How To Keep Your Fingers Warm When Playing Outside
When the weather outside is frightful, hands get cold for a reason. Besides direct exposure to cold, the body restricts blood flow to the extremities in order to keep the core (heart, lungs, digestive system, etc.) nice and warm.
While survival is important, so is finger flexibility when you're playing instruments outside for ballgames, holiday events and other social gatherings that require musicians to play outdoors.
Professional Tips for Warm Fingers
These tips will help to keep those fingers warm and nimble so your musicianship doesn't decline in direct proportion with descending thermometer readings.
Invest in a high-quality pair of gloves (and a hat!)
This is no time to don fashionable angora mittens or the thin fleece gloves you keep in a coat pocket. Musicians who play outdoors should invest in a high-quality pair of gloves that keep fingers dry and warm. If possible, wear fingerless gloves while playing, which also helps to warm hands - which then promotes warmer fingers.
Visit your local outdoor store and look into gloves that hardcore athletes, rock climbers and backpackers wear. The professionals there will introduce you to a whole different level of winter hand and finger protection. It might be wise to keep your new gloves in the instrument case so you have them whenever you need them.
Hats and scarves are also important because they also prevent heat loss. The warmer the core of your body is, the warmer your blood flow remains, and that benefits fingers.
Run in place, jump up and down and swing those arms in windmill patterns
Remember, fingers get cold as the result of low circulation. Getting the blood pumping through your heart faster and harder forces freshly warmed blood through the vascular system and into your arms, hands and fingers.
All of those PE warm-ups will come in handy now - jogging in place, jumping jacks, jumping up and down, and swinging your arms around in large windmill shapes will warm up your hands in between songs or sets. Then don those gloves quickly so they can continue the work your circulatory system started.
Use hand warmers in your pockets
Hand warmers are available online or from virtually any store. While many are single-use disposable versions, musicians are better off purchasing reusable options that can be reheated in the microwave or boiled between use. Rechargeable electric versions are also available.
Keep hand warmers tucked in pockets to warm your hands when you don't have time to take gloves on and off, or to optimize glove time.
Keep ginger tea in a thermos
Ginger root has many beneficial properties. It has what is known as thermogenic effects that stimulate digestion, the metabolism and circulation.
You can purchase ginger tea in any store. However, the best thermogenic effects will come via fresh ginger (a root, sold in grocery store produce departments). Cut about an inch of fresh ginger root off the main section. Peel it, slice it and add it to two cups of boiling water. Let it simmer for 20 minutes and then strain. Add hot, ginger-infused water to your thermos. You can add lemon and/or honey (agave or maple syrup are delicious too) to taste.
Ginger has a very aromatic flavor and be prepared for a bit of a "kick" at the end of each sip.
Consider alternating sets or implementing musician "shifts"
Whenever possible, divide your sections up and create musician sets or shifts that allow musicians to get a break. Depending on the venue, this might mean a bundling up for 10 or 15 minutes while you drink your ginger tea, use hand warmers and keep moving until it's your turn again. Or, it might allow you a chance to get inside a heated building or car.
Practice relaxation techniques
Often, our response to cold is to tense up the body. This is compounded if you're someone who suffers from stage fright or performance anxiety.
Unfortunately, tension is counterproductive to your plight because it constricts blood flow. If you have everything you need to promote warm hands - gloves, hand warmers, hot beverages, etc. - also work to breathe slowly, relax and keep your body un-clenched so all that warmed blood can get where it needs to go.
Eat well (and healthy) before the performance
Make sure you've eaten a good, nutritious meal - complete with ample protein. Being cold on an empty stomach means your body is working overtime to keep you warm and provide you with energy. If you're well-fed, with a healthy nutritious meal, you're body is better fueled for the cold performance ahead.
Playing music in the cold requires a thoughtful, well-planned strategy and the right equipment to get the job done. Create a cold weather routine and you'll be more comfortable during outdoor winter performances.
This article sponsored by Thomastik-Infeld