Archives par mot-clé : relaxation

body and breathing

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 ; such a configuration then brings a strong support to the vibration carried by the exhaling, from the very end of inhaling.

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 melody.

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.

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.

Claudia Spahn, Bernhard Richter, Johannes Pöppe et Matthias Echternach,
Physiological Insights for Players of Wind Instruments (DVD)
(excerpts selected by  Guy Robert)

la respiration et le corps

En laissant descendre la relaxation depuis son torse jusqu’à la source du son, l’instrumentiste assure la continuité de la transition de l’inspiration à la respiration ; cette configuration permet ensuite de soutenir la vibration portée par l’expiration, à partir de la toute-fin de l’inspiration.

L’expiration est essentiellement une activité passive lors de la respiration spontanée, puisque le diaphragme est relâché pendant que, sous l’action de la gravité et de la réinitialisation, le torse et les poumons réagissent comme un ressort en se rétrécissant.

L’expiration doit se déployer lentement et régulièrement afin de permettre la bonne interprétation d’une ballade musicale.

Prolongeant l’inspiration, qui s’accompagne de l’expansion de la poitrine, l’expiration continue automatiquement grâce à la relaxation musculaire et l’air est expiré sans aucune contraction.

Ce processus souple de respiration contrôlée est désigné par “souffle soutenu”. Ainsi, la quantité d’air émise résulte de l’action finement coordonnée des muscles de l’inspiration et de l’expiration fonctionnant simultanément.

Claudia Spahn, Bernhard Richter, Johannes Pöppe et Matthias Echternach,
Éclairages physiologiques pour les instrumentistes à vent (DVD)
(extraits sélectionnés et traduits par Guy Robert)

converging inner violin

Concentrating your relaxation on the sound source is a prerequisite to the convergence of your inner vibration towards your heels, which 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.

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

voice is free

Being aware of your attitude at the end of your natural inhaling, then of its extended relaxation flowing down to the heels, leads you to the descending convergence of your body with your voice, thus radiating its 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.

(adapted by Guy Robert)

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.

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

the convergence

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, your own mental images and their subsequent physical support, like your trunk bottom and your verticality feeling, as Alfred Tomatis explains it in The Ear And The Voice.

As described in “air and breathing“, you may visualize that global convergence in your lower back, making you vibrate and forget about blowing, hence avoiding any disturbing stress : the control of the mental power on this matter is outlined in George Kochevitsky’s Art Of Piano Playing.

By freeing the tranverse abdominus muscle and letting it press 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 burn 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.

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

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

Robert Pichaureau, Favorite Expressions
(translated by Guy Robert)

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

Michel RicquierL’utilisation des ressources intérieures
(translated by Guy Robert)

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

David LiebmanDeveloping a Personal Saxophone Sound

Try to build your solos.

Phil WoodsMaster Class at New York University

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

Charlie ParkerThe Official Web Site of Charlie Parker

the sensations

Mastering your expression leads you to enjoyment, all the more spontaneous as it results from a relaxation, rather than from a physical strike : letting this internal opening spread downwards fosters your feelings, enhancing your self-confidence and ensuring your sound quality. George Kochevitsky analyzes in his Art Of Piano Playing the linking between the muscles synchronization and the quality of the musical output.

That being understood, you quietly settle your internal configuration, then you, as a wind player (still not supposed to blow !), drive your instrument to your mouth : at the same time, capturing your diaphragm positioning at the very end of your natural inhaling, you let that sensation flow backwards, starting or keeping your stable vibrating on your exhalingYou end up sitting on the sound propagating through the ground, then in the surrounding space – as Alfred Tomatis shows it in The Ear And The VoiceYour absolute non-pushing, combined with the vertical sensation generated from your Hara, lets your vibration spread from your heels, in the same fashion as does Dominique Hoppenot‘s Inner Violin.

Your thinking drives your will for sure, but since your will may cancel your desire, you cannot reach your balance without desire and you cannot succeed without enjoyment.

Yes, these are only sentences, but they depict the real life, it’s as simple as the art of being yourself, however you should not think in order to be yourself, this is the reason why we say that you should be self-confident.

You should feel as an artist, and develop an expressive relaxation, in other words, as Mrs Hoppenot states it in “Le violon intérieur“, tonicity in relaxation.

Robert Pichaureau
(translated by Guy Robert)

You should feast yourself with music.
You should live your sound.
Life is in the guts.
You head should drop down in your shoulders, you should pack down, to make a HEAP of yourself !

