Archives par mot-clé : inner vibration

The Musician Sound

My thoughts about the musician sound elaborate from the following concepts :

Sound and Inner Vibration

My exploring the alto saxophone, coming from practicing the clarinet, made me realize how paramount the sound foundation is, as resulting from the mastering of my inner vibration : by avoiding any physical stress disturbing the musical gesture (“body tensions shrink your sound“, as Marie-Christine Mathieu shows it), we manage to merge with our instrument.

Some basic components of this body-instrument set are positioned hereafter : the internal vibration propagates from the source, down to the ground through the virtual trunk and the roots, and keeps the warm air in the horn thanks to its minimal flow.

In other words, the expression is fully controlled when the body fades out behind the sound. Then, the playing process of the body-instrument set becomes flexibly driven by the musician, who can then concentrate on his musical speech since his sound is already put in place : from this point onwards, other musical features logically build up, such as articulation, nuances, rests…

In the first place, you should learn to know yourself : learn to be aware of everything which must be achieved before playing a sound.” 

The Sound Ripening

Many findings result from this approach, which was happily taught to me by Master Robert Pichaureau some years ago (1983-85) and is feeding my personal routine in a continuous way : practice and assimilation make concepts mature with time, so that they become obvious.

Along these lines, this great teacher helped many musicians to unveil and (re-)build up their sound, enhancing these principles in a unified way for all types of instruments (he used to refer to The Inner Violin / Le violon intérieur of Dominique Hoppenot, extending the concept beyond the brass and woodwind players…) :

the sound of inner violin

Your best inner vibration is lived through and felt in consistency with your natural breathing, hence feeding your musical speech, which becomes spontaneous while getting more personal.

Here are Dominique Hoppenot‘s  words in Le violon intérieur , about actual feeling and experimenting :

 “In order to express (your art), (…) you must exist within your body, you should have something to say, and be able to say it.” 

 “What is described in a teaching speech as live and always renewed concepts easily becomes dogmatic when written down and you might take a risk in being satisfied by an intellectual understanding while only the lived experience matters.” 

 “True knowledge develops only through analyzing and assimilating information according to your own personality, and “knowing“ necessarily requires the duty of personal experience.” 

Your Mind Drives Your Art

Le Traité méthodique de pédagogie instrumentale, written by Michel Ricquier, also shows and explains the sound produced by the brass or the woodwind player. As a complement, the paramount role of mind for the art expression is developed in his book L’utilisation de vos ressources intérieures.

In the USA, Joe Allard was a notorious Master, as a clarinet and saxophone player, who educated several generations of musicians, following similar principles, from whom I mention excerpts consistent with my observations.

 “If you know how to play, if you understand your approach, then you have a good plan for your playing. You eliminate much of the fear of playing. There’s still concern because you want to play well, but you’re not afraid to blow.

 David Liebman is one of his famous followers, who elaborated his ideas about the development of a personal saxophone sound.

“In truth, there are no rules, only concepts. In all honesty, it took me years to understand some of his directions. This was especially true for the all-important overtone exercises and their significance. It finally dawned on me during my twenties how much the tone of the great players evidenced ease of production, evenness of sound, a rich and deep sonority, and most of all, personal expressiveness.”

Great musicians of all styles demonstrate as many embodiments of personal sound. Among the most significant ones to me, we can find Charlie ParkerPhil WoodsCannonball AdderleyDavid LiebmanEddie DanielsMiles DavisChet BakerClark TerryPierrick PédronJean-Charles RichardGéraldine LaurentMartin FröstRomain GuyotMaurice AndréTimofei DokshitserGuy Touvron

Ringing Multiple Bells

These teachings are feeding my understanding, following several milestones selected in a personal fashion, describing my feelings (and relevant proprioceptions) stemming from a progressive assimilation of the Pichaureau method and comparable concepts.

the instrument

The internal vibration flows from the musician’s body to his instrument which behaves as an amplifier : making one’s instrument sound good aims at optimizing its resonance.

the posture

Your body should be positioned so as to allow the unnecessary stresses to be cleared out downwards, down to the ground, taking advantage of the verticality of the sound column.

breathing and air

The good sound builds up on the exhalation, which seamlessly extends the inhalation : your aim should be to pick it up, by staying tuned to your natural breathing.

the air column

You should figure out the air column, better named as “sound column”, as deep as possible : it feeds up your internal vibration which is amplified by the instrument.

do not blow

You should not blow-externalize, in order to be able to drive your vibration inwards and downwards : this way, you let your global resonance develop while sitting on the air, without inserting any stresses disturbing your sound.

the sound source

From your diaphragm center, you visualize the starting point of your internal vibration as low as you can, through the heels-roots : this will make your sound column deeper, bringing a fatter sound out of your body to your instrument.

