Violin Gloves

October 31, 2010 at 05:43 PM ·

 Hi everyone!

I live in the hills of North Wales and because winter is creeping up, it is very very cold! I have been trying to play as best as I can but to be honest, it is becoming increasingly hard to play well with such cold fingers that I just cannot warm up! I'm wearing fingerless gloves right at this moment but they are big, woollen and just not suitable to play the violin in. I've also looked around for cycling gloves but these all have padded palms. So, I have a bit of a sticky situation! Is anyone in the same position as me? 

Does anybody know about suitable gloves I could wear this winter for playing the violin? Has anyone got ideas of where I could buy them from as well? Thank you!

Replies (29)

October 31, 2010 at 05:51 PM ·

Eloise - can't help you with gloves. But you remind me of myself when I was growing up in the hills of Mid Wales. We didn't have any heating and my hands used to get frozen when I was doing my homework. I did have a very old valve radio which got nice and warm - so I used to put my hands in the back of that every so often. It was lucky I didn't electrocute myself!

October 31, 2010 at 05:56 PM ·

 Eloise the better idea would be to warm up your room. I have never seen a person play violin with gloves on. If you are thinking of wearing a glove any case then the thin glove warn by pool and snooker players may help. It is very thin but may give a little warmth. 

October 31, 2010 at 06:24 PM ·

The LSO conducted by Andre Previn gave a concert one winter some years ago in Bristol, in the cavernous restored original Temple Meads railway station designed and built by Brunel in the mid-19th century. It was so cold that all the musicians were wearing fingerless mittens (many knitted, from what I could see). I was talking to one of the cellists during the interval and he told me that the previous week when they were playing in York Minster it was even colder: there were puddles of ice on the stone floor where the brass players had drained their instruments.

October 31, 2010 at 06:38 PM ·

A tip to warm up your hands in cold weather before practice, and before a concert if it's convenient – wash all the dirty crockery from the previous meal by hand in hot water (I wear rubber gloves). Not only is there the physical warmth going into the hands but there is the simultaneous physical exercise which loosens up and relaxes the fingers, hands and wrists. 

October 31, 2010 at 06:49 PM ·

Hi, Vengerov played with fingerless gloves at Auschwitch (if I remember well... ) in Winter.  But this was the only time I've seen him with gloves while playing violin... 

It's maybe not impossible but at least to sew yourself some, I guess it must be pretty hard to find... Also a glove doesn't warm up near as well as your own vascular system... 

I have the exact same problem as you... but if people are sorry for me (parents, violin teacher etc) no one has a solution or knows how it feels.  I know... it's painful and very uncomfortable to move the hands when they are like this.  Morover, you don't even feel the strings since the finger pads are frozen. 

The best things I have found is put heating higher when you can, when you can't I have had not bad success with push ups (or wall push ups if I'm somewhere where someone could see me  ; ) , walk, hot pads for winter sports to warm up the hands before playing.  

Good luck!  I know that it often boils down to learn to play with frozen hands but since it's so annoying, one has to work hard to find things that usually help!

Good luck from another one with the same problem!


October 31, 2010 at 10:19 PM ·

 It would be ideal to warm the house up more but it is just so expensive for my parents!! (oil and all that). 

I've searched and looked around some more and there have been violinists who have used gloves a lot of the time. Someone just mentioned snipping the fingers off the end of some thermal gloves. And I have finally come across these although I'm not sure whether they would be the right type!

The reason I'm mainly looking for gloves is because I'm being increasingly called upon to do things at my local church, some concerts and other bits and bobs. And I am becoming more and more frustrated because a few of the pieces I'm doing at the moment call for really good (and a lot of) vibrato, which I just cannot pull of with such frozen fingers!

October 31, 2010 at 11:36 PM ·

 I've battled cold hands most of my life, with limited success.  

I just started using these "wristies," on the recommendation of my teacher:

They work surprisingly well.  I've been meaning to blog about them but haven't gotten around to it yet.  I don't put the left one over my thumb, because it's too constricting, especially playing higher up on the fingerboard, I just leave it around my wrist.


October 31, 2010 at 11:50 PM ·

 Oh thank you for that link Karen! I think I will buy some of those as they aren't too expensive either! 

One thing I noticed was there is no size guide though. I have large women's hands but the large size for these would be for men's hands wouldn't they? Are the small ones okay to wear? Thank you once again!

November 1, 2010 at 02:57 AM ·

Eloise, about the heating of the house issue, I have notice that very often, people who are more "naturally protected" than you, can't understand you... We do freeze more and people often even find that funny when it's actually not!    

