One of the great pleasures of teaching ukulele the last decade has been seeing students successfully learn to play ukulele in their 70s, 80s, or even 90s.
Because ukulele is an instrument for everyone, many of these students see success, but I’ve learned there are unique challenges at this age.
Namely, stiff or uncooperative fingers.
If you find yourself with stiff fingers, then one of the best things you can do is take a brief five minutes as you pick up your ukulele to warm up the fretting hand, strumming hand, and the mind.
By doing so, most importantly, you get yourself into a relaxed state. Sometimes we unintentionally bring the stress of the day into our practice. By warming up, we take an intentional moment to focus on the feeling of playing relaxed. And when you’re relaxed, you make the most out of your practice and set yourself up for the best likelihood of success.
In this video lesson, I teach you five simple exercises you can use before you play ukulele to get the hands, fingers, and mind ready to play.
Feel free to use the ideas presented in this video to modify the warmup based on your current skill level.
Warm-Up Exercise #1: Chromatic Scale Exercise
The goal of this exercise is to begin waking up each finger in the fretting hand.
Assign the index finger to notes on the 1st fret, middle finger to notes on the 2nd fret, ring finger to notes on the 3rd fret, and the little finger to notes on the 4th fret.
First, practice the exercise in an ascending manner.
Then, practice the exercise descending.
Pick a slow, comfortable tempo that allows you to transition between notes and strings without hesitating or pausing.
Warm-Up Exercise #2: C Major Scale Exercise
Let’s continue to wake up the fretting hand fingers, but let’s begin to wake up our mind to see the relationships between our fingers and notes on the fretboard.
To do so, play a C major scale in ascending order and verbalize the notes out loud.
Then, practice descending.
If you want to dive deeper into the C major scale, then check out this lesson.
Warm-Up Exercise #3: Down-Up Free Tempo Strumming Exercise
It’s time to wake up the strumming hand, wrist, and fingers!
This exercise is deceptively simple and is best understood in the video.
To perform the exercise, simply start strumming a down-up strumming pattern at a slow, easy-going tempo that allows you to be completely relaxed, and then, gradually speed up.
It sounds easy but what this exercise does is get you used to the feeling of strumming in a relaxed manner at different tempos without being stressed or worried about staying on the beat.
Warm-Up Exercise #4: Down-Up Soft to Loud Strumming Exercise
Like the previous exercise, we’re keeping it nice and easy.
For this exercise, start off strumming a down-up strumming pattern as softly as you can manage (while staying relaxed) and gradually get louder.
Be aware of any added tension that creeps in. Sometimes the tendency is to try really hard to get louder, which we don’t want to happen. The goal is to have fun being soft or loud and doing so with the feeling of being relaxed without the pressure of having to perform a specific song.
If you struggle with strumming soft or loud, be sure to watch the video for some tips and tricks on the strumming motion.
Warm-Up Exercise #5: Chord Progression Exercise
At this point, you should be feeling more warmed up in your fretting hand and strumming hand than when you first started.
For this final exercise, let’s continue to warm up the mind by coordinating the fretting hand and strumming hand with a familiar chord progression.
In reality, you can pick any chord progression for this, so as long as it’s one that is easy for you.
Warming up, which is often overlooked, is an important part of practicing because it helps bring your mind and body into a relaxed but engaged state of mind.
In total, these warm-up exercises shouldn’t take more than five minutes at the beginning of your practice session.
If you’re someone who struggles with stiff or arthritic fingers, remember to listen to your body and not overdo practice. Remember that a short practice session of fifteen minutes each day is better than one big marathon practice session of four hours once per week.
And don’t forget, there’s always tomorrow. Don’t beat yourself up if your fingers aren’t cooperating. Sometimes it’s best to take a break and come back the next day.
How do you like to warm up?
Post a comment below letting me and your fellow ukulele players know.