Performing at your very best is challenging even in optimal conditions. Adding extreme heat to the equation can throw anyone off their game. Whether you’re playing an outdoor concert, the national anthem at a ballgame, or even performing indoors with broken air-conditioning, being prepared for high temperatures is crucial.
Here are some tips to help you stay comfortable and safe when the thermometer is climbing.
1. Take Your Time
If you walk from an air-conditioned building directly onto the stage, and immediately start playing, you’re asking to become lightheaded and overheated. That’s a very sudden shift in temperature for your body to handle.
Instead, spend some time outside in the shade and let your body gradually acclimate to the heat. If you have any control over the venue, try to make sure you’re playing in the shade.
2. Bottoms Up!
The most important way to stay safe and comfortable in the heat is the one we most often neglect — staying hydrated. In order to stay cool, your body has to sweat. If you continue to sweat out all the liquid in your body without replacing it, you’ll quickly become nauseous, dizzy, tired, and may experience muscle cramps or fainting. These are all signs of heat exhaustion, which untreated can lead to heat stroke.
You need muscles to play your instrument, and your muscles need water to function. Notice how I said “water?” You want to avoid beverages that contain alcohol or a lot of sugar, which can dehydrate you even further. The CDC recommends that during strenuous exercise in the heat, you should drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour. In my opinion, playing a brass instrument in the heat counts as strenuous.
3. Dress for Success
Stay cool by wearing lightweight, light colored clothing. Advances in textile technology have created new performance fabrics that are designed for hot weather. You can get clothes that are moisture-wicking, have UPF sun protection, anti-microbial properties to prevent odor, etc.
I especially recommend checking out golf clothes, which are designed to be comfortable and functional, but look professional. If you have to wear a uniform, you can get performance undergarments that will help you stay cool.
Your eyes are important, too. The glare of the bright sun in the summer can cause you to squint and strain your eyes, which can lead to one wicked headache! A good pair of sunglasses or a hat with a visor can save the day.
And speaking of the sun, be sure to protect any exposed skin (including your nose, ears, and bald spots!) with a layer of sunscreen. Don’t forget your chops – apply some lip balm with SPF protection when you’re not playing.
4. Don’t Sweat It
Heat makes us sweat — it’s normal and necessary and nothing to be ashamed of. However, sweaty skin on a metal instrument can make it challenging, if not impossible, to play well.
I play with a dry embouchure (let the arguments commence), so when I sweat, my mouthpiece slides around on my face, creating all sorts of difficulties!
I know other musicians who get sweaty hands and have trouble even holding onto their instruments! I’ve heard different solutions. Some people just keep a handkerchief nearby and constantly wipe away the sweat. Other feel that wiping down their lips or hands with rubbing alcohol keeps things dry.
A solution I’ve found that works for me is the use of antiperspirant lotion. This is a product designed for athletes to prevent their sweaty hands from literally dropping the ball. It dries clear, odorless, and non-sticky, but keeps the skin from sweating. In my case, I apply a tiny bit to the area above my top lip (not actually on my lips). It doesn’t prevent my lips from moving on the mouthpiece as needed, but I don’t have to worry about them slipping.
Do you have any suggestions for playing in the heat? Share them in the comments!