Karen, what interesting product...



November 1, 2010 at 05:56 AM ·

I'm in Sweden and things get quite cold here... I've had some trouble with my wrists and fingerless gloves doesn't work - too "bulky". I made these myself - sort of similar to the "wristies"!

November 1, 2010 at 11:18 AM ·

A few things that help me:

A 20-minute walk before the practice session, about 3.5 mph or 5.65 kph.  This pumps the blood through the whole system, and the feet and hands warm up and stay warmer for a long time.

Thermal tops.  This helps with heat retention.

Soaking both hands in very warm water before practicing.  I jump-start practice sessions this way -- although I sometimes have to repeat the process a few times during a 90-minute session during colder, drier months.

Fingered octaves and broken thirds through three octaves.  If I feel that I haven't got enough traction at the start, this helps me break through and keep going.

Run a humidifier.  With the heat you do have, this can help with traction.

I'm in a landlocked part of the Deep South, USA.  We get plenty of warm months here and, thank goodness, no chilly sea breezes; but we get all four seasons, too, so I definitely can relate to your situation.

November 1, 2010 at 11:54 AM ·

Eloise: I knitted these fingerless mitts to help when my hands get cold playing violin. Whatever you use, you'll want something that will be as warm as possible, while being as thin as possible.... wool and cashmere are good choices. Another player once told me that she repurposed socks to warm her hands. I guess she cut off the the foot part to get a straight tube, and maybe cut a hole for her thumb. Very simple and cheap... might not be the prettiest unless you (or someone you know) has some seamstress skills.

November 1, 2010 at 12:38 PM ·

 Eloise, I bought the large ones, because I have pretty large hands for a woman, but they aren't as large as an average man's.  And the large ones fit me about right.  I also don't like items of clothing that feel constricting.  

November 1, 2010 at 11:25 PM ·

John, I can't speak for Moscow and Odessa but I can speak for Quebec,Canada (still cold ennough that many of the first europeans here died at winter...)  But global warming is active everywhere.  As far as I can think, I have never seen any miracle here for not getting cold hands in winter.  Sure hot packs, thick gloves and exercise is efficient but only up to an extent.

In the north of Canada, native people traditionnally eat lots of fat to stay warm.  (whales, seal meat etc)  Now, I can't say I'm for this... I just tell what I learned.  Sure...that must work since all the "heavier" people I know told me they almost never have cold hand problems.   I know many of them that don't even zip their coat at - 20 celcius because they tell they don't feel cold...   But I think the cons outweight the pros and it's not a good idea to pack up pounds intentionally!  But if one happens to be like this, they suffer less from cold.

Also, digesting higher calory foods boost body tempeture for a while (scientifically proven).  I do not eat too healthy just before concerts and I noticed a slight improvement with cold hand problems on these days.  But I can't always do this of course...  

Perhaps you could ask tips to Emily, she lives in Alaska...


November 2, 2010 at 01:38 AM ·

What timing!


Last winter I bought a pair of fingerless gloves with a fold-up finger-cap and I did use them for playing (indeed, Anne-Marie.. concerts in Montreal churches!), but the thumb was a problem. At camp in Vermont this past August (some seriously cold days & nights) one of my friends had a pair of wristies. I'm heading to the States this weekend & decided today that I'd order them while I'm down there (having them sent to Belmont, incidentally!)... slightly more stylish than the ones at Johnson's, though. I'll post the link tomorrow (it's on my computer at work)

November 2, 2010 at 02:54 AM ·

I haven't tried playing is such brutal conditions, but I have spent a bit of time in the outdoors (and sometimes in the water) under some pretty cold conditions. One thing I know is that if my skin is dry, it will feel much colder. I try and keep my skin moisturized. I would make certain not to leave oil trails on the instrument, but if you have a good hand cream, apply it early enough that it has time to soak in well. This will help keep the skin hydrated, and better insulating. I've heard channel swimmers and such actually slather on petroleum jelly, and I have tried that a few times for my feet in the water, but for the most part, I haven't been that extreme.

One other thing that may work is those little handwarmers. At times, I tuck then under my sleeves, against my wrist, which helps keep my hands warmer. If you try a fingerless glove, or one of those neat things Pontus made, you could put some of the handwarmers under them. One note; there are a couple different types of handwarmers, and some of them irritate my skin slightly. There is also a product 'Thermacare' that has similar items for sore muscles; I would think they would work, and probably not irritate.

