One of the first things you’re taught as an aspiring guitar player – aside from string names and basic chord shapes – is that warming up is key to playing stamina. Without limbering up the fretting hand with some rudimentary runs, you’re at risk of increasing the likelihood of a small injury.
However, no matter how in-depth your warm-up routine is, you can’t legislate for impromptu cramps, which can strike out of the blue when you least expect them.
The inevitable nature of such spontaneous six-string injuries was made apparent during a Red Hot Chili Peppers gig in Australia last week, when Stratocaster master John Frusciante – who prides himself on having one of the most regimented warm-up routines around – was spotted stretching out his fretting hand in the middle of an intense guitar solo.
During a particularly energetic and speedy solo run around the pentatonic scale over Suck My Kiss, Froosh was snapped taking a brief reprieve from proceedings, removing his left hand from the fretboard and using his picking hand to pull at his ring and pinky fingers.
Despite the stretch, Frusciante’s pinky finger looked to have been put out of commission for the duration of the clip, with the electric guitar hero instead relying on the rest of his digits to bring the solo home.
Such is the caliber of Frusciante’s skills and stamina, anyone who missed the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment would have been none the wiser, with the 53-year-old instead plowing on full steam ahead with the rest of the blistering lead effort.
We can’t imagine Frusciante’s twinge was the result of a laissez-faire approach to warming up, because – as has been documented on numerous occasions – the Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist takes his practice routine very, very seriously.
In a conversation with Guitar Player, Froosh revealed he spends “at least a couple hours of warming up in the morning, doing the exercises and stuff”, before making sure he plays at least four hours before the gig. Any less than that, and he’s “very unhappy”.
During the in-depth practice run-through, Frusciante also revealed he uses a Sous Vide – a machine used to cook meat in heated water – to soak his hands in an effort to loosen everything up.
“I also soak my hands in this thing that’s used to cook meat – a Sous Vide machine, which heats up water to a high temperature,” said the guitar titan, who took inspiration from Allan Holdsworth. “I started with it at 114 degrees Fahrenheit, but now I’m setting it to about 118. If I feel any tension at all, I soak my hands and my forearms for anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, depending on what I feel I need.
“I do that over and over for the four hours before we go onstage, at different times during my warm-up.”
This case is by no means the most devastating injury we’ve seen from someone behind the fretboard – many more examples, some of which involve blood, spring to mind – but it’s something you don't see every day, and a reminder to take care when cranking up your solo speed.
Despite this, we’re confident that Froosh’s fretting hand is in top notch health and suitably robust, mainly due to his extensive and serious approach to practice, which pays specific attention to individual finger strengthening.
Not only that, he has a history of high-speed fretboard action, which became apparent when footage of a 17-year-old Frusciante unleashing his inner hair-metal hero emerged online.
More recently, Frusciante has displayed a suite of solo skills in recent months, culminating in an Eddie Van Halen-channeling live performance of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ EVH tribute track, Eddie.
In other Frusciante news, we recently got a good look at his gigantic new Red Hot Chili Peppers pedalboard, which has been deployed during the band’s ongoing tour.