You must learn to apply this technique to activity. Then you will learn what its all about.
Learn a better way to play instruments
Alexander Technique for musicians. It is essential for musicians for two very important reasons. Firstly, playing an instrument, any instrument, can be both painful and tiring. Secondly, because, whatever instrument we play, we want to play it in a way that makes it sound as good as possible.
One day I was at my aunt’s house, where they had every different kind of instrument you could imagine. My aunt asked which one would I like to learn. On top of the piano, there was this golden instrument with buttons everywhere and as I looked at it I just imagined riches beyond my wildest dreams. At ten years old I wasn’t entirely aware of its’ sound but I was certain it was the instrument for me. As it turned out I did fall in love with flute. Listening to Herbie Mann, Roland Kirk, Bobbie Humphries and many of the famous Jazz flautists.
Lots of musicians have breathing problems, but with the wind instruments, it’s a big problem, since we play with our breath. If we breathe badly, it’s going to be a bit challenging. There was a very good flute player that I saw playing at a gig in a local bar. He was really rather good. Afterwards, I congratulated him for the music he played. We began talking and I mentioned that I suffered hyperventilation when I played. To my utter astonishment, he said, ‘Yeah, same here. I just live with it. Loads of flute players have this.’
It doesn’t matter if we play a wind or a wood or a percussion instrument. We will have to use ourselves and the important factors will be breathing, the musculoskeletal and our own minds. All of these can be unduly influenced or undermined by stress and modern-day pressures to perform, to pay bills to have relationships and so on.
‘Really,’ I said. ‘Even professionals?’
‘Well thats what I do for a living.’
This was a revelation to me. However, I did not play the flute after this. I just thought it wasn’t worth it. Instead, I tried the guitar, which wasn’t causing breathing problems. When I trained two things changed my perspective and inspired me to play the flute again.
Alexander Technique breathing
The problem with hyperventilation, apart from the fact that it is debilitating, is the effect it has emotionally. It is after all akin to a panic attack. You feel out of sorts, dizzy. There is this terrible effect on concentration and the slightest mistake leads to frustration that renders the practice very unfruitful. When I learnt the Alexander Technique my breathing just normalised. There wasn’t any special process. No technique I had to apply in the musical setting. Just the Alexander Technique making its’ influence known.
Use the Alexander Technique to learn.
In my first term at The Constructive Teaching Centre (CTC), one of the more senior teachers took me aside and said, ‘Alexander Technique isn’t an end in itself. It is the means to an end. Look at all these people going in and out of a chair. That’s all they do. Its no help at all. You must learn to apply this technique to activity. Then you will learn what it’s all about.
Alexander Technique and The Music Schools.
There is a very good reason why the Royal College of Music and The Royal Academy of Music both have lots of Alexander Technique teachers. It works. Cultivating the individual as well as their grasp of musical material. Learning music without the Alexander Technique is akin to learning to sail in a motor boat, without sails, you will chug along but you’ll never get that feeling of all of the elements coming together at once, moving you through space and time. That freedom.
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Further Reading: Indirect Procedures by Pedro Alcantara
This is pretty much a standard text for musicians everywhere. It does in fact focus on Cello playing but the practical advice and approach are still very much relevant. It really is a very good read if you are interested in the Alexander Technique for musicians.
A collection of online essays about Alexander Technique for Musicians