the embouchure

Your internal vibration propagates through the embouchure – which you should visualize at the bottom of your sound column – producing then a sound specific to the musician-wind instrument configuration : this requires a good response from your equipment.

fingers and tongue

Your fingers and tongue finally embody the tools of you wind player becoming a sound sculptor by customizing your expression built on of your internal vibration.

a virtual trunk

Like the sportsman towering his performance by merging into his pelvis, this feeling forgets your real trunk for the benefit of your lower limbs, which then may appear as a new virtual trunk : it supports your vibrating body, echoing through the surrounding space.

highs and lows

Exploring the whole range of your instrument becomes easier by keeping your sound column relaxed from the bottom, where your exhaling and inhaling naturally link up in the fat vibration : you can now master your playing legato over a large range, together with the grain of your sound.

the sensations

When you listen to your natural breathing and you absolutely do not push, then your relaxation flows down, bringing the enjoyment of letting-go.

the convergence

When those multiple factors converge towards your vital center point, you may consider your body as unified behind your instrument, which receives its vibrating energy and makes it sound around.

converging piano

The aware practicing of your central nervous system fosters proprioceptive images, which facilitate the flow of your inner vibrating sound towards your instrument. This vibration is directly fed by your quiet natural breathing, and may be visualized as being softly laid on your deep sound source.

Then, your sensation of being seated on the sound actually links your brain to your musical speech, making you forget about your body (the expression tool) and your instrument (the vibration amplifier).

Practicing at the piano is mainly practicing of the central nervous system, whether we are aware of it or not.

{ In 1881 the noted German physiologist Emil Du Bois-Reymond delivered a famous speech on The Physiology of Exercise. }

Du Bois-Reymond said that motor activity of the human body depends upon the proper interaction of muscles more than upon the force of their contraction.

{ Steinhausen on the psychic origin of technique : in 1905, several months after the appearance of Rudolf Maria Breithaupt‘s Die Natürliche Klaviertechnik, Dr. Friedrich Adolph Steinhausen’s Die Physiologische Fehler und Umgestaltung der Klaviertechnik (“The Physiological Misconceptions and Reorganization of Piano Technique“) was published. }

Since every movement is initiated in the central nervous system, practicing is, first and foremost, a psychic process, the working over of accumulated bodily experiences and the adjustment to a definite purpose.

(…) Through practice we can learn to move our fingers at the right time and in exact succession in accordance with a given musical figure. We can also achieve the ability to make fine gradations of tonal volume. But this learning is mental and has nothing in common with the degree of muscle development.

“A quantitatively small alteration in the brain has much greater importance than the most significant muscle enlargement.“

(…) Technique is the interdependence of our playing apparatus with our will and our artistic intentions.

Repeated application of the unconditional stimulus (movements of the playing apparatus) diminishes the extent of irradiation and helps to concentrate excitation. This will then affect only the concerned cells of the cortex’s motor region. For best results this application should be carefully controlled : movements must be watched and unnecessary muscle contractions must be avoided.

George Kochevitsky, The Art Of Piano Playing

sensations through piano

Stabilizing your mental images associated to your proprioceptions helps you to reproduce your body preparation at your will, hence reinforcing your self-confidence. Then, your body should remain ready to vibrate, from its prepared state, allowing you to picture your own image associated to the vibration laying and sounding : from that point on, your sensations develop, among them your being seated on your sound center. That ensures the continuity of the tone, as if it were radiating from your heels.

Such an approach is indeed valid for any instrument, the piano among them, and has a direct impact on your live technique, coming out through your fingers (and combined with the tongue articulation of the wind players).

During that process, as Robert Pichaureau used to say, “You should behave like a statue ! “ and “Mastering your inner vibration is a treat“. This way, you realize how practicing your instrument becomes enjoyable.

{ Ludwig Deppe (1828-1890) wrote that tone must be produced, not by finger stroke (…) but by coordinated action of all parts of the arm. }

Ludwig Deppe required her (Amy Fay, one of his pupils) to follow consciously the duration of each tone, to imagine the pitch and volume of the next one, and only then to transfer very carefully from that tone to the next.

And until there is a connection between the inner musical imagination, the innervation of movement, muscular sensations, and careful and critical listening to the results, no form of movement is of practical value.

So movements in piano practicing differ, sometimes considerably, from those in piano playing. In the first case we have to consider not only artistic purpose but physiological points as well.

(…) the main materials for the building of piano technique are the proprioceptive sensations. Hence lack of clearness in these sensations from finger activity will inevitably result in indistinct finger technique.

The player must receive a clear proprioceptive sensation from each movement, sensation which does not coalesce with the sensation from the next movement, and is not suppressed by it.

