Cold hands

March 11, 2008 at 05:18 PM · When I perform, I don't get the typical signs of nervousness, like a racing heartbeat, jitters, etc. The only sign of nervousness that pops up are COLD HANDS, the worst thing for a violinist! Sometimes I blame it on being cold outside, but as soon as I am finished playing, my hands instantly warm up. What can I do to "warm up" my hands naturally so they do not freeze??? Please help me conquer this!

Note: This only happens when I play in "exposed" situations - solos, quartets, but not in orchestras.

Replies (22)

March 11, 2008 at 05:56 PM · I'm sure everyone has their own remedy. What works for me is running my hands in warm water (because when my hands get cold, they also get dry). But, if warm water isn't available, I drum my fingers on a table or chair or my knee - And that's a variety of things including modified Dounis exercises, finger vibrato (that's a good one, especially with that first joint of the fingers), scales, or passages from various pieces. My fingers often get warmed up after a few minutes of that.


March 11, 2008 at 06:34 PM · Running your hands under warm water works well. You can try wearing gloves. You can also try sticking your hands in your arm pits.

March 11, 2008 at 07:07 PM · My neck really warms my hands up, it's the only method that always works for me

March 11, 2008 at 09:13 PM · My method is a little cruder, but I stick my hands in my pants if there's no faucet with warm water. Do it while no one's looking.

March 11, 2008 at 10:33 PM · Greeitngs,

the vcold hands is a sign that the fight/flight condition has kicked. Short term remedies for warming the hands are of course very helpful but the actual trigger is whta you are doing with your head neck and back. Alexander Technique would be veyr helpful in resolving this issue in the long run,



March 11, 2008 at 10:53 PM · i think buri is on the right track. the adrenergic system modulates many physiological responses through epinephrine. when a threat is presented, heart rate goes up, pupils dilate, blood diverted to muscles via peripheral blood vessel constriction, for fight or flight, thus the cold fingers. since i don't know enough about AT, i can't endorse it per se. however, one may need to explore one's system better in order to co-exist:) with it better. AT might just be the answer for some (notice the price of prunes has shot up since buri's endorsement).

for a quick fix, try drinking some hot ginger soup!

March 12, 2008 at 06:47 PM · Warm water,hands under neck,etc. work great, but if Buri's right,then the best defense is imagining everyone in the audience in their underwear with rubber chickens on their head.I did this at my first major outdoor gig with over 12,000 people and it worked great.

March 12, 2008 at 07:55 PM · Do something physical to get your blood flowing. Somebody suggested climbing stairs or doing jumping jacks to me, and it seems to work.

March 12, 2008 at 08:44 PM · Yes, it is a mental thing, as Buri & Al say above, BUT in the short term, the hands are NOT what need warming.

What need warming are the forearms. Rub the forearms, and the hands will warm from increased circulation. Warming the hands doesn't give a proper solution because the blood has retreated from the extremities. We need to coax it back in again.


March 13, 2008 at 10:18 AM · Does it just happen when you're standing or also when you sit to play? Playing the violin is probably the only instrument that requires us to have our hands above the level of our heart, so good circulation is necessary.

Alexander Technique has been mentioned and I would endorse this, being a teacher of AT myself. Keeping your shoulders free is essential to avoid cold hands and if you're possibly tensing owing to nerves, then this could be one reason. I wrote about cold hands in my blogsite (search Cold Hands if you're interested) and I'll copy here a passage that included a hand exercise that Heifetz apparently used.

January 2007 issue of The Strad magazine includes a page by Simon Fischer who describes an exercise Jascha Heiftez recommended to his pupils to warm up their hands in readiness for playing the violin.

There are three stages to this exercise. Neutral, Stretched and Closed.

Neutral: Keep the back of your hand straight with your forearm then allow your fingers to curl gently. The fingers should be close together. Viewed side on, your hand forms the letter C, but the thumb should be pointing in line with the back of your hand.

Stretched: Now pull all the fingers backwards so they are still hooked, but pulled away from the palm. The muscles in the back of your hand are contracting to do this. (If you were a rock climber you may hang onto a ledge with these hooked fingers.)

Closed: Then push them forwards so the fingers close inwards and touch your palm to make a fist. The muscles in the inside of your fingers are now contracting.

This exercise uses both extensor muscles and flexors alternately. Do this repeatedly, but keep your hands and fingers relaxed while doing so. As Stephen Fischer says, they will not feel completely relaxed or 'floppy'. The muscles will be 'active' but should not tensed tight.

