The Practice Notebook

flutist Zara Lawler shares tips on learning music

Physical Warm-ups 1: Neck Stretches


Playing an instrument is physically demanding, like playing a sport.  So, like an athlete, it’s a good idea to start your practicing with a physical warm-up.

The first thing I do every time I practice — before I play scales, or long-tones, and definitely before I tackle any thorny technical problems– I do a set of stretches for my whole body.  I start at the top (the neck) and work my way down.  In this and following posts, I will share my physical warm-up routine, and hope that you will find it useful.

Today, we’ll do three neck stretches.

The first is just to get you moving, and is the most simple, and most familiar:  the neck roll.

The second is more intense and focused.  I learned it from a book promising “natural ways to beat a headache.”  It didn’t lead to the end of any headaches for me sadly, but it has proved very useful as a warm-up for playing the flute.

The final exercise is from The Paula Robison Flute Warmups Book.  I like it because it emphasizes movement.  Much of our practice time is spent holding relatively still, which can lead to all sorts of tension.  This exercise is a nice counter-movement to the habitual stillness of practice.

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“Physical Warm-ups 1: Neck Stretches”

  1. On April 27th, 2009 at 4:47 pm The Practice Notebook » Blog Archive » Physical Warm-ups: Shoulder Stretches Says:

    [...] is the second in a series of posts about physical warm-ups. For a little bit of intro, please see the first post. For the entire series to date, please click on “Physical Warm-ups” under the heading [...]

  2. On June 26th, 2009 at 5:18 pm Wayla Chambo Says:

    I really like the blog and the fact that you are emphasizing physical warmups – thanks for all the great suggestions and ideas!
    Just a comment on the neck stretches: personally I have found that my neck likes it better when I do stretches more slowly, especially head rolls going to the back; I find it’s important to keep the neck extended and not drop the weight of the head back too sharply.

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