Archives par mot-clé : heels

the convergence

The Musician Sound Results From His Convergence

Everything converges to it

Your personal sound eventually results from many convergences. Here are a few of them :
– your body and your instrument,
your body and the ground,
inhalation and exhalation,
your air column and your diaphragm,
your inner ear and your vocal cords,
your neck and your waist back,
your embouchure and your sound source,
your sound source and your heels,
your sound and your musical ideas,
and more globally, the mental images of the musician and their subsequent physical support, like his trunk bottom and his verticality feeling, as Alfred Tomatis explains it in The Ear And The Voice.

« Be indivisible.
Pull your neck from your back waist.
Build up musical phrases and
not a number of notes.
« 

your speech is free

Being aware of your attitude at the end of your natural inhaling, linked with your relaxation flowing down to the heels, lets your voice converge with your bodythus freeing your internal resonance.

« Every evening between 8:00PM and 11:00PM for twenty years, I held seminars which led singers to become conscious of their proprioceptive sensations. As soon as they did, I knew they no longer needed my help to access the mechanisms leading to the control of the voice, since they could trigger them at will.« 

« Singing is a natural act that is superimposed on all other bodily activities. To begin this process, we have to take organs whose basic purposes are other than those we intend in singing, and tame them for our purposes. The hallmark of a high degree of mastery is that the spectator will not distinguish between the technical and the musical elements of a performance.« 

« {the teacher points at what should be felt at any specific level}

(…) Then he shows how to achieve it through an imaged way, showing then that there are three dimensions, firstly, the one of the playing artist, on another hand, that of the instrument, and finally that of the sound that emerges when the body gets to resonate.« 

« The singer, now master of his breath, with his spinal column erect and comfortably seated over the sacrum, will have complete freedom of choice in his interpretation, as he breathes life into his vibrating, resonant body.« 

the piano brain

As described in “air and breathing“, you may visualize that global convergence in your lower back, making you forget about blowing that you better vibrate, while avoiding any disturbing stress : George Kochevitsky discusses about the mental power driving this process, in The Art Of Piano Playing.

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 natural breathing, and may be visualized as arising from your deep sound source.

At this point, your sensation of being seated on the sound actually links your brain to your musical speech, making you forget about your body (your expression tool) and your instrument (your 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.« 

« Your body/mind fusion appears as THE device making EVERYTHING work together.« 

« The inner ear works in combination with the nervous system and brain in order to issue commands to the vocal cords.« 

don’t push, please !

By letting the tranverse abdominus muscle weigh on your “buoy“ surrounding your pelvis, you can then feel your internal sound flowing down to the ground (another proprioceptive image), and realize that you consume very little air. Such a richest vibration is produced from the optimal configuration of this transverse abdominus, seized at its lowest position thanks to letting it loose at the very end of your natural inhaling : the real sound is laid at this very moment, flowing down through your heels and spreading during this non-pushed exhaling.

Playing for yourself

The efficiency of those many convergences actually leads you to master your musical expression, together with achieving self-confidence and physical well-being, as Dominique Hoppenot ‘s Inner Violin / Le violon intérieur demonstrates it.

In that context, concentrating your relaxation on the sound source lets your inner vibration converge towards your heels, which at the same time frees the upper part of your body.

« We must keep in mind (…) that all problems are related. Any cutting, even a consistent one, remains a cutting of a whole and unique reality : “concentration“, for example, cannot be driven without “feeling“ ; “sound“ or “breathing“ could be placed on top of the chapters, but can they be achieved without your “body balance“ ?« 

« The exciting side of this work is that all the information so deeply felt through your body cancel at once the agonizing distance between what you want to do and what you are supposedly unable to do. Willing and power finally coincide.« 

« One who was patient enough to learn to focus throughout his learning work becomes capable in two seconds, whatever the circumstances, to come together to be able to readily express the essence of music.

When such a feeling of inner freedom is lived through, playing and practice as well become, without effort, sources of enjoyment and constant creation. It is then possible to speak without deceipt about interpretation and musical expression.« 


Charlie Parker (credit : charliebirdparker.com)

« Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom.
If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn.
« 


the sound source

The Musician Sound Flows From The Sound Source

Mastering your internal vibration progressively makes you localize its source more and more precisely.

