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March 7, 2024

The 2nd-biggest hurdle musicians need to get over in order to improve their technique, relieve pain, heal from injury, or conquer performance anxiety is playing with too much tension.

But the BIGGEST problem musicians have that keeps them stuck and frustrated is… a lack of awareness that they play with too much tension… and how much it gets in their way.

This is a much bigger problem than most musicians realize!

Because the excess tension you bring to your instrument is excess tension you bring to everything, and it impacts the quality of everything you do.

When I was a kid and teenager, I was winning international competitions. Soloing with top-tier orchestras. Playing at Carnegie Hall. Working with some of the best violinists in the world, like Nathan Milstein and Josef Gingold.

I was quite successful, and my playing was good!

But I was totally oblivious to the large amount of unnecessary tension I was bringing to everything I was doing, including my violin playing… and it caught up with me over the years, in ways that I didn’t recognize as related until much later.

It showed up…

…in the form of neck, arm and back pain, unexpected performance anxiety in surprising situations, discomfort carrying babies on my hip, reactivity in relationships, greater frequency of sinus infections, emotional anguish… and so much more.

But until things got really bad, I had NO IDEA that I was carrying around all that unnecessary tension and making my life and music WAY harder than they needed to be.

When you don’t have pain and your music sounds pretty good… why question how you’re approaching your instrument?

Why question the level of tension you’re carrying around?

Obviously, your playing and your life are good enough, right?

You should be HAPPY and satisfied, right??

Well, the problem with “good enough” is that it’s only good enough… until it isn’t good enough anymore.

When the pain starts.

The anxiety creeps in.

Or your skill level reaches a plateau and you just can’t play the REALLY hard passages you wish you could play, and you suspect you never will.

Or when your hand starts shaking and you can’t control your spiccato or your vibrato and you’re afraid other people might notice.

Then, it becomes scary – and even a little embarrassing! (Can you relate??)

Because once you’re at a certain skill level, and you’ve succeeded at getting good gigs, winning a job or a competition, and people think you’re pretty good… well, it’s pretty hard to admit that you’re hitting a wall inside.

Professionals don’t want anyone to know they’re struggling.

  • When suddenly an arm or a hand or a shoulder starts hurting and you wonder who to ask about it… whether you should go to a doctor, get a massage, or find a chiropractor… and if you do, their suggestions aren’t really helping…. but you have to keep going back again and again… and hundreds of dollars fly out the window (for how many years??)….
  • When you’re feeling more stressed and nervous than you “should” about an upcoming performance or an audition….
  • When you practice a passage over and over and it STILL doesn’t sound the way you want it to….

At that point, you either accept it and move on, push through it and try harder to overcome it on your own, or you get help from a traditional or alternative medical source or a therapist of some kind.

All of that’s ok, but none of it’s really going to get at the root of the problem for you, because none of those people REALLY get it.

At that point, you ask yourself:

“Why is this problem showing up now, when everything was going along just fine before?”

And yet… deep down, you know it was never truly fine.

Deep down, you KNOW you haven’t really solved your technique problems, and you’ve just “gotten by” and nobody but you has noticed.

You KNOW that you might be pretty relaxed when you play, but there’s a part of you that’s NOT.

It’s that layer of YOU underneath the rest of it… that wise inner knowing… your gut intuition… that has been niggling at you for longer than you’d care to admit… telling you something’s “off”, and if you don’t come to terms with it and find a deeper solution, you’re going to have MORE problems as time goes by and you get older, not fewer.

So what can you do???

You need a way to:

  • observe yourself more accurately
  • include your WHOLE self in your observations (mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual) and start seeing how it’s all connected – not just theoretically, but practically
  • notice when things are “off” sooner, and see how everything you notice is connected to a deep, downward energy of constriction
  • shift your perspective away from ignoring/denying/trying change or fix yourself… to…
  • choosing a new way of thinking and responding to how you feel in the moment, to bring you out of constriction and into freedom
  • practice this new skill again and again, in a way that you can tell things are going in a better direction, and you are gaining more constructive, conscious control over everything you do and improving your overall experience of life

You can try figuring all of that out on your own… but good luck!

Where do you start, when you haven’t done anything about this problem until now, and you’re still not even really clear about what the problem is?!?

What I’m talking about is raising your level of consciousness and increasing your awareness of the reality within your mind-body-self and how you are related to your environment.

It’s about becoming more aware of how you interfere with the natural relaxed freedom of movement your body was designed for, so you can start letting go of the overall tension you didn’t know was there.

It’s really hard to get rid of something when you don’t even know it’s there.

Most accomplished musicians I know (by no means all!) are aware of some degree of unnecessary tension they carry around with them, but they are NOT aware of how much that tension holds them back, and they don’t believe it’s much of a problem.

And when something happens to throw them off, they don’t connect the dots between a tension that seems subtle and innocuous, and a problem that is screaming for their attention.

I’ve seen this pattern in myself, and in the many, many musicians I’ve met, played with, and taught over the years.

(If that’s you, please do yourself a favor, and think again! Question that assumption and get curious about finding out more about yourself that might be hidden under the surface. You might be surprised at what you find out. There is a world of new effortlessness waiting for you to discover once you become aware of where you’re stuck!!)

So…

If you don’t know the excess tension is there, and you don’t know it’s a problem… how can you approach your pain, anxiety, or technical issues with your instrument differently and more effectively?

Begin by being…

  • open to All-Possibility: isn’t it POSSIBLE that there’s a better way to address the systemic tension within you and you’ll need to look outside of the box to find it?
  • curious: start wondering about what you’re experiencing, and open up to gathering new information about yourself.
  • accepting of the reality of your experience, free of judgment. Stop assuming that you know, and start being OK with stepping into The Land of I-Don’t-Know in order to discover something new.
  • open up to trying something different. What if, instead of trying to fix, change, fight, deny, or ignore your problem… you were to do NOTHING but notice it with detached curiosity instead, while being open to learning more about yourself from the INSIDE?

What if you could learn more about The Art of Freedom® Method and Primal Alexander, which teach you how to take full responsibility for your own well-being, while gently guiding you to ask questions and explore the power of your own mind-body-spirit connection so you can feel better in every way and dramatically improve your playing?

This may sound vague and strange…

… but I’ve developed The Art of Freedom® Method to provide something extremely simple, yet powerfully effective in bringing you back to the origins of how your WHOLE SELF is beautifully designed to work as an organic whole, towards creating exactly what you want in your life.

If you want to be free of…

  • pain
  • excess tension
  • performance anxiety
  • unsolvable technical problems
  • negative, scattered, chaotic thinking
  • self-critical traps that sabotage your success…

Then why not explore something new that has been proven to work with hundreds of musicians like you? Ask me about how The Art of Freedom® Method for conscious living and masterful artistry could help you relieve the excess tension holding you back from your best life as a musician.

I have a couple openings in my private coaching studio right now for musicians ready to take charge of their own well-being and make great music with joy. I look forward to hearing from you and helping you let go of what you aren’t even aware you’re holding onto!

With Love & Enthusiasm,

Jennifer ❤

p.s. Just message me, or email me at Jennifer@ArtofFreedom.me and and I’d be happy to chat with you about the best options for you to learn how to play pain-free, tension-free, and make great music with a lot more ease and JOY!

 


Tags

freedom, Pain, positive thinking


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