Enough burgers You need a fit body to let healthy music flow out of you
What is it with some players who despite their solid understanding of music’s “right” notes, they still get tired (or even feel pain) when playing for a long stretch of time?
The answer is simply that musical performance is an athletic discipline like any other sport, and that the key to effortless playing depends on the body’s fitness, or how to make use of it.
Getting the best result for the least effort is indeed the most elegant satisfying way of doing anything, but is it practice that makes perfect? I would rather say repeating nonsense will achieve fluent, thoughtless nonsense. As the reknown Alexander Technique mentions “prevention is better than cure and hence one is to focus on how to carry out actions to build GOOD habits.” So consult, stop to listen to others with less or no physical shortcomings, and then re-approach one’s methods afresh. Sometimes dropping the stubbornness that something is good only because it has worked for many years is the key to open a new door.
So here follow some guidelines I have over the years shared on how to play comfortably, and why everything IS possible! As you may note, these are split into physical and mental exercises for a reason – the physical is put on first as it is the actual practical task you will try out; however you will surely instantly notice a change in application (maybe easier) when you try out the practical tasks after reading the mental part.
All following physical examples are for a right-handed guitar player:
1. Simply rest the right hand on guitar. The weight of arm keeps guitar in place, so do not try to push the guitar inwards from the right as this effects the posture.
2. Strap to be fitted so that guitar is same angle whether sitting/standing.
3. Thumb should not curl around fingerboard but rather act as a pivot midway behind the fretboard in line with the 2nd finger from the front. If not, the palm of the hand is narrowed, restricting playing of notes on adjacent frets.
4. A good posture depends on your body staying balanced and erect, avoiding undue twisting, with your head, elbows and neck able to move freely, your back standing/ sitting up firm & no twisting of shoulders to side.
5. The shoulder is not to lean sideways towards the guitar. The reason the hand and elbows are free is to pull the guitar inwards to the left of the body, if at all necessary.
6. Avoid picking too loud with right hand as this in turn demands left hand to apply more fretting pressure.
7. Despite a tutor’s guides, the best way to improve is to experience things first hand. A good way is for you to play a piece focusing on new posture without much attention to the piece, then playing the piece again with the old posture. This will reveal how the new posture differs from the old, and how easier it is.
1. There is no way but the best way. It is the easiest to master, so make a habit of that. This is known as the cycle of conscious incompetence > conscious competence > unconscious competence i.e. that first you are aware of your shortcomings, then you practice enough to garner some skill & the knowledge that you know what you are doing, then your knowledge becomes so innate that you do not even think about it, and it flows out of you when you perform.
2. Mental rehearse what needs to be done, and focus on it before actually playing it. This way the muscles are more liable to react positively as research has proven that the muscles react to something when thinking about it as they would when one actually does it.
3. Practice with awareness of your goals vs too much unfocused practice repeating same mistakes. In other words, playing flamenco differs from playing extreme metal so new postures for each might have to be learnt, as what works for one style of playing might not necessarily work for others.
4. Listen to the music to produce a tone befitting the style being played vs just focusing on getting a better tone. As decreasing your physical efforts makes you more sensitive to producing tone colours, and enjoying music more.
5. Instruct yourself with positives not negatives (DOs not DONTs).
So you might still argue that the old way works better? Well try the new way, see how it functions for you, think about how it differs from your previous methods, and only then reject it.
A Chinese idiom goes: “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.”
And I bet you that if you understand the easiest way, it will become your new habit and you will not reject it. Just as many professional guitar players before you have not.
Filed Under: Alexander Technique
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About The Author
Hi, I am Malcolm, and I communicate love via music! My love to see you my student continually improve in how to translate your feelings & music ideas onto the guitar/bass/ukelele, regardless of your preferred style.
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