Whether you call yourself an athlete or you just occasionally go to the gym, most likely you do warm ups before you exercise. If you go on a run or a hike, you stretch and warm-up your legs before and after you go. If you don’t take the time to warm up your body before you physical exert yourself, you are more likely to get injured and suffer pain and cramps.
Just as expected, if you sing in a chorus, physical warm-ups are a part of the preparation for singing. You stretch your head, neck, shoulders and arms. You warm up the muscles in your face, your jaw and your neck. And then you vocalize, which warms up your vocal chords and get your instrument in shape for singing.
I’ve often wondered why we don’t do these physical preparations as instrumentalists. You go to orchestra rehearsal or gather to play chamber music for two or three hours at a time, and frequently afterwards people have lower back pain, wrist, shoulder and neck pain. Instrumentalists are always hurting themselves, complaining about sore necks, shoulders and wrists and hands, probably due to overuse and most likely exacerbated by not warming up the physical muscles involved in holding an instrument in position for hours.
It’s an interesting thing to consider. I’ve often wondered why in our orchestra it feels so strange to even think about implementing a warm up. Everyone is sitting, warming up their instrument, their embochure, their strings, but not thinking about their physical beings without instruments and warming up those muscles first. Once seated, then musicians are holding instruments and it’d be awkward to say, put them down and let’s stretch.
But maybe we need to do just that: have a period of warm ups before people ever take their seats with their instruments. Stretch necks and heads, shoulders and arms, hands, wrists and fingers, breathe deeply, do some back stretches and only then sit down with instrument in hand and actually start warming up the metals, woods, strings, reeds, embouchures and strings. Perhaps then we’d all be less sore and more able to play through a rehearsal without body pain. Maybe musicians would suffer fewer injuries and discomforts. Let’s test it out and try it at our next TACO gathering!