Archives par mot-clé : verticality

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.« 


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. »