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This is a huge shift for many pianists not to think of the shoulders as large muscles that make a lot of noise, and to begin thinking of the shoulders and the muscles of the chest and back assisting the hands in playing the right notes. A great many pianists experience accuracy on the piano as the hands playing accurately, without any experiential sense that it is the refined elegant and precise movement of the shoulders that create precision on the instrument.

It is playing of the flute in my opinion that creates the most difficulty for the shoulders.

The instrument is supported asymmetrically at head level, and the arms never move. It is essentially a static position for the arms and shoulders, and it is within this static position that the Alexander Technique teacher wants to show the flutist how play without creating rigid shoulders arms and hands. So bring your arms up into the playing position of the flute and imagine holding them there for hours. This thought probably had you tighten every muscle in your shoulders and arms. Now lower your arms and imagine there are strings tied to your arms, like a marionette, and let your arms be lifted up for you, and imagine and experience them being held up for you.

In all of the instruments I looked at, there is a constant theme of asking the performer to be light and mobile in the shoulders, whether the shoulders are moved a lot or not at all. The shoulders of performers are called upon to support weight, even if it is their own weight, and to be simultaneously available for movement. It is these two seemingly conflicting functions that can be brought together without physical problems, if the performer realizes that an arm supported never needs to be held immobile. What originally sent me to an Alexander Technique teacher was a wrist problem - carpal tunnel syndrome.

I had been trying to play the guitar with extreme accuracy and extreme cleanness. This meant that I was trying to press the strings so hard, so that every note rang true without any buzzes. I pressed the strings so hard to achieve this, that I was harming my wrist.

Working to a Principle. The Alexander Technique for Musicians

Ultimately what I learned from the Alexander Technique teacher was to use the minimum pressure to get the job done. So, I took a scale, and finger by finger I practiced using just enough pressure to get a clean note. I changed my whole posture at the instrument, so that I was in complete balance in my body at the guitar, and my shoulders were supported by my torso, so that my freed up arms were able to back up my hands and wrists.

Elements of Alexander Technique: Discovering a Natural Approach to String Playing

This gets further exacerbated when the wrists are continually changing shape, like the bow arm of a cellist. Over time, if a performer is hurting in her wrists, she will unconsciously reduce the movement in the wrist and brace for constant pain. You will really cause physical and musical problems on your instrument, if you try to avoid hurting your wrist by compromising your technique. The freer the wrist is, the smoother the bow is moved across the string. If the shoulder joint, the elbow and the wrist are all allowed to be free, then the bow is moved with ease and elegance.

If there is any holding in any of these joints, then the cellist has to do a whole lot of compensating in the other joints to get the sound she wants. In fact, protecting the wrist from pain on a cello could cause the player to do all kinds of odd compensating movements in the torso to get the job done. I like to think of the wrist moving the hand and leading the arm and sending the bow across the strings. If you think about how I expressed this, you can get a feel for the constantly changing shape of the wrist leading the bow and arm across the strings, as the arm changes shape in all of its joints continuously also.

You do not immobilize the wrists to hold the instrument. As you hold the flute to the mouth, you do not have to immobilize the wrists or the elbows or the shoulders. What does it mean to not immobilize a part of your body supporting an instrument?

The easiest demonstration would be to hold a ball in your hand and squeeze it, and as you are squeezing it, move your hand, which of course means changing the hands relationship to the arm through movement in the wrist. Now, as you squeeze the ball, how free can you be in the wrist, as you move the hand? This is how you would support the flute, as you prepare to play it. If a flutist has the instrument in position to play, and I push the flute down, then it should move with ease.

Another way to say this is the flutist should think of the arms and hands as always available for movement, when the instrument is in playing position. So, the player has enough support and tone in the hands and arms and wrists to place the instrument against the lip and chin, with just enough support to get the job done. Can the wrists be in what is generally considered an awkward position on an instrument, and the performer not cause problems in the wrist? I did not have a problem with my right wrist, which plays the strings.

Even though I played with a high arched wrist to create the sound I wanted on the instrument. This high arched wrist allowed me to strike the strings perpendicularly, so I could get the clean precise sound I wanted. From an ergonomic perspective, this may not be the ideal thing to do, but I never had any problems with my right wrist for the following reasons.

First I did not immobilize my wrist. This meant I did the minimum necessary to sustain a high wrist, so if someone had wanted to move my hand, they could have.

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This is the Alexander Technique approach to musical technique. This means the teacher is from the very beginning demonstrating to the student that technique is built on movement and flow, and not on rigid positions held onto to play and create accuracy. The sound that comes out of an instrument from the player who is in a body that flows from head to toe is very different from the player who holds onto a technique.

It is extraordinary to hear a performer who plays or sings with the whole body in flow, which means no muscles locked or held. Except for singing, all of the instruments in the classical music world use fingers in playing their instruments. Even the timpanist holds the mallets or the trombone player holds the slide with his fingers.

What is it that causes most of the problems in the fingers in the musical performing world?

So many musicians hold a ton of tension in their fingers, as they play the piano or hold the timpani mallets or hold the double bass bow. Notice if there is unnecessary tension in parts of your body as you read this. We spend possibly all of our time doing what we do in poor posture and with too much muscle.

This is what so many musicians do on their instruments. When you bring a slumped or overarched torso and locked legs to an instrument, you transfer this tension into your arms, your fingers etc. A very simple exercise: Notice what you are doing head to toe. Another way of saying this is to project ahead two hours, if you were to be in this place of being prepared to play and not playing. This clearly shows you where you are doing too much work in your body. There is no perfect posture or perfect balance or perfect amount of minimum work to do in the body as you play your instrument.

What there is is your developed or required consciousness connection to the voluntary musculature of the body that allows you to choose the alignment and technique and amount of work you want to do to get the job done the instrument played. You feel the tension in your legs, and you ask and allow it to release. You feel yourself slumped over, and you ask and allow the head to lead the spine upwards into lengthening. You feel the tension in the fingers and you ask and allow them to release.


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We know when we ask an arm to bend, it bends. Learn more about Amazon Prime. This ebook uses the Alexander Technique principles of good posture and great technique to assist the cellist. It is the intention of this ebook to help the cellist find a personal technique and posture on the instrument that allows you to find the most mechanically advantageous way to play the cello.

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Ethan Kind is a former concert guitarist who used the Alexander Technique to heal carpal tunnel pain in his left wrist and never had physical problems on the guitar again. He has also been an athlete all of his life. Kind if you have any questions about this ebook, suggestions that would make this ebook clearer and more expansive, or suggestions for other ebooks that you would like to see him write about. Kind can be reached at www. Read more Read less. Kindle Cloud Reader Read instantly in your browser.

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Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. This is a helpful book but it is quite ironic that it is not available in paperback or hard copy, given the content. I find it very difficult to read online and given that I paid a fair amount of money for what it is, I am unhappy that I cannot print a hard copy at my own expense to read away from the computer. This is a case in which the form of communication hampers the message.

It needs to be presented in hard or paperback form or else Kindle For PC needs to provide capacity for at least one printing. The issue of its form is so serious for me that I would not buy it again. Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more about Amazon Giveaway. Set up a giveaway.