I had a student some time ago who had the sweatiest hands I have ever seen. But it wasn’t just ordinary sweat…this was like battery-acid-sweat. He would leave little puddles on his fingerboard, and would have to get his fingerboard planed every year. He would rust out his E-string in a matter of days, and he corroded the shoulder of his violin and his bow.
(If you’re grossed out, believe me, the correct response is pity!)
Excessively sweaty hands can be a disadvantage to playing a stringed instrument, but many professional players deal with this problem, and it does not have to hold you back. There are a lot of things you can do to minimize the hassle.
First and foremost, preserve your instrument! Take your instrument in to a luthier and ask them to place clear tape on the shoulder of your instrument and on the frog of the bow where your hand will make lots of contact with the wood. The tape will protect your instrument and bow.
Plan to change your strings more frequently than other people, because sweat will cause them to go dead. I have found that a gold-plated E string withstands the corrosion from sweat much better than any of the other metals.
Next, consider medication for excessive sweating. My niece took Inderol, the drug well-known to musicians for its effectiveness in dealing with stage fright. Inderol is a beta blocker, and part of the biological functions it slows down, besides our respiration and heart rate, is perspiration. Of course, this requires a visit to your doctor, and while there, you might ask for other suggestions.
Next, take a look at your diet. Your diet can contribute to the amount you sweat and to its acidity! Just think….if you could just neutralize the acidity of your sweat, your strings would not go dead as quickly, your E strings will last much longer, and the varnish on your instrument will not be damaged as much.
Foods that are high in proteins and sugars tend to acidify your body, and hence your sweat. Try eating less of those types of foods and more vegetables, which are alkaline and can help neutralize acid foods. (See? Your mom was right! Eat your broccoli. Here’s my source. )
Keep a clean, absorbent cloth with you whenever you have your instrument out of its case. Take it with you to practice, concerts, lessons, etc. I actually found a nice, soft, absorbent cloth that was BLACK, making it perfect for on-stage. Check out a fabric or craft store. Chances are very high that you’ll find some black cotton cloth.
Some people swear that putting anti-perspirant on their palms works well. Wash first with soap and water and then apply generously before performances. Let us know what works for you.