How the Alexander Technique Helps Musicians
A crooked clarinet will make a crooked sound.
"There are musicians - some say there were more of them in the past - who get as much pleasure from a performance as they give, who always perform easily and well, and who use themselves so efficiently that their professional lives and their natural lives coincide. There are others, however, with equal talent and training, to whom performance and even practice are exhausting, and whose professional lives are cut short because they lose the mastery of the skills they have acquired. They put forth more effort in solving technical problems than the results warrant, and ultimately discover that they have used up their reserves of energy. If they understood the use of themselves as well as they understand the use of their instruments, such breakdowns would be far less frequent." - Frank Pierce Jones.
Many musicians suffer pain during or after playing. Seeking treatment for this pain may offer relief. But if the cause of the pain is the way they use their bodies when playing, then until this is changed the pain will remain. This is the essence of the Alexander Technique - learning to use your body well enough to ensure that pain is not part of your physical shape.
As we acquire a skill, we also acquire habits associated with performing that skill. Over time, these habits will come to feel so familiar that we may no longer be aware of the specific movements we are making. Also, if we are mostly using our hands or feet or vocal chords to perform this skill, we will probably be quite unaware of other parts of our body and the habits we may have developed involving those parts. This is how the pianist comes to get sore shoulders, the flute player a stiff neck, and the violinist arm pain.
It's hard to change a habit if you're not aware of it. So most people continue until an ache arrives - their structure has gotten distorted enough to produce pain. The final straw arrives - an overworked shoulder muscle becomes painful, or the spine is compressed that last millimetre which brings pain. This is when most of us seek help, and this is when it's important to consider the cause of the pain, and wonder why the body has become distorted to the point of pain. The Alexander Technique addresses this cause, not quickly or easily, but in a meaningful long-term way. To change the way you use your body is to change the way your body functions. If you become as proficient using your body as you are with your instrument, you will ensure your body functions at a high level. It simply requires some technique, some lessons, and some practice. And musicians are very familiar with those three things.
The quote above is taken from "A Technique for Musicians" by Frank Pierce Jones
Bradley Newman teaches the Alexander Technique in Sydney. For more information see firstname.lastname@example.org .or email Bradley on