Agony of the Leaves _ Yellowknife Gigging _ Guitar & Humming Warm-up Excercise Example . the same exact way each show to minimize time and any instrument damage that might occur due to the extreme temperature fluctuations between the outside and the inside of the venue .
3 . Buy the best gear , instruments , and road cases that you can afford . There is a strong need to humidify everything up here , especially expensive acoustic guitars . Body cracks are an issue even with in-case humidifiers . The dry cold climate also isn ’ t friendly to cheaply made plastics and ill constructed latches , cables , and zippers . Cables tend to get very crackly due to drying out from within . I once dropped a new heavy-duty speaker tripod a short six inches to the icy sidewalk and all the plastic bracings shattered like glass . If you can afford to , buy high quality gear .
4 . The next thing I was not prepared for was the little glitches that my hands and joints would experience when going in from the cold outdoors to the heat of the venue . Even with good gloves my fingers would randomly lock up on me at the knuckles and phalanges . Usually this would happen during the first set and without warning from seemingly carrying the cold deep inside and each bone and tendon not fully prepared for heat inducing movements across the fretboard .
5 . Unfortunately , the same thing will happen with your vocals . After gigging up here for a while a thick scarf and constructing a proper vocal and guitar warm-up became a priority . I have tabbed the outline of this out below . I start on the low strings and gently hum along , getting louder as I go and as my voice starts to feel closer to being ready to try full voice singing . As the warmth of the venue starts to get into my bones I increase the tempo . The pattern traces a Major 7th chord and I do it from the low end of the neck to the 12th fret and then reverse the pattern back to where I started . I will then drop the pattern to the next higher set of strings , go up and back , and then the next higher set , etc . Until I can go all the way back up to where I started the entire warm-up .
6 . If I have arrived early and have time , I will often incorporate slides from the 7th of the chord to the octave or a slide from the octave to the ninth and then go back down the scale to the root . Or I might come up with a pattern on the fly and see if I can execute it all the way from the low end of the neck and low set of strings to the high set of strings and high end of the neck … and all the way back down again . It is good practice to hum or vocalise during this to warm up both the fingers and the vocal cords ...
This total “ Man , It ’ s Cold Outside ” warm-up will usually take between 15-20 + minutes and has helped me immensely in staving off cold induced hand and vocal gremlins and longterm physical problems after each gig .
You can make these exercises as detailed as you like and add in components to get the most for your time spent . i . e . adding dynamics , using and vocalising unfamiliar chord shapes ( Drop 2 and Drop 3 voicings , etc .), arpeggiating the chords to the songs of your entire set , running all your melodies through all string groups so that you hit unfamiliar keys for both hands and throat .
You might use two strings in a chord at once : i . e ., for CM7 , pluck the C and E then G and B or even play a note and hum or sing the note above or below it to work on your harmonies .
My bandmates in Agony of the Leaves have each come up with their own similar pre-show routines . Our main goal is to be warmed up fully and completely .
Up here you never know when you might be asked to be outside at -50 for a late night music video or movie ... or do a photo shoot with music students under the Northern lights ... or perhaps pose for an ice road band photo complete with sinister ice fog that lingers and freezes to your eyeballs before flaking off ... you might even get lucky enough to be summoned to kiss the ring of the Snow King ... a signal to play to the masses of music loving Northerners at the city ’ s annual Snow Castle Festival . Once summer comes the lingering sun keeps the music playing going all night long .
It sure is a unique spot up here and a fantastic place for any adventurous musician to explore a very compelling Canadian music scene .
Stay warm , everyone , and keep those fingers limber !
Stephen Richardson is a 2x JUNO nominee ( 2021 & 2023 MusiCounts Music Teacher of the Year award ). Richardson is originally from Nova Scotia and a guitar graduate of the prestigious Jazz program at STFX . He now works in Yellowknife , Northwest Territories as a K-12 Elementary & High School Band / Music / Guitar Teacher . He returns home to Nova Scotia each summer to gig , write , film , and record . He can be reached at stephen . richardson @ ycs . nt . ca .
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