Archives par mot-clé : roots

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.


a virtual trunk

The Musician Sound Springs Out Of The Virtual Trunk

Where you realize you are perched on top of a virtual trunk.

Mastering Your Perching Up

Merging yourself with your instrument makes you vertically work out your air column, letting your relaxation rolling downwards : thereby, the part of your body located above your diaphragm becomes oblivious, while you can visualize the embouchure at the sound source, as your vital center in your belly bottom.

« You feel your upper body components to become lighter, as if they were freed from gravity, while you get invaded by an immovable, but not heavy, stability feeling in your abdomen.« 

« {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 successful pianistic 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 psycho-technical school advocates the free and complete use of all parts of the pianist’s apparatus, beginning at the fingertips and including the torso. This technique is universal, or in other words, the really natural technique of coordination.« 

grow your roots

Hence, your real physiologic trunk fades out behind the air column, while your pelvis and lower limbs appear now as a new virtual tree trunk, the roots of which ensure your posture stability and propagate the vibrating sound around.

« Grass cannot grow without its roots. Same thing with your sound : if you don’t provide it with roots, it crashes down, it’s as simple as that.

You can hold on to this natural breathing only if you stay relaxed. For that, you need to stand grounded on your feet, well balanced around your center of gravity.

When seated, you should consciously feel your buttocks and your feet. Anyway, you must be grounded, then you can let your relaxation spread downwards.« 

« You feel as if you were changed into a statue. You hang to the ground and not to your trumpet.« 

« The main idea consists in using gravity, instead of struggling with it, and in pulling power from the ground.

To achieve this, the musician should picture himself getting rooted like a tree : he then pushes downwards and the ground sends this input power back to him.« 


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.«