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Become the powerful artist you are meant to be!

April 3, 2016

alexander technique teacher cincinnati musicI’ve had an extremely busy weekend, filled with essay-writing, videotaping myself, a workshop for string players at NKU, and our second Art of Freedom annual “Non-Performance” (more about that later, once I have pictures!).

So I’m pretty exhausted, but it’s now time to dive in and start practicing for my trip to Cleveland on Tuesday, to rehearse and perform as a member of Apollo’s Fire all week.

I’d like to share a few notes with you about what WORKS BEST for me when I only have a couple of days to prepare for an important first rehearsal. Maybe you’ll find the ideas useful for yourself one day! This is me talking to me:

  • First of all, accept that the amount of available time is the sufficient amount of time. Don’t stress about it; just do what CAN be done – not what you think OUGHT to be done.
  • Rest when tired. Don’t overdo. If you feel like you might be getting sick, make being well your top priority over everything else – even practicing. SLEEP. Even if it’s during the day!
  • Be sensible with healthy food choices, but allow yourself to enjoy what you eat, too. No rushing.
  • TRUST!! that those years of preparatory work learning how to play your instrument and make music have built up an incredibly strong network of neural connections in your brain that will serve you well when you need to call upon them; your job is simply to TRUST your system and get out of the way.
  • Play through the music you’ve been given, but don’t worry about practicing what you can already play the first time around; you’ll have plenty of time to practice more AFTER the first rehearsal. Practice the parts you DON’T get right the first time; but leave them as soon as you can play them two or three times. 
  • You’re not expected to play perfectly at the first rehearsal! After all, that’s why you have six 3-hour rehearsals and plenty of empty hours over several days in which to get to know the music. Don’t expect too much and you won’t disappoint yourself.
  • When approaching your instrument, when lifting your instrument, when beginning to play, and while playing – ALL THE TIME – make awareness of your head-neck area your #1 TOP PRIORITY. Wondering about the freedom and ease in the neck is your #1 KEY to excellence in playing your instrument and making music.
  • Do not overfocus on the notes on the page. Refer them back to the awareness of your neck. Neck first, notes second!
  • Do not overfocus on your instrument, or your hands, or any other part of your body. Neck first, everything else second!
  • Everything relates back to the head-neck’s freedom to be easy. This is THE KEY, so USE IT and TRUST IT.
  • Try it out now, and try it out in the car on the way to Cleveland, and in the first rehearsal. Everything is a big experiment. Stay open to wondering what will happen, and you’ll be SURE to learn. When you’re learning, failure is impossible. So, there’s nothing to fear. Only endless happenings to look forward to and enjoy…. RIGHT NOW! 🙂

Just writing this out for you gives me joy!  I had to share it with you because I enjoyed so much more ease in my practicing a few minutes ago when I started to really pay attention to my neck more than to the notes or the music.

After all, what I see on the page is something that is happening within my visual system inside of my head – not something happening out there on the music stand. And once I “bring it inside”, what I’m learning needs to pass through my neck before it can get into my hands and my violin.

The freedom and ease of my neck is absolutely essential for me to play at my best. And when there’s very little time to prepare, it becomes all the more important not to let any anxiety about the future enter into the picture, because that would just make me tighten my neck – and then my coordination would be impaired.

So… now that I’ve written down what I’m newly discovering (for the ten thousandth time!) with such enthusiasm, it’s time for me to get back to practicing! Why? Because I have another workshop and a class to teach tomorrow… and I won’t have much time to practice. So, I’d better make the best use of my time right now! 🙂

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Alexander Technique, Awareness, direction, learning, neck, practice, technique, wellness

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  1. Hey Dear, just wanted to tell you that i found this artcle super inspiring and interesting.
    Just have a supper bussy week play tough repertoire with orchestra and just three nights to prepate an audition to play today. i follow your advice , however i find that because I am nervous at the audition I tend to be too calm, my body language is like frozen, and i wonder how to change that, or help it, because i really have a lot of energy to play, but my body is like not allowing that energy to flow.
    Do you have any advice for that?


    1. Hi Jhoana,
      I’m so glad you found this post inspiring! It sounds like the way your performance anxiety tends to manifest is by stiffening your body (like a deer freezing halfway across the street when a car shines its headlights towards it). Here’s a suggestion for you to try:
      – Become aware of how much natural movement there always is happening inside of your body, especially the fluids throughout your body and how most of your body is made of water
      – Before you play, hear music inside your body, and let yourself dance to that music.
      – Let yourself express sounds through your voice, by singing, groaning, screaming (into a pillow, maybe, if there are people nearby)
      – Basically, just let your whole self MOVE and express how you are feeling…without your instrument…before you play. That will make it easier to continue letting yourself move WITH your instrument
      Let me know if you try this out and what happens!
      I wish you all the best!

  2. This was great and very helpful! As a Viola student who takes weekly lessons and plays in a learning orchestra I tend to take on too much at once. I have a very erratic schedule depending on the time of year. This often leaves me feeling rushed with my practices at home because often I do not get what I deem as “enough time”. I like long practices ( well long for me 1.5-2 hrs). Often I find myslef worrying about how much time I have to practice thus when I enter my practices I often feel rushed. Lately I have been trying to apply ” I have time and space” and it really does work. It helps calm and make me feel less rushed.
    I also wanted to say I really like the idea of always coming back to the neck and head. I have noticed when I am attempting a difficult passage or new bow work I will chruch into my instrument until I stop and wonder about my neck. This has helped me tremendously in many ways. I used to keep crunching and tensing and not even realising it until my right shoulder would hurt or my left hand would go numb from so much tension. Now I can back away and center myslef again before playing.

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