10 Tips for Happy Healthy Hands

Dec 21, 2022

By Anne Sullivan 

Tired hands, sore fingers, tense shoulders. These are all signs of a harpist who is having a busy December with lots of playing.

Sure, playing is fun, but it's not so much fun when it feels like you don’t have the time or energy to practice enough to play well at your concerts or in your lessons. And when our hands feel tired, we need to pay attention. Our hands need to be healthy and strong, not tired and sore. 

If you’re doing a lot of playing and a lot of practicing too, you need to strike a balance and to put into place some crucial habits to keep your hands healthy and happy. Here are ten tips, based on how I practice when I’m feeling all played out.

  1. Consider your total playing time. You know your limits. Decide on a reasonable amount of time to play each day. Add up all the hours you will be performing or rehearsing. Subtract that from your total time. Whatever time remains is the amount of time you should practice. No more than that. Do keep in mind that a three-hour rehearsal is not necessarily three hours of playing time, especially if you’re a harpist.
  2. Play smart. Don’t try to play loudly to be heard at big parties. Use amplification, and don’t try to muscle your way through a long, loud gig.
  3. Warm up! This is not the time to skip a warm-up. Warming up slowly and softly is important. It’s a way to remind your fingers of the very best technique without the stress of tempo or volume.
  4. Get other exercise. Walk, work out, swim, whatever. Exercise is a great stress-reliever. Just do it.
  5. Pamper your hands. Don’t forget your gloves and hand lotions, nail clippers or files. Keep your hands comfy and warm. Try some hand warmers, like Hot Hands. You’ll always feel warmed up and ready to play.
  6. Save it for later! When you practice, practice under tempo and not at full volume. Save it for the concert!
  7. Practice with laser focus. Work only on the passages that need extra help. This is not the time to be woodshedding the entire piece. If that’s what you need, make a reminder for next year to get an earlier start on concert preparation.
  8. Leave some time between practice and performance. If you need to play in the evening, do your practice in the morning so your hands are fresh and not tired out for your concert.
  9. Focus just on technique in your practice. If you’re feeling like you can’t play one more Nutcracker cadenza, just do some scales or simple exercises. Focus on staying relaxed, keeping your playing clean and even. No need for speed, just mechanics.
  10. Give yourself a break. All out of stamina and motivation? No worries, just relax. After all, it’s the holidays!

Peace and Happy Hands to you!


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