Now that the cooler months are here – well, they are in the south-eastern part of Australia anyway (and yes, overseas peeps Australia does get cold! We even have snow on the mountains!) keeping your hands warm and flexible for playing can be a challenge.
I, along with my Guitar Orchestra colleagues, certainly experienced this yesterday afternoon at a concert in a solid brick church where the temperature was even colder inside than it was outside!
So yes, cold hands and the stiffness and loss of dexterity was definitely a challenge to be overcome yesterday, particularly as I was going to be playing Sor’s Variations on a Theme by Mozart – a piece that calls for tip top dexterity. Rehearsing in the concert space my hands were nearly blue with cold and moving through the fourth and fifth variations of the Sor piece was quite a challenge. I was expecting this to be the case, however, and so went along to the concert somewhat prepared with a little trick I’ve been using lately that I thought I’d share with you.
I have seen folks wearing fingerless gloves, but for me at least gloves don’t really work that well to generate heat if my hands are already cold (and it doesn’t take much for that to happen with me; I must have a warm heart!). I’ve not given the fingerless gloves a go yet whilst playing or practicing, but I think they’re certainly worth checking out. So I’ll let you know about those.
Anyway, as I said gloves alone aren’t usually enough to generate warmth in my hands. I need a source of heat. I have seen another guitarist once use a hairdryer on his hands, but you can run the risk of scalding yourself and you can probably only do one hand at a time (so one hand freezes whilst the other gets warm) unless you manage to position the hairdryer between your knees. It also relies on the venue you’re going to having a fully functioning socket backstage (not always the case!) and can be a little noisy too.
So I decided this season to give a go to some pocket hand warmers and I’m pleased to say I’ve had a lot of success with them so far. Yesterday they worked like a treat for me – I set them off popped them in the pocket of my jacket after having “warmed up” with an initial play through and got my hands lovely and toasty and warm before going out to play the recital.
For those of you who don’t know what a pocket hand warmer is, it’s palm-sized pack of gel (sodium acetate, which is a harmless substance – in fact it’s used in potato chips as a flavour enhancer) that creates heat through a exothermic crystallisation of the sodium acetate. Each pack has a little metal disc that when you click it set of a chain reaction and said exothermic reaction which produces heat to around 55 degrees centigrade and stays nice and warm for a good 30-40 minutes. The blurb on the pack says one hour, but the good penetrating warmth lasts for around 30 minutes.
The other good thing about these hand warmers is that they are reusable. Just pop them in a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes to melt the crystals and it’s fully recharged and ready to use again.
You can pick the pocket hand warmers up in outdoors stores, as they’re really marketed towards hikers, campers and skiers. Fellow guitarists, give them a go I say and stay toasty warm and ready for action!!