the posture

The musician’s posture aims at easing his body and his instrument to merge together.

Your Body Gets In Line For Vibration

Visualize your roots and imagine them plunging into the ground, from the trunk of this virtual tree, represented by your air column – actually, your sound column. Here you are, straightened up (during your natural inhaling, your sound column gets aligned with your heels, making your pelvis slightly tilt to its equilibrium position), then let the central relaxation slide down to the ground, ending with your air column starting to vibrate thanks to your abdomen transverse muscle.

your voice widened by your posture

Alfred Tomatis highlights this body preparation in The Ear And The Voice.

You sing through your body.
Singing is one of the most efficient ways to shape our body.

(…) Before a sound is emitted, a primer should be fully elaborated, bringing its awareness of the “shaping“ of the body so that it can thereby acquire the postural pattern that suits it to become the instrument of singing.

(…) a clearly-defined body image, specific to the singing act, must be ingested into you. It implies that a mental attitude be psychologically organized, that in turn drives a posture, which itself responds to a physiological complex function capable of resonating to vocal stimulation.

By linking natural inhalation to the letting-go from the diaphragm down to the ground, the sound column gets unleashed down to the roots of the virtual trunk of this imagined tree : its verticality fosters the optimal resonance of the singer’s or instrumentist’s body.

We know that the vestibule processes the stimulation of every muscle in the body and sends the information to regulate upright posture, mobility and body movements.

Impulses toward erect posture, muscle tone and movement create responses in the form of  information and stimulation emanating from the muscles, tendons, joints and even from the bones. This enormous excitation alone accounts for the increased tone that leads to movement, good balance and good posture.

The listening posture requires that the spinal column be well aligned and standing tall along its vertical axis following its natural curves.

When you are able to control while maintaining your listening posture, your body literally stretches up, aiming at a rather unusual verticality. (…) From this point, your pelvis begins to tilt forward while you stand and show a tendency to slightly bend the knees (…)

Your sacrum seems to settle such as you feel to sit comfortably on your own pelvis. (…) Your lower ribs are spaced at maximum, your diaphragm finds its greatest extension, and its amplitude range will thus be facilitated, your abdominal muscles will be stretched without excess, synergistically acting together with the diaphragm. You need not bend these muscles.

(…) thanks to the posture of listening and self-listening, and thanks to the global posture, the body will follow in order to deliver all proprioceptive sensations that govern verticality (…)

Your Body Blends Into Your Instrument

Transverse_FRYou feel like sitting on the sound source, in your Hara which drives your posture (as Marie-Christine Mathieu shows it), and at this time only, your instrument comes into play, amplifying the vibrating sound. Then, as you are stalled on the belt-shaped transverse abdominus muscle surrounding this center point, you end up forgetting all about the upper part of your body (above the diaphragm).

The problems affecting most saxophonists are often self-inflicted. By that, I mean unnecessary bodily tensions accumulate over time and become habitualized. This results in the player’s inability to relax enough to find a physically comfortable and aesthetically pleasing tone.”

your posture facing the piano

If you are a standing-up player, your playing position should embody your actual rooting, making your vertical sound column deeply flow into the ground. In order to assess this verticality, you may picture yourself as being seated on your pelvis, centered on your sound source : so downward-packed, locked on your heels and forgetting about the upper part of your body, your vibration easily takes off.

Such an attitude is also relevant to the piano player, who can picture his virtual verticality down to his heels, while being physically sitting on his stool, delving his feet into the ground.

in his Art Of Piano PlayingGeorge Kochevitsky shows how the arms should be forgotten to free the player technique.

(…) two other ideas occupied the representatives of the anatomic-physiological school : weight playing and relaxation (…)

{ In 1905, Rudolf Maria Breithaupt (1873-1945) published Die Natürliche Klaviertechnik. } Breithaupt, a fervent proponent of this idea, proclaimed that the most important principle of technique was a loose and heavy arm (…) In the third edition of the same book he wrote that the ultimate ideal of artistic performance is predominance of the spirit over the body, liberation from the material, the overcoming of the pull of gravity : only a fine sense of balance is left from the latter… It goes without saying that in the cases of greatest speed the weight seems almost eliminated.

the freed up violin

The musician’s inner vibration is transmitted to the instrument-amplifier from his body posture through the pianist’s fingers, through the embouchure of the woodwind player, through the lips of the trumpet player, through the clavicle (not embarrassed by a cushion which inhibits the vibration) of the violinist : this transmitter link must be as little constrained as possible, to free the optimal resonance of the instrument.

Dominique Hoppenot uses these words about the balance fundamentals :

It is a pity to spend a life of toil and research ignoring that all difficulties with the sound, the disjointed hand, vibrato, hopped, staccato, etc… are nearing resolution as soon as the perfect balance of the body is achieved.

What matters is the overall balance of the body, the general feeling experienced within your body, and not an isolated gesture or detail, observed from the outside.

When the momentum and the opposition forces are fully developed, there can be no tightening and no exaggerated support, no more than voluntary effort to hold the instrument.

Then your head and limbs should freely move :

No motion of your head should go and pick up the violin as if it were an object outside the body ; it does come to your body without changing your posture for all that.

The purpose of consciously non-holding the instrument is to totally free the sensitivity of your fingers, which you feel as talking and “telling“ the music directly out of our mouth.

(…) you must always understand that every action involves your whole body, through its static as well as dynamic behavior.

Your actual trunk becomes insensitive (without any move of your shoulders or of your thorax), and although you feel downward-packed, you get aware of your complementary zones, contributing to the sound production :
– your head, merged with the embouchure which is ideally visualized at the lowest level, down to your heels ;
– your upper limbs, ending and merging with the instrument itself ;
– your abdomen, like sucked up by the sound source (Hara),
– your lower limbs, becoming your actual roots, spreading the sound through the ground and space.

Our whole energy actually arises from our center of gravity : it is located at the level of the third lumbar vertebra, area that eastern people call “Hara”.

It is essential that the supporting muscles – especially those located in your back – fully play their part, freeing your arms ends from overload, providing them with the necessary independence and lightness and giving to your arms a flexibility unknown before.

(…) such a freedom is available only when technical problems are mastered, when you develop a full confidence in the result, and especially when the musical flow spreads through your body, without finding any obstacle by any constraint or unwanted tension.

“For the artist, relaxation is an absolute necessity.”

Rooting Starts From The Pelvis

Going back to the woodwind player, his embouchure should be flexible enough so that the internal vibration fully propagates to the reed, while his instrument remains well-balanced on his well-grounded body.

Focus your mind on your back muscles working, while your air flows ; you will get your balance and keep your verticality, thanks to the action of these muscles.

Your head and your body merge together.
Your feet push the ground, following your inhaling.

The balance of the standing body builds up from the pelvis, not from the lower limbs.

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