Spreading Pleasure

You should internally visualize the source of your sound at the bottom center point of your diaphragm, down to your heels and even beneath : this is the Japanese Hara or the Chinese Tan Tsienn, representing the location of universal energy, or of your original breath. This inner process is unveiled in George Kochevitsky’s Art Of Piano Playing.

down to rooting

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 while resonating in the instrument.

Avoiding any unnecessary stresses, the wind player, or the pianist as well, can imagine and picture his vibration spreading in the ground.

« { 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.« 

From this point down, your back muscles extend the inhalation process towards exhalation, converging from the diaphragm to the transverse abdominus muscle, and the air column enters into vibration along its whole height, feeding the vocal cords, as Alfred Tomatis shows it in The Ear And The Voice.

Incidently, you might consider the various understandings of “the sound source“, all of which are relevant to our subject…

customizing your sound

The real singer or instrumentist lets his inner vibration take off from the bottom of his sound column, which he can 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 of his body radiating sound in space, over the whole tessiture of his intrument.

You can then understand your 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.« 

center yourself to better concentrate

From her side, Dominique Hoppenot shows us how your downward letting-go sets free your internal vibration control.

The player knows how to observe himself breathing lower and deeper in order to pick up his sound at its source, at the very end of his natural inhaling : to achieve this, he internalizes his feeling at the bottom-point of the diaphragm and lets it propagate down to his heels.

The relaxation flows down to the effortless vibration starting with full grain and fat : this is sound laying.

« As for a singer, the violinist sound comes from inside. Your job is actually to free your sound, the sound that you virtually have, that is to say your voice.

There is nothing to search elsewhere than inside yourself.« 

« (…) you can never escape the inner searching of your sound, the “deep dive“, as the only process able to reveal your sound asa demonstration of your “being“.« 

« You must understand your emission as if it freed a latent sound, already internalized, a sound which can somehow spread in space without the aid of the bow.« 

« You should know how to wait until the last second before landing smoothly. (…) When you start a sound, you must precisely know how to stop it in every imaginable way.« 

« (…) seating and concentrating in your Hara are meant to radiate as much energy as possible to give maximum musical power to your tactile ends.« 

« The virtual center of this process – which is the true breathing center – is thus in the middle of the belly, and not at all in the chest containing the lungs (which are nonetheless the real physiological location of the breathing function !…).« 

« Concentrating is primarily going back to the center of the body and settling there, instead of being played by divergent and opposing forces.

Hara, from Eastern people, and especially the Japanese, is the crucial point of our body. Located at the lumbosacral junction, it coincides with our center of gravity. Hara is not a specific organ that could be located anatomically, but it is the physical area where our strength is concentrated, where our stability is anchored.

Being positioned means to settle in one’s Hara, together with one’s center, as the concentrum point.« 

« Concentrate on your diaphragm : you can feel it abasing itself while inhaling and pressing down on your viscera, then flexibly raising back up while you expire. You should unveil this focal point of your breathing, but how can you locate it ? Just feel the precise point where the pressure generated by the lowering-down diaphragm converges.

(…) at about 5 cm under your ombilic and 7 to 10 cm inside your belly.« 

« You should feel and watch the point where inhaling becomes exhaling, realizing that you do not actually work your inhaling out. Visualizing this process is the whole point« 


breathing and air

The Musician Sound Develops By His Breathing And Air

Targetting your breathing towards your internal vibration is key for your sound quality, and requires only a minimal air consumption.

Breathe, You Bet !

The inner motion driving your vibration towards your instrument comes from your sound center, the location and feeling of which you get accustomed to through watching yourself naturally breathing : air naturally surrounds you and your body spontaneously ingests it during your inhaling, thanks to your diaphragm action, released then by the muscles surrounding it.

