Many people may not understand how physically demanding playing music can be, especially for those of us who have to hold the weight of an instrument through a long performance (we’re looking at you, marching euphoniums), or who often play lengthy, complex works solo (hello, concert pianists and strings musicians).
Keeping your body in good physical shape is essential to playing your best, no matter your musical instruments. Endurance, control and overall flexibility will aid in preventing common injuries like tendonitis and muscle sprains, improve your posture, and ultimately help you to become a stronger musician. In addition to your regular cardiovascular and strength-building exercises, the following are helpful stretches for musicians to complete prior to every practice and performance. Think of this routine as essential prep prior to playing, just as you’d warm up and tune your instrument.
It’s important to note that if you do start to experience pain while playing, it’s best to consult with your doctor immediately. Likewise, if any of the stretches or exercises cause pain, STOP immediately, as that can be your body’s warning sign that something isn’t quite right. If not treated right away, over-use injuries may turn chronic, keeping you off the field or out of the music room much longer than you’d like. Concentrate on keeping slow, fluid movements and breathing consistently throughout this 10-step stretching routine.
1. Place your ear on your right shoulder. Gently and slowly press your head toward your shoulder with hand on same side, while keeping opposite shoulder relaxed. Hold stretch for 12 seconds. Repeat on other side.
2. Place one arm straight across your chest while gently pulling it in toward your body with your opposite hand and hold for 12 seconds. Repeat with other arm.
3. Start with your arms at your sides, raise them outward and upward over your head, then return, relaxed to sides. Repeat 10 times. (Like a jumping jack without the jump.)
4. With arms relaxed at sides, gently shrug your shoulders up toward your ears. Relax and repeat 10 times.
5. Extend arms straight out in front of your body, palms up, without locking your elbows. Bend and straighten elbows slowly. Repeat 10 times. To build strength, add 5 to 10 pound weights in each hand.
6. Similarly, extend arms out to your sides without locking your elbows. Bring both elbows up so that your fingertips are touching at the back of your head. Return to sides and repeat 10 times.
Wrist and Finger Movements
7. Place arms in front of you with your fingertips extended. Rotate palms up/palms down 10 times, then wrists up/wrists down 10 times.
8. “Wave” by keeping arms in front with fingertips extended upward. Rotate wrists outward, toward your pinkie side, then inward, toward your thumbs, repeat 10 times.
9. Still keeping hands out in front, extend your fingertips straight forward with palms down. Gently pull your fingertips from the top, toward your body, with your opposite hand until you feel a healthy stretch in your wrist, hand and fingers. Hold for 12 seconds then repeat with other hand. Next, do the same, only pull fingertips downward toward your body. Hold for 12 seconds on each hand.
10. Spread fingers on both hands out as far as you (comfortably) can, then squeeze into a moderate fist. Repeat 10 times. Bend finger joints as if you were gripping handlebars, then spread out. Repeat five times. Gently shake out your hands.
Looking for more stretching/skill building exercises? Check out our great selection of method/studies sheet music, all available to download and start practicing instantly.
Do you stretch before playing? Is there a routine that you always follow? Share your experiences in the comments below!