Samba was born in a warm place. Warming up your hands to play in Brazil is a pretty quick thing. In my experience this doesn't seem to be too much of a concern or issue there.
I am always cold.
I’m one of those women who wears a winter coat in air conditioned buildings, runs through the freezer aisle at the grocery store, wears gloves to touch pints of ice cream etc. It can take me 30 - 40 minutes of slow, gentle practice, to warm up before drumming in the cold months of the year. That’s a lot of wasted practice time!
Life is too short.
Life is too short to wait for your hands to warm up by playing slow. In this post I outline 5 ways I warm up my hands fast before practicing and performing. I have added photos and video to show you exactly how.
Some of these work best for home practice and some work well for gigs.
Whether you’re cold natured like me or not, warming up helps prevents injury.
Tip #1. Hot water dip
Tip #1 because its my favorite. I fill a small bucket with warm-hot water, and soak my arms for 3-5 minutes. The bucket is tall enough for the water to cover my forearms, almost up to the elbow.
I leave my arms in there long enough for the veins in my hands and wrists to start dilating and looking all fat and happy, then I know I’m ready to play. I’ll still need to warm up a little on the drum, but for like 5 - 7 minutes rather than 30 - 40.
Playing slaps and tones on a cool repinique, or timbau is enough to cool my hands back down. Therefore I leave the bucket of hot water in the sink, just in case I need to come back for another round.
I have the perfect small bucket for this, about 3 gallons. I even put a Go Samba sticker on it! :D
I love this technique so much I sometimes bring my little bucket to rehearsal and gigs.
Tip #2 Clappy hands
I learned this one a couple of years ago from a video of Swiss virtuoso drummer Jojo Mayer.
- Hold your hands in front of you like a namaste hippy.
- Keep the heels of your hands touching.
- “Clap” your hands repeatedly.
- When you start to feel muscle burn, stop for a minute or so and repeat.
Try going fast, and opening your hands as wide as possible.
This is a great one for gigs, where you need to wait quietly backstage for a while before going on. You end up looking like a weirdo. But a happy weirdo! And your hands are warm, so who cares!
Here's a demonstration...
Here is Jojo Mayer demonstrating:
Tip #3 Forearm and hand exercises.
I learned these from a physical therapist when I was recovering from tendonitis. They are designed to warm all bits of the tendons and ligaments in your hands, wrists and forearms. These seem like they wouldn’t do much but with 30 reps of each, you’ll feel it.
I do all of these in the car on the way to rehearsal or gigs. Exercising one hand while steering with the other (don't tell my mom). This makes you look like a weirdo in your car.
Tip #4 Hot tea
In the cold months I have hot tea to drink while I practice. It keeps me warm on the inside. I find that after hammering on a new skill or technique I need to give my brain a 1 min break. Stopping and taking a sip of tea, not only helps keep me stay warm but gives my brain that little break it needs. I almost always come back able to do the skill that I was working on before.
This next one is super obvious.
Tip #5 Wear lots of clothes.
You know that whole thing about wearing a hat keeps the rest of your body warm? Yeah, it’s true. I also wear long underwear, down vests, scarf, leg warmers etc. Did I mention I’m cold all the time?
So those are my 5 tips for warming up before practice. I know one is like required to say this at the end of every blog post, but I really do want to know! Please let me know your warm-up tips! I would like more tools for warming up before practice.
Maybe I should just move to Brazil.