Why You Shouldn’t Have (One) Warmup Routine

As just about any athlete will tell you, warming up in an important part of reaching and maintaining a high level of performing any activity.

However, not all warm-ups are created equally. Depending on your current playing level, current playing responsibilities, and day-to-day feeling, you will likely need to alter your warmup.

Another great post by James Boldin covers the three main types of warmup routines that he deems necessary:

  • The normal warmup:
  • The recuperative warmup
  • The quick warmup

I really like this idea of having small tweaks in your fundamental routine, and while I haven’t necessarily thought of it with these clear distinctions, I definitely have a normal and quick warmup routine, and my recuperative routine is kind of “built-in” to my normal warmup.

My Warmup Routines


I use my normal routine as my every-day routine. It has a little bit of everything, cobbled together from several different warmup books, teachers, and my own personal needs.

It’s not especially strenuous in terms of time or playing since I’ve intentionally added lots of short rests into it. The exercises I do include:

It sounds like a lot, but by swapping out keys and articulations on a daily or weekly basis, I cover everything constantly, without taking an hour or more on warming up. All told, this routine covers around 4 octaves, all dynamic extremes, and takes under 30 minutes.


While I don’t have a recuperative warmup routine planned out, I do often modify my normal routine to fit my current face situation. For example, while I normally will do some light work above high C, if I’m especially tired or stiff from a heavy day (or days), I’ll simply skip the top few notes and only touch on the high C briefly.

Same thing with dynamic extremes – especially loud playing. If it’s not working, I’ll do what I can and move on. I will be a bit more insistent with quiet dynamics, though, because those are both less strenuous and more important to be able to produce regardless of how your face feels.


My expedited routine is just the first few exercises from my daily warmup routine. These are basic exercises that work on lots of things at once – articulation, sound, register changes, range, pitch, etc., and take about 5-7 minutes to do total. I do these before additional practice sessions or rehearsals/concerts, and it seems to get my face and air working (relatively) quickly and easily.

Similar to my normal routine, though, if it’s a double (or triple) service day or I’m already tired before the rehearsal has begun, I’ll limit the range and time that I spend on these exercises, and only do stuff that is essential to get things working.

Design Your Own

Of course, warmup routines are incredibly personal and will change throughout your playing time.

If you’ve never given any thought to your warmup, the next month or so has plenty of time for you to try some things out, and I encourage you to do so if you really want to improve your playing.

Some things to consider when designing your own warmup:

  • Start with the basics – easy notes played well are the best thing to do first.
  • Work (smartly) on expanding your range. Do this after you have played in the middle register, though.
  • The harmonic series is how the horn (and all brass instrument work). Scales and arpeggios are how composers work. To play a composer’s music on the horn, you need to know both of these things.
  • Scales and arpeggios can always be better. Work on at least one key per day.
  • Extremes (dynamics, range, etc.) will never get better if they never sound bad. Do not stick to the stuff you can do well – push your comfort zone and it will expand.

Questions? Comments? Let me know below or contact me!