The musicians I work with often become bewildered when they are suddenly faced with the realization that they are dramatically increasing their muscular tension when they play intense, highly emotional (or simply loud) music; and their next discovery is that they are actually UNABLE to be passionate AND relaxed in mind and body at the same time.
In fact, it can seem totally impossible to play intense music effortlessly, once I’ve helped them become more sensitive and aware of what they’re actually doing to themselves when they play!
But this is just a normal (albeit, sometimes uncomfortable) part of being faced with the TRUTH of their own habits of tensing, and how this tension is actually hurting them and compromising the quality of their music.
Also, because I’m first teaching them how to be at ease, relaxed, and free WITHOUT their instruments, their intensity and lack of freedom WITH their instruments becomes all the more obvious by experiencing the contrast.
They inevitably ask me: “So, how DO you play emotional, passionate, intense music without all the extra tension???”
That’s a HUGE – and VERY IMPORTANT – question!
First of all, why is this so important?
- Most people are unaware of just how much tension they are introducing into their bodies, and how that makes it harder to play with effortless technical facility because they actually have the brakes on their muscles and joints, holding themselves back
- Excess tension actually BLOCKS the free flow of musical expression and masquerades as true emotion. Playing with excess tension may FEEL right, but it’s actually FORCING passion and imposing the personal will, personality and ego onto the natural expression inherent in the MUSIC ITSELF, preventing true, spontaneous Inspiration from happening
- With repetition, this kind of heightened intensity and excessive tension inevitably leads to mental, emotional, and physical discomfort – even pain and injury if left unchecked
- Your audience picks up on everything you do. If you are increasing the tension within yourself while you play, your audience will feel that… instead of feeling the effortless flow of true musical expression, which transmits a blissful, elevated, expansive experience instead of triggering an injection of adrenaline.
High levels of tension might be exciting to hear or visually dramatic to behold, but they don’t transport the soul beyond the earthly, so to speak, in the way PURE, unadulterated emotion can.
So, again… how DO you play emotional, passionate, intense music without all the extra tension???
Well, you first need to realize it’s there. You need to learn how to identify the excess tension, and you need to be able to discern between relative tension and relative ease within your body.
Actually, the problem isn’t tension itself (you’d be a puddle on the floor, unable to move any muscles at all without any tension!); the problem is UNNECESSARY, excessive tension, which is not appropriate to the task at hand.
I start teaching my students without their instruments, because the tension habits are so deeply ingrained (usually from many years of practice) that they often go unnoticed.
In fact, playing intense music with excess tension often FEELS RIGHT and normal.
Many people don’t even see it as a problem (and then, ahem, they can’t understand why they’re in pain later).
You need to become sensitive to the fact that there actually IS too much tension when you play, and that this habit is showing up in every other area of your life, too. It’s actually a universal problem.
Then, at the same time you’re becoming more aware of the habitual tension you carry throughout your day, you’re also learning exactly how to let go of it.
You might think that is easier said than done, but the letting-go part is actually VERY easy to learn! In fact, my students learn this on DAY 1 of any program they take with me.
They learn how to do it, and they CAN do it. It’s often quite surprising, and a real revelation to new students to realize they can undo a whole lifetime of habitual excess tension in an instant – just by observing and thinking a little differently!
Of course, the tension creeps right back in the next moment because they need to learn – through repetition – that this is a skill to be honed, like any skill, and a new habit to be formed.
Even though letting go is really easy, it’s not so easy to remember to use this skill, and to know when and how to apply it to specific activities and situations.
Like how to apply it to playing musical passages of high emotional intensity.
It usually takes a while before a student is able to achieve this.
But my students DO eventually learn how to do this, when they follow the simple system I share with them, with clear steps and consistent, daily practice of Awareness Etudes based on the Alexander Technique (specifically, hands-free Primal Alexander developed by Mio Morales).
The Art of Freedom® Method pulls it all together, so that you gradually cultivate ease in every area of your life, and before you know it, you’re able to play your instrument with effortless ease, too. EVEN the intense parts!
My programs give you:
- Clear, logical explanations and demonstrations of what you’re actually doing with your mind-body-self when you increase the intensity in your music
- Improved, more objective self-observation skills
- Experiments that show you the causative effects of your thoughts on your body (what you think IS what you get, and what you focus on you get more of)
- Simple steps to follow each day that inevitably bring you to your goal of making effortless music that is ALSO emotional, passionate… and GORGEOUS.
Message me or email me at Jennifer@ArtofFreedom.me to learn more. Ask me about The Musician’s Mind-Body Breakthrough starting in January, and we can have a chat to determine if this six-week program would be right for you. I look forward to hearing from you!
p.s. Have you bought yourself a truly amazing and life-changing Christmas (or other holiday) gift this year?
If you’re playing with too much tension and you want to make a real change for the better in your music-making AND your whole life, you deserve to give yourself the gift of The Musician’s Mind-Body Breakthrough. Stop suffering – learn these skills now! Don’t keep practicing unhelpful habits – you can change things, and it is NOT hard. Message me or email me and we can talk about making this your best gift-to-self EVER!
My coaching student, Stephanie Michele Ruddy just told me today, “This is the best thing I’ve ever done.” Most of my students feel that way. 🙂 Your turn!