George Kochevitsky, The Art Of Piano Playing

sensations through inner violin

Your aim is to re-produce at your will the rewarding feeling of inner vibration, by quickly retrieving the relevant attitude : your body configuration is then assessed by your  self-confidence coming with the stability of the sound source, which is just waiting to be revealed and instantly revived, to be next amplified by the instrument.

The most constructive motivation in the conquest of the instrument is the enjoyment motivation (…)

Our approach is actually to develop an intimate and acute awareness of what you feel from a gesture or several combined gestures, until you can retrieve them and perform them exactly without any doubt, from a mere instantaneous mental evocation of the revealed sensation.

Les sensations ne peuvent naître qu’en donnant une forme à nos désirs, donc en créant des images mentales qui leur correspondent (…)

Sensations can only arise from shaping our desires, hence by creating associated mental images (…)

The true feeling corresponds to a well-being suited to everyone, adapted to the prior mental image (…).

(…) the feeling of “your self“ (…) leads you to experience the vertical axis, the mobility in space, the balance of opposing forces, the centering in “Hara“ (…) The contact feelings are generated from a keen awareness of your rooting to the ground, from the quality of your fingers presence on the bow and on the violin (…) Other feelings develop later during the playing itself ; they result from an already very elaborate achievement : a precise gesture, the feeling of “playing on yourself“, of “letting go“ and “laissez faire“ linked to the extreme vigilance of perception and listening (…)

(…) we are forced to consider that a performance is felt only through the pleasure of “vibration“.

He who has found his voice, that is to say his sound, no longer has to search it nor to fear its failure because it actually is. He just needs to call it without ever forcing it, to let it come and “let it go“ according to music, its master !

Dominique Hoppenot, Le violon intérieur
(translated by Guy Robert)

voice sensations

The internal vibration of your body, springing out of the sound column, feeds your singing, which is next amplified by your instrument.

Being concentrated on the source of your internal song eliminates unnecessary tensions and fosters the link with your musical intent : you feel like filling up the space with your ​​voice.

The body literally vibrates with song and harmony. (…) The act of singing permits us to open a dialog with space so that we become flooded by its vibrations and merge with it, acoustically speaking.

The interactions between the singer’s physical body and the acoustic environment create a proprioceptive image of the body, and they structure a sensory-motor experience of the surrounding space in a perpetual dialog.

A professional singer with a great technique causes us to breathe fully, our pharynx opens, our larynx moves without tightening. The articulation is supple, passing from one syllable to another without breaking the melodic line, without losing intensity, and we are transported.

Teaching voice relies on subjective sensations that can only be described in words. (…) We have to make our sensations conscious so that they can be reproduced at will and associated to the corresponding muscular response.

Singing requires mastery over yourself to attain maximum sound output with minimum muscular effort.

Your sensations will be confined to the organs involved in singing. It sends acoustic stimulation to every part of the body, encouraging it to adopt certain postures. It helps to straighten the trunk, for instance, which helps it to resist the pull of gravity, thus increasing the charging effect on the brain.

When singing is well executed, it triggers a wealth of internal sensations that make the body into a vibrating instrument.

Alfred Tomatis, The Ear And The Voice
(translated by Roberta Prada and Pierre Sollier)

highs and lows

The low pitch vibration spreads in the ground and in space from your posture stabilized on your roots, as if you were sitting on the sound source. Keeping concentrated on this balanced position, you release then your whole body at the very end of your exhaling, to let your spontaneous inhaling come in, maintaining this fat and low voice on a full vibrating pitch : you develop this fat and vibrating sound from practicing the overtones control, as recommended by Joe Allard and by David Liebman.

Next you quietly play upper and upper notes in the pitch range, reaching the higher register and the related overtones, still driving this low vibration from your heels, and above all, without modifying anything between your embouchure and your diaphragm : any unwanted alteration of the sound must be avoided by letting loose and relaxing down to your breathing center point, even reaching down to your heels !

Doing so, the high register sound can be kept rich and homogeneous by extending the downwards feeling to your roots : keep thinking low in the highs ! This way, and counter to some misconceptions, carefully dismissed by Alfred Tomatis in The Ear And The Voiceyou ensure the sound fullness by maintaining this body configuration of your air column and of your embouchure throughout the whole range from lower to higher pitch : among other benefits, this brings a gratifying comfort feeling and allows legato playing between the end-notes of the tessiture, as Dominique Hoppenot precisely describes it in her Inner Violin / Le violon intérieur.

Musically, you go up and down, but physically you must always go down. The pitfall is that a sound may look nice but not be a good one.

