I hate the spider exercise. There, I said it. And I’ve been wanting to say it for a long time.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a waste of time or that it’s wrong for you to practice it. I just think that it’s one of the worst things you can do as a warm up because the way most people practice means they are making a huge mistake in their warm up routine.
Let me explain why.
The job of a warm up is simple. It has to get us ready to play. It has to prepare us. This means that, by its very nature, it can’t be as strenuous as playing. This is the reason why warm ups are usually slow, gentle and not too difficult.
Now whilst you can play the spider exercises slowly, my issue is that when you start it down at the first fret (which is where most people start it) it’s anything but gentle.
Take a look at the stretch you have to make with your fretting hand to span the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th frets. Not to mention that you have to cross every string to play this exercise. It’s a huge stretch. Even when I’m warmed up I find this stretch uncomfortable so when my hands are completely cold this could actually be quite damaging.
To give you an analogy, think about olympic sprinters. The warm up routines they have need to get them race ready. Not through the actual race. That’s why they never sprint at full pace when they warm up. They do gentle jogs to stimulate blood flow and get oxygen to their muscles. If they were to do the spider exercises equivalent of a sprinting warm up then they would warm up by running the race and the end result of this would most likely be an injury or not being able to perform at their best during the race due to fatigue.
Getting back to bass playing, our hands work the same way. There’s nothing wrong with the pattern involved with the spider exercise but it’s the stretch you have to make when starting it at the 1st fret that’s the problem.
Try this instead.
Any time you have a warm up exercise, whether it’s the spider or anything else, never start it below the 12th fret. The reason for this is simple. The frets are smaller and this makes the stretches smaller which is perfect for cold hands that need warming up.
As a matter of fact I always keep my warm ups above the 12th fret for this exact reason.
Of course the usual warm up rules apply. Go slowly and be gentle but make sure you’re addressing the size of the stretches you’re making rather than just the speed you’re asking your fingers to move!
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