Clarinet – Letting Go of Being Off Balance (Musicians, Psychology, Pain, Strain, Injuries, Posture, Alexander Technique)(Albuquerque)

by ethankind on September 9, 2014

This ebook, An Alexander Technique Approach to Clarinet Technique, is published on this website in a PDF format. It is very detailed and practical, and it will give you the physical tools you need to take the limits off of your ability to create the accurate clarinet technique you want without sacrificing your body.
This ebook is also for sale on all AMAZON websites in a KINDLE format.
Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A.

When I went to an Alexander Technique teacher in the UK to heal carpal tunnel syndrome in my guitar playing, it dawned on me how OFF BALANCE I was when I played the guitar, from my whole body posture to what my hands were doing on the guitar. What do I mean?

I realized that as I hunkered down to play guitar, I was falling down physically to play a piece. This meant that if I stopped playing at a specific point, in fact a lot of specific points, and experienced what was in happening in my body and arms and hands, that I was falling forward off balance.

There is a physical analogy to this in walking. The Alexander Technique teaches the person when walking to be fully upright as he or she moves through space, rather than to think of walking as falling down and your legs catching you as you fall forward. We talk of falling upward in walking in the Alexander Technique, which makes walking an incredibly light anti-gravity thing to do.

When I applied this to the guitar, it meant that if I sat fully upright in the chair, and that I was balanced on the chair, I was NOT falling down into the guitar. So, the guitar was not supporting the weight of my body. My skeleton was supporting the weight of my body, as my right arm rested energized on the guitar.

What did this mean to the hands playing specific passages on the guitar? It meant I would go through a whole piece of music very slowly and always feel in control of what I was playing, no matter how difficult the passage.

This meant that the relationship of my arms and fingers to the neck and strings of the guitar were in the most mechanically advantageous placement, which allowed me play any single or group of notes, without physically struggling to get the job done.

This way of looking at being ON BALANCE can be applied to all instruments, singing, and conducting. But to do this, you have to be willing to back up in your playing, singing, or conducting, and look at what you’re doing note to note in your whole body – from legs, to torso, to head and neck, to hands and arms, to lungs and diaphragm.

To discover if you’re on or off balance when you play, sing, or conduct, you have to truly be in the “micro moment” of a piece of music. If I ask French horn player to play a single note, it is an extraordinary thing to ask the horn player if he is on balance as he plays a single note. Why?

Because, in that very moment that the intention to play a single note well kicks in, the horn player will probably completely forget what he is doing physically and TRY to play the note perfectly for me.

It is as if the performer goes brain dead in his physical awareness and only wants to play the perfect note, no matter the physical price paid through poor posture and great tension. I get it. No one who has become very good at playing, singing, or conducting wants to return to questioning and possibly dismantling much of what they have done for years.

But that isn’t the issue if you’re a good player, singer, or conductor. The issue is how do you perform a whole piece of music with the greatest of ease moment to moment? The only way I know to do this is to practice note to note, chord to chord, with no concern for forward motion, letting yourself experience guiding your body to do what it needs to do, without falling down to the next note of notes.

If I use the analogy of walking, it would be like walking a mile making every single step different, like dancing. You consciously introduce all kinds of subtleties of movement to each step, and as you walk you continue to be fully balanced upright.

It would be the like the Ministry of Funny Walks in the Monty Python TV series, with all of the funny walks done with ease and full body balance flowing upward.

Don’t be afraid to make your instrument as easy to play or sing, or to conduct as easily as you can. The easier you make your instrument or conducting, the more you will practice. In fact, once you establish a habit of always finding a way to play, sing, or conduct on balance, it will become fun to see how easy you can make a difficult piece.

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