Robert Pichaureau, Favorite Expressions
(translated by Guy Robert)

Thanks to the work achieved (low and fat breathing, vertical pushing), you can now play much more backwards, so you can avoid playing your way up when you hit high notes.

(…) You are going to learn how to feel down in order to better go up. (…) But you should obviously never go back up !

Always pack down and vertically push down.

Michel RicquierTraité de pédagogie instrumentale
(translated by Guy Robert)

Low note articulation and tone production are two of the subtle challenges confronting saxophonists, as is the opposite problem of the tendency to go sharp in the high register. A saxophonist should not sound like he has a different tone for each register. The overtone matching process may go on for years.

David LiebmanDeveloping a Personal Saxophone Sound

inner violin and embouchure

The musician sets up his vibrating attitude by rooting his air column in his heels, and the wind player moreover pictures his embouchure at the sound source, located at the bottom of his diaphragm : then, letting the relaxation down, the inner vibration gently takes off from the root of the air column, to feed the instrument through this embouchure, or through the violonist’s clavicle.

The most important of all is to listen to the sound that will come and not just to the sound already achieved.

Dominique Hoppenot, Le violon intérieur
(translated by Guy Robert)

piano source

Concentrating on the source of vibration, you can imagine it is located as deep as possible in the ground. Then, you let the vibrating sound flow around, and do not try to push it outside so that it keeps its fullness, whatever the instrument.

Avoiding any unnecessary stresses, the wind player or the pianist as well even can imagine and picture his vibration from his heels.

{ Grigori Kogan in his lectures and later (1958) in his small book U vrat masterslva (“At the Gates of Mastery“) put forward as psychological prerequisites of successfulpianistic work three basic principles :

(1) The ability to hear inwardly the musical composition which has to be realized on the instrument — to hear it extremely clearly as a whole, as well as exact in all its details.

(2) The most passionate and persistently intense desire to realize that glowing musical image.

(3) The full concentration of one’s whole being on his task in everyday practice as well as on the concert stage. }

The most thoughtful and advanced musicians (…) insisted that “the technical training from the ‘outside’ must be replaced by technical training from the ‘inside’. “

Grigori Kogan called this third main trend in the theory of piano playing the psychotechnical school.

Hugo Riemann (1849-1919) wrote:

“It is impossible to develop velocity otherwise than through exercise of the telegraphic apparatus from brain to muscles. The process from within-outward cannot be replaced by anything.“

George Kochevitsky, The Art Of Piano Playing

voice source

The real singer or instrumentist lets his inner vibration take off from the bottom of his sound column, which he can perfectly visualize from his heels, thanks to his down-flowing relaxation extending his natural inhaling : he should then maintain this tension-free feeling located at his roots level, regardless to the pitch height, thereby ensuring an homogeneous vibration in the whole range of his body radiating sound in space.

We can then talk about the personal tone color.

Because of this activation and the special ability of the skeleton to transmit sounds, the control adopted by the bony voice is direct, conserves energy and maintains the integrity of the full spectrum of sound.

This production has nothing in common with ordinary vocal emission, even if that emission sounds easy. This degree of control is difficult, if not impossible, when we use only air conduction. Bone filters for higher sounds at the expense of lows, making sounds that are particularly rich and dense.

(…) It is easy to see the advantages of an emission that is easily controlled and rich in high frequencies. It has a propensity to align the spine. This in turn facilitates emission, releasing progressively more energy.

If [the sound] is not going to come from the mouth or nose, where will it come from ? You make it with the whole body through the excitation of the spinal column and the contact between the larynx and the cervical vertebrae.

Bone conduction has a special timber, rich, heady and colorful. It has an ethereal quality and seems to come from outside the body. It literally awakens the environment with a smooth, vibrant and dense sonority. It carries with ease.

What is more, when you have it nailed, this sound can be quickly modulated over the entire vocal range without costing you any effort.

Alfred Tomatis, The Ear And The Voice
(translated by Roberta Prada and Pierre Sollier)

inner violin without blowing

For a wind player, concentrating on his inner vibration is antagonistic to the action of blowing, which would trigger an outwards deconstructing effort : hence it is absolutely recommended to not blow, not even to want to do it !

By and large, driving your internal vibration appears as paramount for any musician, the violin player as well : you can achieve this control of your internal vibration and check it out by downwardly extending your attitude reached at the end of your natural inhaling, while enforcing your anchoring in the ground. From this point on, you feel the air column opening from the sound source down to your heels. The vibration radiates deep inside, like the recycled water jet gushing and feeding the basin center.

This is essentially a way to self-awareness and self-knowledge, a search for the movement from the inside to the outside, from the center to the periphery (…)

Dominique Hoppenot, Le violon intérieur
(translated by Guy Robert)