Archives par mot-clé : inner vibration

highs and lows

The Musician Sound From Lows To Highs

The broad breathing allows the sound column to vibrate homogeneously over the whole tessiture.

Upper And Lower

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.

You can 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 from lower to higher pitch this body configuration of your air column and of your embouchure throughout the whole range : among other benefits, this brings a gratifying comfort feeling and allows the legato playing between the end-notes of the tessiture.

« 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.« 

« 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. »

« 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. »

vibrate effortlessly

Anticipating the vibration of the sound column from your heels fosters your verticality and brings a rich and consistent voice throughout the tessiture, reflecting the body-space trade amplified by the musician’s instrument : the invariance of this body attitude ensures an easy emission of lower and higher notes as well.

« Laryngeal vibrations form fundamental tones, while the harmonic shower of sparks associated with the fundamentals, rich in higher frequencies and reinforcing the initial sound considerably, depends on the skeleton.« 

« There are many advantages to the activation of this bony resonance. The energy that is dispensed is extremely important. Ample, warm, dense sounds are made with minimum effort.

It takes some work to get the feeling of ascending the scale without expending any energy at all. You have to learn to differentiate between the kind of energy that seems necessary to rise in pitch, and tension in the larynx.

It is easy to confuse going up in pitch, with its attendant naturally increasing intensity, with the need to employ effort, which is entirely unrelated. The intensity of sound comes from avoiding any pushing, so that the larynx is free to drop slightly lower. (…) the sensation of support will shift lower in the body at the same time.« 

listen to your enjoyment

The homogeneity of the sound material to be sculpted makes the whole pitch range available to your fingers’ work (combined with the tongue of the wind players) : on this ground, the musician’s personal speech leans on the spectral richness of the overtones of his inner vibration, thanks to a uniform technical ease ignoring the alleged difficulties related to playing low or high notes.

« The interpreter who genuinely listens, that is to say, listens to both what he wants to play and what he played, is confident to master its sound (…)« 

« Once you found your wide, colorful and relaxed sound, which may go unscathed from the most extreme fortissimo to the most intimate pianissimo, and able to carry all the richest emotions of the human soul into these extreme shades, then you have found yourself, which leads you to an unrivaled joy (…)« 

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 brings you enjoyment and self-confidence.


the embouchure

The Musician Sound Through His Embouchure

The instrument of the woodwind player really appears to behave as his megaphone, thanks to his embouchure.

Get Your Mask Down !

Your mouth / mouthpiece / reed / ligature set defines your global embouchure : this configuration may vary between players, closely combining your morphology and the gear you use.

Your inner resonance propagates to the reed, which should easily vibrate, opposing a low resistance, hence a not too hard reed is recommended in order to be able to master the depth of the sound, shaped up at the bottom of the air column (Peter King had told me once how he had bee surprised to see that Cannonball Adderley was playing a really weak reed, when he substituted him in England in the 70’s).

This way, you define the best mouthpiece/reed combination for your sound control : this compromise depend on several factors, but you must know how to adjust it, mainly by selecting another reed, on your usual mouthpiece. And if you need a softer reed to ease out your playing, then you would be able to modulate your reed strength later on, bringing full balance and self-confidence : through your mentally visualizing that your emission remains centered on the sound source, you avoid unnecessary contractions above your diaphragm (which would be triggered by too hard a reed), following the recommendations of Alfred Tomatis in The Ear And The Voice.

deep throat

By focusing on the opening of his sound column backward and downward, the player forgets about his real trunk and his mouth, thus ensuring that his throat remains free of contractions.

« The objective for both the pharynx and the larynx is to keep the throat open and supple, avoiding closure by the constrictor muscles. The regulation of the pharynx under the organizing control of the ear consists of achieving what is famous in singing as the open throat with the help of the dilator muscles and the tongue.« 

Think Your Sound, But No Pressing

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

Dominique Hoppenot describes how the violon player lets his vibration propage to the violon body through his clavicle.

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

Once your posture is set up and stabilized, your instrument naturally gets seized by your hands (entering your mouth if you are a wind player), to amplify the sound prepared in advance ; then your flexible and relaxed embouchure, which you actually forget, since you are focussed on the air column bottom, comes into play : it links you, as the sender (the instrumentist’s body), to the amplifier (the instrument body). The projected sound gets now worked out by your fingers, and your tongue (if relevant).

