Phase Warm-ups


FOUNDATION WARM-UPS,                  

PHASE I (and notes),                       

PHASE II (and notes),     

and PHASE III (and notes) will be included here.                  

Phases IV-VII can be found in PEDAGOGY Book 2.

 HISTORY – In my student years, I did Gary Karr’s Bass Class Exercises and came to appreciate the value of a good warm-up  – a warm-up where one has the time to focus totally on HOW one plays.  Early in my teaching career I was at a school where we were able to do the exercises regularly as a group, sometimes everyday, and I was always pleasantly surprised at the rapid gains in strength and endurance.  At the next school, the schedule made regular group warm-ups almost impossible.  Besides that, highly advanced students were coming from diverse backgrounds and while they were well developed in some areas, they were lacking in others.  The phases began as a way to even out these differences and enforce warm-up habits on an individual basis.  Coincidentally, I became involved in martial arts (Aikido) about the same time, and in retrospect, I can see that certain values are borrowed from that discipline as well.

CONCEPT – Master the instrument and play anything you want, any style you want.  How?  First find the core of the physical, mental and technical aspects of playing.  In a good warm-up, fundamental aspects of playing are exercised which build strength, endurance and speed in both hands as well as intellectual understanding of the basic principles of the discipline.    Master or internalize the fundamentals, then the mind is free to consider the music.   I enjoy teaching music and want to have as much lesson time as possible to devote to the music instead of ranting about technique, position and intonation in every phrase.   There are only so many things (15?) that you can pay attention to at once.   The phase system helps by giving the student a way of objectively and systematically tending the technical aspects of their development.   
    All the exercises are fairly short with the expectation that they will be thoroughly mastered.  By thoroughly learning the small samples provided in the phases, the process of mastery can also be learned and generalized.   It is also easier to set a high standard in a small sample for consistency of intonation and quality execution.
    In other words, burn yourself out playing scales and arpeggios not the Dragonetti Concerto.  Wanting to play musically is a reason to learn technique, not the way.

CONTENTSScales (major, natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor, chromatic, diminished [in Phase 4] and augmented [in Phase 5]) and arpeggios (major, minor, diminished, augmented and major seven) have long been recognized as the foundation of good technique.   It certainly is the source material for all tonal music and arguably for atonal, as well.   Furthermore, exercises are presented and labeled in common harmonic progressions (circle of fifths, cycle of thirds, diatonic progression, etc.)   Left hand strength and agility and intonation studies are added into the mix.   Lastly, a variety of bowing applications (detache, slurs, marcato, spiccato, combinations, etc.) are intrinsic to the exercises.  So, each phase is comprehensive in that it contains exercises from all the above categories:  scales, arpeggios, and left hand strength and agility exercises, intonation exercises and a full range of bowing applications.
    There is a relation in the 7 phases to the several kyus of belts found in many martial arts – the steps are progressive but “equal.”   Upon completion of Phase 7, the next step is to return to Phase 1.   Actually, by rotating phases 1, 2, and 3 – there is enough material to provide a fairly comprehensive pool of exercises, yet provide enough variety so that the warm-up routine doesn’t get “stale”.   Phase 4 has four-finger technique as a sub-focus.  Phase 5 has three-stringed crossings as a sub-focus.  Phase – 6 and 7 are more complex applications of scales and arpeggios and more lengthy intonation/strength/agility exercises.
    Aim to spend time on every part of a given Phase within a week’s time.  When you can do the entire Phase in one sitting (about and hour) it’s probably time to move on to the next Phase.  In general, I recommend spending an hour on warm-ups each day – no more.  If you are a serious practice junkie – go for two hours.   For younger students – about a quarter of their regular practice time should be warm-ups.  I dilute and simplify the exercises for young students.

USE OF MEMORY – all exercises should be memorized so that the mind is free to focus on other aspects of playing beyond the reading.  By memorizing, the awareness can expand to include the entire mind/body complex.  The focus can be on the instrument and HOW you play more than WHAT you play.  It’s also a good opportunity to exercise your memory.  Usually by the time something is committed to memory, most of the left hand, i.e. note-side considerations have been addressed.  Then the important work of focusing on the rest of the body and especially the BOW can happen.  Everything is ultimately a bow exercise.  Can you watch the bow in the mirror?  Can you watch your bow hand or shoulder without the mirror?

USE OF VOICE – be able to speak note names and chord names while playing.  This process is more import than you may think for focusing the nervous system.  The brain loves labels.  The synthesis of the kinesthetic, verbal, and aural input helps to solidify a neurological event.

USE OF INNER EAR – This is also an opportunity to develop clear aural imaging.  This is done using “stopped bow” practice.  First, hear the note (or pattern of notes) before playing it.  Then move the left hand to the note using larger muscles to shift. Balance the hand around the note.  Finally, release the sound by drawing the bow.  Thinking ahead is something that is quite natural – when you are not nervous.  If in practice, you separate the functions of this process, it will become an automatic response, even under pressure.  For me, learning to drive stick shift was a gear-grinding, jerky process until I learned to separate the functions of what appears to be a simultaneous event – a “ ballet” soon developed becoming automatic – no longer requiring focused attention.  My first attempts at highway driving were also a lesson in looking ahead.  If your attention is not far enough ahead of where you are driving, it’s easy to loose control.   If you haven’t had that experience, think about it when next you drive (careful!!!).

USE OF METRONOME – Notice that the metronome is an individual option until phase 3.  I want to encourage listening to yourself and natural pacing and relaxation.  If pulse is a problem, I recommend slow settings.

LEARNING SEQUENCE – The typical sequence for attention is to read the page first.  One can become quite absorbed in doing this and develop all kinds of strange physical habits in the process.  This has been short circuited by providing very little or no manuscript so that the patterns and notes have to be thought out or memorized.  Once that is taken care of – that is, you know roughly what you are going to play – what it sounds like, the focus will naturally go to the note side concerns:  fingerings, board positions, patterns of notes, shifting and using good left hand technique.  Very often that is where technical practice stops.  Consciously move beyond this to awareness of stance, relaxation, balance and lastly and mostly ——-bow awareness (angle, draw, bow planes, contact point, weight, use of back, sensitive “well-oiled” bow “grip”, etc.)  
     Because bow awareness tends to be last, keep the bow usage simple at first by using pizzicato or playing in the lower quadrants (that is, not too close to the bridge).  Ultimately, all exercises will be played with finesse in the 3rd and 4th quadrant (close to the bridge).  Since stance, relaxation, balance and feel for the bow are so important, they are addressed in the pre-phase segment.