Warming Up the Hands

Question: Hello dear teacher,

I had some problems and sickness and I couldn’t practice at all! I want to start again but my hands are too cold to play after about 3 months, so I try to warm them with Hanon. What’s your idea?

Best regards,

– Sarah

Albert’s reply: I’ve long said that the best way to warm up the hands is piano scales. Practicing a series of scales – hopefully cycling through all of them – is the best general preparation for an extended practice session, for the fingers as well as the mind and ears.

Hanon exercises are also suitable, as long as they are performed musically rather than mechanically, and especially if they are transposed into other keys.

A total of 15–20 minutes of warm-up time should be enough for your mind and fingers to start work on your repertoire. That work should be slow and deliberate and will itself continue to warm up the hands.

Warm-up exercises should be performed slowly at first, taking care to articulate the fingers evenly.

There’s yet another wonderful way to warm up the hands which never fails me: Make a pot of tea! My Japanese students quickly picked up on my love for green tea, and sipping a pot of sencha at the beginning of a practice session invariably warms up the body from within, ultimately expressing itself in the hands. This alone will not enable you to dive headlong into the Chopin Etudes, but when combined with scales and other exercises it will gradually warm the hands.

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