Thorax

During the inhaling stage, it is recommended not to ingest more air than your body needs through the natural operation of its diaphragm, in order to ensure the fullness of the sound to come : in other words, do not voluntarily take in any air, as Alfred Tomatis states it in The Ear And The Voice.

« What happens in normal respiration ? »

« You have to take in a comfortable amount of air, no more. Then you distribute that air with minimum pressure, as if caressing the vocal cords. This excites the spinal column so that it starts to sing.« 

« The trickiest idea to grasp is that the player must RELEASE his diaphragm during his inhaling… in other words, he should not control it, which would prevent it from freely operate by itself. To voluntarily act on this muscle, even thinking about it, would readily limit its operation.« 

singing in the open air

To sum it up,
– wanting to take some air would trigger contractions altering the depth of the air column vibrations (i.e. the sound spectrum) ;
– such contractions would subsequently disturb your air column : you would not be « sitting » in the air any more ;
– at the same time, more energy would be ill-advisedly consumed through those unwanted contractions, in order to achieve your musical speech up to your next inhaling :  your playing sequence would therefore last a shorter time and be less mastered than you would be able to achieve.

« Again, you are reminded that everything lies on the effort necessary to avoid stress.« 

« Singing well brings about the rediscovery of true respiration, calm and unstressed, with a natural physiological rhythm. The diaphragm is liberated, autonomous, not locked in expansion.« 

« Certainly all these movements and gestures are equally muscular. But they respond to a set of muscles that are the antagonistic push muscles, the flexors.« 

When you watch yourself breathing naturally, releasing your lower back rearwardly to avoid unnecessary tensions, you become aware of the connection of your body with the ground, embodied by your lower members, like a tree trunk linked to its roots.

« I used to consider the broad breathing process, coming without any pushing.« 

Then, while relaxing down to the base of the sound column, your inner vibration takes off from your heels, and you certainly do not push, consuming then as little air as possible and thus developing a rich sound spectrum.

« You should actually concentrate on your self-letting go.« 

« Such a correctly emitted sound rebalances breathing on a non-pushing mode.« 

« Part of vocal training is learning to breathe so that the exhalation coordinates with the activity of the larynx. Once we acquire excellent listening, the mechanisms that regulate the larynx, pharynx, tongue, lips, etc…, must be implemented and the vocal apparatus must function perfectly.

When all that is mastered, singing indeed seems to be simply a matter of breathing.« 

« With breathing exercises as with exercises for the larynx, you will need patience. Acquiring exceptional mastery over the breath is a long and serious learning process. You need to acquire ample, calm breathing. Never work over tension or fatigue. Short sessions through the day will yield better results than one long session.

Once the respiratory mechanism is well regulated, you have to integrate it with all the other proprioceptice sensations specific to singing.« 

« With training, only the diaphragm takes part in respiration for singing. The thoracic muscles remain in relaxed extension so the ribs stay open and cannot exert too much pressure. In fact, it is not easy to consciously direct the movements of the diaphragm to retain the air and make it flow over the vocal cords without ever pushing. (…) The thorax, as expanded as possible and relatively immobile without being locked, assures phonation.

Everyone has a different way of describing this. Gigli told me that he let his belly “fall to the ground “ to breathe and maintained the same feeling as long as the breath steam lasted. That way, the abdominal muscles do not interfere with the diaphragm.« 

« Singers must be taught to act judiciously on the exhalation.« 

When Your Internal Sensations Awaken

Hence, the best air quality is provided by a perfectly relaxed abdomen until the sound smoothly takes off, springing out of the sound source and synchronized with your exhalation, as it is scientifically explained by Claudia Spahn, Bernhard Richter, Johannes Pöppe et Matthias Echternach in their Physiological Insights for Players of Wind Instruments : you can reach this configuration by focusing on your spontaneous inhaling process while avoiding any disturbing stress by letting it going down your back. Then, you feel the air column vertically rolling down from the diaphragm, as the air gently vibrates through your heels and the ground.

« This flexible system of controlled breathing is typically called breath support. The amount of emitted air is therefore controlled by a flexible coordination of simultaneously activated inhalation and exhalation muscles. »

let your letting-go fall down !