November 2, 2010 at 08:51 AM ·

 There is a technical name for cold hands.  Incase anyone wanted to do more research.  It's Raynauds.  I had this in the extreme after a childhood illness, but it's quite common.  Especially in girls.  In the winter, I sleep with socks on my feet and a wole blanket over the comforter.  

For me, excersize strengthening my arms(swimming) really helped.  I think mild alchohol consumption may also be beneficial.  

November 2, 2010 at 02:28 PM ·

I just ordered 2 pairs. I figured I should get them in concert black.... but I couldn't resist the leopard print!

November 2, 2010 at 05:45 PM ·

 I'd gotten a heating pad for unrelated health issues.  It works quite well.  You plug it in and can choose the temperature setting.  They can be found at local drug stores (at least in the US).  Perhaps you can get several of them to warm up your hands and body for home.  For gigs, as long as there is an outlet, it could work as well.  I get cold hands easily so can relate.  Good luck!

November 2, 2010 at 10:21 PM ·

 It's great hearing everyone's tips and thanks for sharing them! 

I'm also relieved I'm not the only one with the cold hands problem - none of my friends experience this so I was getting slightly worried! I must just be affected by the cold more than them! 

I'm definitely going to try out some suggestions just to keep getting cold hands at bay and make sure I'm always warmed up for playing the violin. Now I'm older and more mature I enjoy practising -when I was younger I used to just be lazy and I never practised on the violin until my lesson!! Anyway, that is besides the point - another story for another time! 

I think I might invest in some 'Wristies' to see how they go - thank you for recommending them to me and posting the links, Karen and Christina. I also talked to my music teacher in school and he just gave me some tips on how to keep the blood flowing! 

Once again, thanks very much. Keep the posts coming! 

November 2, 2010 at 10:54 PM ·

Timothy, that's true... it's not just the hands, it's also the feet... I too have too sleep with socks and many blankets because otherwise it's torture.  There is a big relation between feet and hands.  If your feet are cold, you have good chances to have cold hands too so one in our situation must practice with good shoes and socks!  I know that when I get a blood test, they have to take baby needles and have a very hard time to find the veins.   Last time, it took 3 nurses one after the other and the 3rd one succeeded to have blood... At least I can tell that it's not a psychological or stress problem to all those who have told I had cold hands because of nervousness...  

Eloise very happy that you are finding more and more solutions!  Good luck!


November 2, 2010 at 11:43 PM ·

 @Anne-Marie wow, thought I was the only one.  Due to health problems I've developed raynaud's (may or may not be temporary) and I, too, must sleep with socks or suffer consequences.  ANyway glad to know that there are others out there who do the same and I'm not just weird.  :)

November 3, 2010 at 12:54 AM ·

haha, yes good to know that I'm not the only one too ; )

November 7, 2010 at 08:33 PM ·

 I've just bought a pair of (pink!!) wristies! Now I just have to wait for them to arrive! I'll see how they are and keep you all updated! Thanks for the help everyone!

November 8, 2010 at 04:34 PM ·

The only problem with all the gloves and knitted things is that the insulation isn't as good as it can be.  If you have the chance some time, try wrapping your forearms in bubble wrap.  That will give you an idea of what real insulation can do for you.   You might even use something like that for practicing although you may not want to appear in public that way.  ;-)

November 23, 2010 at 06:47 PM ·

 I received my 'Wristies' today (after a rather long wait - the post must have been delayed!) and they are working wonders so far! My hands warm up in less than a quarter of the time it would usually take them to! As soon as they are well warmed up, I'm then able to take them off and start playing with nice warm and loose fingers! Thank you for all the recommendations! 

November 25, 2010 at 06:29 AM ·

There are also those air activated hand warmers. Each good for only 1 use, designed for hunters, spectators at sports events. I have purchased them for about  $1 piece. Might come in handy for when other means aren't available. Also zippos makes one that runs on lighter fluid, but I am not too comfortable with that idea. Google "hand warmers", they will all pop up with sites to purchase.

November 25, 2010 at 03:39 PM ·

Along the same lines as Rebecca I've read somewhere that by keeping the wrists warm where the blood vessels run close to the surface of the skin, it is much easier to keep the fingers warm.  I've seen wrist warmers in most the supermarkets lately - I've even seen teenagers wear brightly coloured ones creatively made out of socks so you could try 'a bit of sock' first to see if it works for you. 

November 25, 2010 at 04:47 PM ·

Yup, I got my fleece Writsties a few wekeends ago & used them at a chamber music weekend just now. They definitely did the trick.

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