it instantly with astounding accuracy.
Well, which is it?
Ideally, you should cultivate both notions:
• Warm up most days, and especially when you are feeling particularly disconnected from your instrument. You are bringing your body and mind into the focus required for a good musical session.
• Conversely, it is empowering to your musical spirit to know that you can play great at the drop of a hat. You can draw upon your skills easily and instantly.
If you are so dependant on your warm-up that you feel you can’t play without doing it, there is a real problem.
Probably that problem is more of a psychological one than a physical one. What if you are at a club and the band invites you to sit-in? Are you going to turn it down because you are not warmed up? Or, if you have agreed to sit in, but an up-tempo tune is called, will you be uncomfortable because you don’t think you can play tempos without a warm-up?
These are problems that can be overcome through changing your practice routine:
• Start your practice session with something musical right away (without a warm-up) – perhaps some medium-up time or trading.
• Wake-up in the morning and practice up-tempo first thing.
• Think about playing your best right away!
Deviating from your standard warm-ups can help change your mental and physical comfort zones. This will enable you to call up your best playing at a moment’s notice.