By letting his chest relaxation flow down to the sound source, the music player secures the continuity of the internal propagation from inhaling to exhaling ; his configuration then brings a strong support to the vibration carried on by the exhaling.

« Exhalation is primarily a passive activity during non-exerted breathing, since the diaphragm relaxes while gravitational and resetting forces of the chest and the lungs act as a spring during exhalation, which narrows the chest. »

« Exhalation must perform slowly and regularly in order to play a quiet ballad. »

« If the chest is expanded, as with inhalation, exhalation automatically begins when the muscles relax and the air is exhaled without any significant muscular contraction. »

Unification of your body results from this attitude, all feelings above your diaphragm being ignored, as Dominique Hoppenot explains it in Le violon intérieur.

« The division between the “upper“ and “lower“ parts of the body vanishes when it gets unified by the tilt of the pelvis.« 

We can extend the analogy between the violin bow and the air column, as mentioned before, for the sound laying at its initial emission : the first push of the bow matches the air column beginning to vibrate, at the very moment when inhaling becomes exhaling, during the handover from the diaphragm to the transverse abdominus muscle.

« To hasten the awareness of your back muscles and integrate them quicker into your instrumental action, it is recommended to “imagine“ them, to develop their role, to locate them, to play them at will (…)« 

« One who knows how to terminate a sound is sure of being able to resume it.« 

« Breathing (…) involves the entire trunk, from the nose to the anus, in a complex and admirable muscular synergy that appears as a huge wave which rises and falls down along the trunk, without border demarcation between the “upper“ and “lower“ parts of the body.« 

« Inhaling then consists of an active tension of the diaphragm, together with a relaxation of the abdominal and pelvic muscles, while exhaling develops as an active tension of those same abdominal muscles pushing up the then-relaxed diaphragm.« 

your sound comes from your whole body

Then, the conscious motion reaches to the seamless laying of the sound (triggerring the vocal cords vibration) during the exhaling phase. This relies on the action of this specific transverse abdominus muscle, as singled out by Marie-Christine Mathieu : to maintain your sound quality, you must feel its action flowing inwards and downwards, although it makes the diaphragm slowly raise, appearing as a seeming paradox only. 

« The transverse abdominus is simply the main muscle antagonistic to the diaphragm. It comes into play to quickly and powerfully expel the air, when the diaphragm relaxation – rather inefficient then – cannot achieve it any more.« 

When you run out of available air, releasing that transverse abdominus leads to a new spontaneous inhaling through the natural down-run of the diaphragm in your back, pulling down the lungs bottom to inflate them : keeping the feeling of your sound source under your sternum will insure that your deep sound extends through your next exhaling.

« A true person breathes through his heels. »

« You must relax when completing your inhaling, doing so, your instrument is naturally played.« 

« The floating ribs get raised, which we name the costo-abdominal-diaphragmatic breathing. We should even say “diaphragmatic-costo-abdominal“ breathing, since inhaling is generated by the diaphragm.« 

« Whether you play or you sing, the diaphragm raises, you don’t care about it, but it does go up. Relaxing carries inhaling, you don’t have to inhale, the diaphragm works that out. Release everything ! Don’t take any air in ! Thank you, and here it goes again and now…music comes in, not air.« 

« The diaphragm operation determines the freedom of the aerial ways which proves vital to the technical operation of a wind instrument.« 

« For singers and wind players, the breathing maximum does not mean the technical optimum.« 

« The diaphragm mobility around the floating ribs and the jaw flexibility both determine the pharynx opening, the free air flow, hence the sound magnitude and its spectral richness together with its emission comfort.« 

« Air should flow down while you inhale and certainly should not go up for the exhaling phase, but to the opposite, it should keep flowing down. Whichever way it runs out, you should consider that it does not flow back up to exit through your mouth, but it keeps flowing down during your low exhaling and your vertical pushing.« 

« Thinking about the breath causes restriction, by forcing muscles to act counter to natural principles… Just focusing on the musical result you want will dictate how you’re going to use your air. »

David Liebman  remembers these words from Joe Allard, the teacher master who made him discover his sound mastery :

« Joe Allard would say (in perfect French of course) : “Jouer, c’est respirer, il n’y a pas de différence.” »

And George Kochevistsky shows that knowing how to manage your vibration source means a minimal physical effort for your sound production :

« The execution of a complex movement requires not only precise timing regulation but also involvement of the least muscle work needed for any given action. This is achieved by localizing the excitatory process.« 


the posture

The Musician Sound And His 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.« 


the instrument

The Musician Sound And His Instrument

The quality of your sound is ensured if your musician body and your instrument literally operate on the same wave length.

