Organ – Breathing and Breath Holding (Pipe)(Musicians)(Psychology)(Pain)(Strain)(Injuries)(Posture)(Alexander Technique)(Albuquerque)

by ethankind on April 7, 2014

This ebook, An Alexander Technique Approach to Organ 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 organ 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.

It is almost universal that performing organists hold their breath, especially in the difficult sections of a piece. Is this inevitable? What effect does it have on a performance? What does it say about the organist? Can it be changed, if the organist wants to do so?

Breath holding in organ performance and while practicing is not inevitable, but like I said it is nearly universal. Since there is no obvious direct link between breathing and playing the organ, you can play holding your breath and breathe when absolutely necessary. I have heard wonderful recordings of wonderful organists, and you can hear the players gasping for breath at times.

When a performing organist holds his or her breath, it usually means the performer is afraid he or she will not make it through a passage. If you stop breathing in the difficult passages, then I believe this always has an effect on what is coming out of the organ. You may still play beautifully, but it has always been my experience, that when an organist plays for me and doesn’t hold his or her breath in a passage, the passage dramatically changes.

It may not be a dramatic technical change, and I notice there is a lowering in me of feeling stressed when I listen. The organist usually feels less stressed for two reasons. The first is he or she isn’t immobilizing the body. The second reason is that for possibly the first time, the organist is watching him or herself breathe and choosing to breathe through the passage, rather than focusing on their fear of the music.

So, yes, an organist can make gentle non-held breathing part of their technique. A performing organist’s technique is everything he or she does in their body when they perform. As an Alexander Technique teacher, when I help organists connect to their whole body as they play, then I truly make their technique conscious and whole body.

How does an organist internalize a new truly fearless breathing pattern as they play? Ex: I ask an organist to play a three octave scale with no particular focus. Then I ask her to play it again, but this time ONLY observe her breathing as she plays. I ask her what she notices. She may say she’s noticing herself hold her breath, or she may notice she’s trying to “force” herself to continue to breathe.

I ask her to play again, but this time gently watch herself breathe as she plays the scale at a very easy tempo, and to let her body breathe when it wants to, and to continue to repeat the scale non-stop for five minutes. If she can truly trust this process, she will begin to realize she doesn’t have to make herself breathe, and she won’t hold her breath.

For possibly the first time in her life, she has expanded her organ technique beyond her hands, arms, and legs, and she is beginning to play the organ with her whole mobile body.

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