Robert Pichaureau, Favorite Expressions
(translated by Guy Robert)

The less energy spent on technical production, the more available for creativity.

Being as relaxed as possible in playing allows the creative mind as well as the emotions to more easily come forth.

David LiebmanDeveloping a Personal Saxophone Sound

Take more chances.

Phil WoodsMaster Class at New York University

(…) the whole thing is about relaxation ; all of music for me is about relaxation : if you’re uptight when you’re playing, the music is uptight.

And if you’re totally in the zone where you’re just so cool, you’re having fun (…)

Eddie Daniels, in
The Music of Eddie Daniels, Eddie on Standards

inner violin source

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 : such 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 ofyour 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.

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

voice source

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

We can then talk about the personal tone color.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

piano without blowing

Forget about your body, and concentrate on your relaxed vibration flowing down to your heels (while you are standing up, or being seated like the pianist) : the good sound then surges around. Localize your sound center point, and free your diaphragm so that you feel as sitting on it, then filling your sound with overtones.

{ 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. }

Following Steinhausen’s motto that we cannot teach our body how to move, the psycho-technical school suggests that the more our consciousness is diverted from the movement, and the stronger it is concentrated on the purpose of this movement, the more vividly do artistic idea and tonal conception persist in the mind. Consequently, the artistic conception creates a desire for its realization, the will impulse occasioned thereby becomes more energetic, the needed natural movement is found more easily, and the process of its automatization is accomplished sooner.

The roots of technique are in our central nervous system. The problems connected with muscular conditions and outward appearance of our playing apparatus are important, but they are secondary.

George Kochevitsky, The Art Of Piano Playing

do not blow

To ensure a clean and flawless emission, either fff or ppp – and without using the tongue edge for the first one ! -, you should precisely imagine the mouthpiece rim plugged to the sound source. By keeping the air column open downwards, thanks to the perfect trunk relaxation from your natural breathing source, your exhaling extends your inhaling inwards and propagates the sound down to the ground.

Thanks to his proprioceptive pictures, the music player drives his relaxation down to his sound center (i.e. his natural breathing center point) from where his internal vibration arises : from that point, his transverse abdominus pushes backwards the vibrating exhalation, ensuring then the full dynamics and the stability of the sound.
That was meant by Beniamino Gili when he used to drop his belly down to the ground in order to capture and maintain this feeling all along the emission of his sound, without disturbing the action of the diaphragm (see voice and breathing).
In other words, the voice of the musician must play his body’s resonance, without addressing it directly, so as to avoid parasite contractions. 

You should certainly not blow at this point, because you are already sitting on the air, with full confidence, and you readily play without any blowing noise disturbing the emitted sound : actually, either your tongue is not active, lying still in the back of your mouth, or it moves backwards from the mouthpiece rim to let the reed vibrate. There, you actually sing, using as little air as possible, and making out that actual playing implies no blowing (in French, “Souffler n’est pas jouer“).

George Kochevitsky shows in his Art Of Piano Playing how you should forget about any apparent physical motion, in order to enhance the quality of the result of your musical intent. You sure must not blow, since the air is not to be pushed out, but you rather do sing internally and downwards, as Alfred Tomatis demonstrates it in The Ear And The Voicethe vibrating air is warm, and that can be felt by feeling the sax neck, which can even be considered as an evidence for your fat and lived-on sound quality, spreading in the ground through your feet.

Dominique Hoppenot‘s Inner Violin also reveals in its way your inner and downward singing.

In your true sound, which was not worked out yet, you can find all colors, vibrations and overtones : your sound is lived through, it is not worked out. 

Robert Pichaureau
(translated by Guy Robert)

You should imagine your embouchure in your belly.
Feel like playing inside your body.
Your breath flows inwards, certainly not the other way around.
Your instrument will play you.
The singing breath is enough.
If you don’t vibrate, then your breath is not warm enough.
Your breath should flow out through your ears.
Your breath should flow out through your neck.
You should feel as if your breath flows out from your whole body, but not from front.

Robert Pichaureau Favorite Expressions
(translated by Guy Robert)

Finally, years later, I realized the importance of Joe’s exercises and explanations : the “fat“ bottom lip, the abdominal breath, the “e“ position for the back of the tongue, anchor tonguing for the tip and more.

These were guiding principles and once understood, it meant that you were playing the saxophone as intended, as an extension of your voice, not as some separate piece of brass that you fingered.

David LiebmanRemembering the Master

Don’t play the saxophone. Let it play you.

Charlie Parker