April 30, 2024

About the Author: Cameron Hayes

Cameron Hayes is a guitar educator at the London Guitar Institute, teaching a wide range of styles such as rock, metal, blues, jazz, folk, RnB, acoustic, and many more! He teaches a large volume of students on a weekly basis and always looks to provide outstanding value in each and every lesson!

Although it’s not the most rock ’n roll thing to think about as a guitarist, looking after your health will be incredibly important to ensuring longevity as a musician and also to maximise the most out of your practice sessions!

Man stretching hands

Warm-up and cool-down

Being a guitarist is much like being an athlete, although it may not seem like it at first. Playing guitar involves us using many different small muscles in our hands, wrists, and arms, which need to be warmed up thoroughly before playing challenging material.

Would a professional athlete jump straight onto the track for a 100-metre sprint? No way!

They would ensure that they warm up their muscles properly to ensure a successful and safe performance. Being a guitarist is exactly the same thing.

We should first warm up our hands with scales and other exercises to prevent our hands and forearms from seizing up when playing fast or technically challenging material.

I usually like to start with a few warm-up exercises (chromatic scale) before trying some scales (normal, in 3rds/ 4ths ect), and then playing through a few simple songs before jumping into a piece that is overly technical.

And just as important as the warm-up is the cool-down, which will involve a similar approach at the end of your practise session. This will allow your muscles to relax and prevent them from seizing up or causing damage.

I like to think of my practice sessions like a sandwich: the warm-ups and simpler material at the beginning and end, with the more technically demanding material in the middle.

Man sitting on the couch with two guitars beside him

Take breaks

Obviously practise is incredibly important, but equally as important is how you structure your practise sessions. Playing for hours on end with no breaks can lead to many issues including RSI (repetitive strain injury) or tennis elbow, as well as many other overuse injuries.

I find that splitting up my practise sessions into roughly 45 minute intervals is not only a great way to physically break things up and allow your muscles to relax, but also mentally to take in what you have just been working on.

If I have a few things to practise, such as scales and technical exercises, a setlist for an upcoming gig, new material for a new gig, and some other transcribing for a client,

I will break this all up into 45 to 60-minute intervals to allow myself to properly soak everything in as much as to give my hands a break.

Even a short 5-10 minute coffee break can do wonders for allowing yourself to reset and come back fresh into your next focus.

Man smiling and sitting playing guitar


Following on from the importance of taking breaks, this will also allow you time to correct and reset your posture. As someone who has had personal experience with poor posture leading to overuse injuries (pinched nerve),

I know just how important correct playing posture is to ensuring longevity in your practice sessions. Your first step will be to assess your practice setup and space at home.

I personally like a fairly hard chair that will allow your back to stay straight without encouraging you to slouch. An office chair can work great, too, although one with no arms or the ability to flip the arms up will make this much more comfortable.

I would try to avoid practising on couches or sofas as these will encourage poor posture.

Woman playing guitar with headphones on

Watch your ears!

Something very common in musicians (and guitarists in particular) is ear damage, with conditions such as tinnitus from playing guitar too loudly for extended periods of time. This can occur from not only practise through a loud amp at home or at a gig, but also from listening to music too loudly in your headphones.

This is something incredibly important to monitor, as taking breaks from practising can even help with preventing these conditions.

Volume is the obvious thing to consider, but also consider the quality of headphones you are using to practise with at home or to listen to music for enjoyment.

Cheap headphones will have a very harsh and trebly sound, which causes more damage to your ears through these harsh frequencies, whereas quality headphones will have a much smoother sound and frequency response.

A similar approach can also be taken when setting your amp EQ; try to avoid using too much treble in your sound unless really needed as this can cause damage to your ears.

You may also want to consider purchasing earplugs to wear when attending live gigs or rehearsing with drummers/bass players in a loud band setting (some popular brands include Alpine and Hearos).

Couple exercising together

Healthy lifestyle

Just like with all other aspects of life, living a healthy lifestyle will improve all aspects.

Having a well-balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise, drinking lots of fluids and getting a decent amount of sleep will ensure that you are always running at peak performance in your practice sessions.

This is often overlooked by musicians who focus 100% on their craft of playing guitar, but it can’t be underestimated how much more you can get out of your studies when you are feeling mentally and physically healthy.

You could even incorporate this into the breaks in your practise sessions, why not go out for a short run or cook a nutritious meal in-between takes of your ‘Giant Steps’ solos!

Tags: Guitar tips, music health

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Tags: Guitar tips, music health