Archives par mot-clé : improvement

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. »