As with any situation regarding tense shoulders, there is a real requirement to 'let muscle tension go', to let them relax. Think of freeing your neck, and allow your shoulders to 'soften' and think of them widening. Do not 'pull' your shoulders back, as that is more tension in a different place! 'Think' them wide. You can also shake your hands and fingers loose...make them floppy and flap them around a bit.

March 13, 2008 at 10:50 PM · Greetings,

to sort of continue witht he Alexander theme;)

I think very often we start tensing without realizing it until the probl;em begins screaming in our face. This is peculiarly true of violnists who I think experience an emotional rush even as thery are approaching the case prior to practice. What I would recommend is a simple but profound exercise before you begin.

Sit and observe your left foot. Notice how ther sole feels trouching the floor and the top against your sock or shoe. Really get into it. Now do the same with your right foot. Now do the same with both together. Now do the same with your left lower leg. then the right then both together. Then lower thigh and so on. Do the front of your body and back separatelty . do your arms and hands segemnt by segment in the same way. By the time you have finsihed noticng your body you will be much more integrated and in a very good condition for safe playing. You might even be fully warmed up...



March 13, 2008 at 11:17 PM ·

March 13, 2008 at 11:37 PM · too cold to write?;)

March 14, 2008 at 01:29 PM · In addition to the mental adjustment and Alexander / Feldenkrais work, I heartily second jumping jacks! It warms your whole body from the core radiating out to your fingers, and gets the blood circulating. Ignore the stares.

March 15, 2008 at 10:19 AM · Hi Carolyn,

A friend of ours, the very well known viola professor from Vienna, Siegfried Führlinger from the former Vienna String Sextet warms up with 2 Chi Gong balls.

Have you heard of them?

They are 2 marble balls and you hold them in one hand and roll them in both directions. Ideally they shouldn't touch eachother, but that is a different matter.

It is a fun and calming thing to do and it is supposed to activate your energy channels and might also loosen any tensions you have in your upper body. He does this for warming up in a sense that make the fingers more flexible but I can very well imagine that they would actually physically also make your hands warmer.

Apparently Andras Schiff uses 2 sets of balls at the same time...

Has anybody got any experience in this field?

Best regards from hans

March 15, 2008 at 02:44 PM · I don't know if this would work for your specific situation but keeping the core warm helps keep ones hands and feet warm. I first saw this in Japan where a lot of people wear these tummy warmers things. Kind of like a tube sock for your mid-rift. I know a few people who have tried it recently and it's helped.

March 15, 2008 at 10:18 PM · Interesting responses to this question - I've always had a cold-hand problem. My body can be perfectly fine, if not even on the warm side, yet my hands will be cold and stiff. Miserable for winter practicing :) I'm always on the search from new ways to keep my hands warm. I wear mittens now before performances and that helps, but it makes your hands kind of sweat sometimes so they always have to be washed before I play.

March 16, 2008 at 03:43 AM · I'm with Al on this one, drinking hot ginger soup, or any hot soup.

March 21, 2008 at 07:50 PM · have you ever tried "HOT Hands". these are pouches containg some chemical that when coming in contact with air heat up. they become very warm and last for up to ten hours. hunters and outdoors men use them . they easily fit in a pocket or in a palm of your hand. i buy a case for my wife and child each winter. they are not expensive.

just recently my wife gave one to a seventy years plus former concert master was complaing how cold a room was. she stated she wish she would have known about them when she was waiting to play in the various cold concert halls.

March 21, 2008 at 08:14 PM · >have you ever tried "HOT Hands". these are pouches containg some chemical that when coming in contact with air heat up.

Wow, great idea. Another: push ups. Strange but true.

March 21, 2008 at 08:53 PM · I love Hot Hands! Amazing what a porus bag with iron fillings and charcoal can do. Ahhhh! They fit nicely into each pocket and are there to warm you up! The only draw back are the three pack bags, nip a bag while opening another will activate the one since air acts as a catalys. So be careful opening the multi-packs.

A friend of mine uses the following for his hands, and also in a hot bath tub at first sighns cold or flu. Two Tbls. of fresh grated ginger in a muslin cloth in a sink of very warm water. Increase Ginger if needed.

March 24, 2008 at 05:13 PM · Thanks for the advice. I may try some of the Alexander suggestions, as warming devices like Hot Hands make my hands...and rest of my self...sweaty!

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