A Recipe for Pain-Free Practice
I’ve recently enjoying a return to creative cooking. It started with a recent trip abroad, and a reminder of how good it is to eat freshly cooked, unprocessed food that has real flavor. I was keenly aware of how much better the food tasted for all the additives that were not in it. We bought small quantities of real, fresh food that didn’t have expiration dates a month out. We shopped often and lightly, and ate well.
Not surprisingly, all my teaching metaphors lately have been food-related. For instance, I work with a number of musicians; many of them are in pain from too much muscular tension in their minds and bodies as they play.
It suddenly came to me that making music is a lot like cooking soup. There’s a certain amount of muscular effort necessary to play, and a certain amount of salt necessary for good taste. I prefer adding salt to the soup till it's right, rather than using too much and throwing in potatoes to soak up the excess.
Have you ever noticed that you’re tight, and then tried to reduce tension and continue to play?
How well does it work for you?
Rather than starting off tense and frantically trying to let go of excess effort, can you start playing with a sense of quiet and ease and only add as much muscular activity as is absolutely necessary? Sometimes the weight of a finger is all that’s needed.
One of the difficulties in doing this is that we are wired up to do things by associating the ability to do an activity with a particular sensation of muscular effort or tension. Sometimes when it feels too easy, we're subject to “deer in the headlights syndrome” and feel like we can’t play at all.
Another problem is how to come to that starting place of neutral energy – balanced ease – and effortless movement.
Many musicians have too much salt in their soup and are in pain. That may be why the Alexander Technique is so widely known in the world of music, and required study at The Juilliard School of Music. Alexander Technique a skill that helps you become aware of patterns of tension, and able to release them. It empowers you to move with fluid lightness and ease.
Care to find out more? Try a taste of the Alexander Technique and play with ease.