Merging Your Instrument With Your Body

The musical instrument, whether it uses wind, strings or skins, acts as an amplifier of the musician’s voice directly driven by his inner vibration : to take advantage of this amplifier’s acoustics, the player aims at stimulating its resonance, and at merging with the vibration inside his body.

« Your body is your real instrument. »

« The horn is like a megaphone which amplifies the sound wave set up by the vocal cords and reed vibration. Air, even air lying still in the horn itself, becomes sound. »

The Whole Body Sings

As Alfred Tomatis describes it in The Ear And The Voice, the musician must make his body sing, hence vibrate, in order to feed his instrument and so that it sounds, again and again, and resonates.

your voice is your first instrument

Thanks to relaxation flowing down to your heels, you visualize your embouchure at the bottom of the sound column : it is revealed, at the very end of inhalation, as gently landing on the source of vibration, generating your inner sound which then spreads around, being amplified by your instrument.

« For a singer, virtuosity means neurological control of those parts of the body specialized in singing, as if it were a musical instrument. (…) Having learned to merge himself with his instrument, the great virtuoso can then become totally objective at will.« 

« It is futile to try to sing if this self-image is not integrated through a singing instrument, a vocal instrument. (Adapted by Guy Robert)« 

« A well-defined body image specific to the act of singing implies a well-organized mental attitude and finely tuned alignment, which will allow the entire body to resonate during singing.« 

Your Body Makes Your Instrument Sound

Speaking of windplayers, their sound obviously builds up from their vibrating air column, as Phil Woods tells us about his saxophone sound, during a Master Class at New York University :

« You find the center of that horn for your physionomy : the node, what makes it vibrate, you know, and when you find it, it’s there. »

the violin extends the body

The sound vibration remains at the core of playing any type of instrument, as Dominique Hoppenot shows it in her Inner Violin / Le violon intérieur.

From this point of view, you may devise the violin <=> saxophone analogy : the bow <=> air column excites the string <=> reed, the vibration of which is then amplified by the violin body <=> sax tube.

« (…) the violin player should feel the violin and the bow as an extension of his own body : they both appear as outgrown from him to the point where you expand your body scheme up to the instrument boundaries.« 

« The violin and the bow then behave as revealers of your body sound and not as instruments creating music from scratch.« 

« Virtuosity is enhanced by the absolute invariance of the violin against the body, of the bow extending the arm.« 

« Your efforts are motivated by your expected improvement, which is not brought as a systematic reward from each practice session. It requires some period of time to mature and may come out when unexpected. »

Your Instrument In Your Head

As a music player, you should devote the necessary time to physically and mentally assimilate this process, aiming at unifying your instrument with your body.

« Many years of solitary introspection lead me to analyze and to understand the unconscious operations of our body, when we vibrate an instrument.« 

Then, the sound to come should be mentally anticipated and devised by the windplayer, before he takes and brings his instrument to his mouth :

« (…) you should be aware of everything which must be achieved before playing a sound : here is the real work. To achieve this : refrain from holding the instrument in your hands.« 

the piano mind

Concentrating on proprioceptive images drives your internal vibration to your instrument, giving life to your musical ideas over your natural breathing as if you would sing them : then your instrument amplifies and projects them around.

As soon as your instrument seems forgotten, since you are relaxing yourself on your sound center (the location of which is felt from your appropriate body preparation), you feel as if you were directly plugged to your musical speech : you do not pay attention to the so-called technical problems, and become the actual master of your instrument. To really enjoy it, you should play soft and full tones in order to better drive the sound emission.