« You should forget all about your embouchure positioning, and be sure not to press it.« 

« The goal is to be as relax as possible in the embouchure area, so that the delicate mechanisms at the reed can be free to occur without exerting a strain on its vibrational capacity. By the time the air stream reaches the mouthpiece, the major portion of the work for a personal sound has already been completed.« 

« When you let your mouthpiece come to your mouth, enjoyment also enters as an intruding momentum. The same way as when you take momentum to jump over an obstacle, boom ! there it goes, you are played by your instrument, so you should not play yourself, this is not a wordplay.

As little as your embouchure takes off, then you nail your mouthpiece pinch, without looking for it, playing means then sitting on the air, this is fantastic !« 

« Generally, I prefer closer mouthpieces, but I try to find the combination of the length of the facing and the tip opening so that I don’t have to press hard to play it, so that everything feels easy.« 


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« 


the sound column

The Musician Sound Grows Up His Sound Column

The musician’s inner vibration is the raw material of his artistic expression, which eventually comes out from his instrument.

Like Standing For The Ovation

The inner vibration of the windplayer expands in his air column, then gets amplified by his instrument, through his vocal cords and his embouchure.

« You should always internalize yourself, this way, stretching the sound out is appropriate, but doing so, just focus on the sound only, and keep your vertical standing up, together with your body opening.« 

« When you sing, your body does open up, and it should always behave this way, we name it “sitting on the air“.« 

« The idea is that the movements of the vocal cords be utilized for the artistic purposes of shaping a sound. »

from the air column to the sound column

You can live through this slender inner space – rather named “column of sound“ by Alfred Tomatis in The Ear And The Voice – by relaxing your abdomen muscles, focussing on your natural breathing process : that makes you forget about your embouchure while enhancing your verticality and the deep rooting of the air column, like a tree trunk which would be embodied by your lower limbs.

When focusing on relaxation flowing down your rear back, starting from the end of your natural (and non-forced) inhaling, your air column – or better, your sound column – must be felt as deep as possible, in order to reach its stable position, as though you were sitting on the radiating vibration, which then excites another column, a physical one this time, your cervical/vertebral spine.

« In correct emission, the larynx is lined up against the cervical spine which, excited by the vibrations transmitted to the larynx by the vocal cords, starts to sing of its own accord.

Under these circumstances, the larynx is excited exactly as the strings of a violin. It is the strings that vibrate and the violin that sings. When the posture of the singer is well aligned, his larynx excites the vertebral column just as if it were that little piece of wood inside the violin that is called the “soul“ of the violin. Its purpose is to carry sound from the anterior plate to the posterior plate.  We want to make a column of sound, resonant over and under the glottis, not a column of air, as myth would have it.« 

« (…) But it is one thing to talk about a column of air with all the ideas that are usually associated to it : the push, the pressure, tension on the cords, etc.., but a column of sound is something altogether different.

The latter implies relaxation, a measured and tranquil expenditure, being on the lookout for tension, to reduce effort, to avoid pressure.« 

strings and body and soul

The same process operates with a violin player, who plays his instrument ideally merged with his body : Dominique Hoppenot outlines this resonance-amplification sequence in Le violon intérieur.

Once installed, the air column is ready to “play“ the violinist’s body, as soon as the bow vibrates the string : this vibration gets enriched by the resonance of the violinist’s body, thanks to its transmission through the clavicle, then is amplified by the violin body.

« Thanks to its internal architecture, your body will cease to be an obstacle, behaving then as a true sounding board and as an amplifier of your faithful musical emotions, in the same way as for singers.« 

« Such as your voice, your sound is the absolute musical support, the wire that carries the music and inspires emotion. Hence, it is as compelling to “position“ your sound as it is to position your voice.« 

« To vibrate, it is necessary (…) at first to start from the idea of sound, not from the obsession of gesture. You should not vibrate to produce a “vibrato“ but to vibrate the sound through a deeply “felt“ pulsation. The good vibrato, able to convey your emotion, therefore picks up your natural vibration and amplifies it at your will.« 

« The singers and wind players know for sure that they cannot get a decent sound emission without their breathing being positioned, without their famous “air column“.

They also know that they can neither phrase music, nor actually play it without knowing how to play their breathing with ease.« 


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. »


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. » 

Making The Sound Ripen

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, while keeping 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.

Some References

The following authors are feeding my thoughts on how to master your internal vibration and provide numerous leads towards the free expression of your musical intent.


Home

/

/

/

/