play my flute when hands are cold

Why is it so hard to play the flute when my hands are cold? What can I do about it? This is the question for today and no worries, I have the answers.

If you’re here reading this today, I’m going to assume that you’ve had an experience trying to play the flute when your hands were cold or frozen. It’s hard isn’t it? This article is all about why it is so difficult and what you can do to fix that.


We need to really ‘feel’ our keys.


I live at the very top of Utah which is a very cold part of the United States. The plus side of all the cold is that we have a lot of snow and I get to ski a lot and ice skate. My family and I have found a plethora of winter sports that make it fun to live here.

On the downside, there are some things we just can’t do in the winter. That entails about 6 months of the year. One of them is playing our instruments outside. Especially the flute. Luckily, we always have heated areas indoors to play our flutes and keep them safe from the cold. But, it’s still really hard when your fingers are freezing, right? So the solution is to warm those muscles up.

I have found a few different techniques that really have helped me. The first thing I do when my hands are cold, you know they feel creaky or achey, is that I run them under the sink tap with very warm water. I turn it on, let it get warm, or even close to hot and let my hands bathe in it for a couple of minutes at least. Let them warm clear into the bones. This is probably the very easiest, quickest and most common technique for warming up some hands before you have to play your instrument.

I remember reading “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” when I was younger. I’ve never forgotten how Mrs. Popper had to learn to play the piano with gloves on. It’s not quite as simple to play the flute with gloves on. We need to really ‘feel’ our keys, and having our flute slip out of our hands is definitely not wanted either!

When I was playing in a college marching band we had to play during football season here in Utah. This means I was outside with my instrument in zero degree weather, which is not good for many reasons. One of them is that my hands were stiff and really, really cold.

Some other techniques I use to warm up my fingers is to sit on my hands. I also cross my arms and put my fingertips or even my whole hands under my armpits. If you’re in a performance type situation it’s probably pretty warm under there and it will do the trick.

I also take time before practice sessions or performances when my hands are really cold to run them under warm or almost hot water for a couple of minutes. This really works well! Just sneak away to the restroom and enjoy a lavish moment at the sink.

I’ll never ever forget the time I performed for the opening of the Winter Olympics here in Utah in 2002. It was -20 F. They placed a couple of outdoor heater stands above me so that I wouldn’t turn into a popsicle. It’s a crazy phenomenon to play my flute with a river running through it also. Warm air coming out of my mouth combined with the frigid air created quite the scientific experiment that day. My hands were also super stiff and not-bendy. I learned that normal room temperatures are best to play the flute in.

If you have a technique that works quickly and really well for warming your hands before playing your instrument leave a comment below and help us all out!

It’s always nice to have all of you flute friends and we can put our heads together and come up with solutions that can benefit everyone.

I can’t wait to hear all of your ideas as you also play the flute.

Have any questions? Comment below and I will help you out.

Rebecca FullerRebecca Fuller
Get Flutie with us! Learn and enjoy every musical minute.

2 thoughts on “Why is it so Hard to Play the Flute When My Hands are Cold?”

  1. oh well… being a flute beginner during Winter, adds an extra layer of challenge…. and being a trained electronics technician I’m already thinking on a design for a flute stand that would use cheap components, just to keep the flute warm, but not not… still tinkering, but without anything in the ready state, I get a hair dryer and blow the hot air on the flute, just enough to get it up to “body temperature”.
    For my hands, yeah, tucking under the armpits or sitting on the hands is the simplest way to get them alive again 🙂

    1. Oh wow – what an idea… and electronic flute stand with warmer. Let’s think on this. The blow dryer is an idea, but I wonder if it would dry out your pads a bit. I find that just blowing two or three big warm breaths into the head joint (CPR style) works perfectly. I also know that running my hands under warm/hot water for 30 seconds or so does the trick too. Of course, it depends on how cold your room is for how long it lasts. Good luck!! Fun things to think about. Rebecca

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