The full sensation of your sound requires some progression, beginning with a slow, soft and precise pattern : such a practicing indeed gives time to your vibrating sound to deploy and settle in your voice, enhancing your sensations flow from your belly bottom down to your heels. Then, keeping your sound source located as low as possible, makes you hold your optimal and fat vibration longer and longer. This way, you physically understand how your musical thought can drive your instrument.

In his Art Of Piano Playing, George Kochevitsky describes this easiness sensation as resulting from the mental control on the playing apparatus, showing how your musical idea drives your instrument playing.

« { 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 andReorganization of Piano Technique“) was published. }

Beginning practice starts with too much expenditure of force. The elimination of too much muscle action is the real basis for developing agility.« 

« While the mind is dominating and determining this goal, the whole arm is “the animated tool“, but always, only the tool.« 

« { Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) was the first to emphasize consistently the importance of mental factors in the pianist’s practical work. He presented his ideas in his edition of the Bach Well-Tempered Clavichord (1894). }

Busoni suggests that, until the musical meaning becomes clear, one should not touch the instrument. Because the demands of the keyboard tend to force one to forget about musical meaning, mental practicing away from the instrument plays an important part in the preparatory work.« 

« 1/3 – When a stimulus creates excitation, the result is a discharge of impulses. Inhibition suppresses superfluous (or even harmful) excitation. The restraining, coordinating and protective role of inhibition is of utmost importance in the integrative activity of the central nervous system (…)

2/3 – Slow and extremely even playing is indispensable, not only for obtaining clear proprioceptive sensations but for strengthening the inhibitory process.

3/3 – For strengthening the inhibitory process, I recommend practicing pianissimo, extremely evenly, in slow as well as in faster tempos. The student should also be able to regulate both sudden and gradual increase or decrease in volume in any section of the composition and in any conceivable tempo. The ability to do this, plus the ability to slow down and to stop at any given moment, is the best proof of proper balance between excitatory and inhibitory processes.« 

« When a pianist realizes a given musical idea, the tonal image, the auditory stimulation (conditional stimulus), must always precede the motor reaction (unconditional stimulus), in performance as well as in practicing.« 

« The musical incentive has to be a signal provoking the motor activity. Otherwise the latter, the technique, can easily become an end in itself.« 

« Each time an intricate passage is repeated, its execution demands a new adaptation, and so acquiring technique appears as adjustment. Repetition, instead of dull drilling, now becomes a trial solution, a trial always rationally prepared.« 

« During one practice period, several conscious well-prepared repetitions of a troublesome spot in a piece can be sufficient. When we repeat that spot too many times, our attention is weakened and consequently distracted : unconscious repetition would probably obliterate the positive results we had achieved.« 

« (…) the increase of tempo while studying a musical composition should proceed gradually, and this increase must often alternate with slow and very careful playing. The ability to play evenly and the ability to slow down at any point in a passage serve as criteria of precise and sufficient inhibition. (…) Deep legato practicing is extremely useful for strengthening weak nervous processes.« 

« { Josef Hofmann (1876-1957) }

““The full acoustic picture of the music must be lodged in the mind, before it can be expressed through the hands.“ Then the “playing“ is simply the manual expression of something a pianist knows.« 

Sax And Clarinet Aligned With Your Body

More precisely, when the woodwind player lets his clarinet vibrate, after having stabilized his sound on the saxophone, he gets a better mastery from this approach, with respect to the somewhat different tension of the sound, considering the air column should develop the same way in a well centered and verticalized manner, in order to obtain the much sought-after playing ease. 

Eddie Daniels explains with his words how he gets carried away by his clarinet :

« The clarinet disappears, and I disappear and all you hear is music. (…) It’s playing so great that I forget there is a clarinet. »

« The  clarinet is leading me. (…) Sometimes the clarinet is playing me ; sometimes I think I’m playing the clarinet : that’s when it’s wrong ! When you think you’re playing the clarinet, already there’s too much separation between you and the clarinet, and then it’s not really happening (…) so when it’s just the music. »