Alexander Technique and the guitar – taking it to the next level

So those of you that are regular readers of the blog will know that, over the past few months, I’ve been undergoing a series of Alexander Technique (AT) sessions. This has had enormous benefits in many areas of my life, but it’s original and primary focus was to help me become more aware of where I’m holding tension in my body and how to not run the tension strategies anymore.

Well, it’s had some significant benefits in terms of making me more relaxed when playing and any pains and aches that I used to have in my neck and shoulders are now non-existent.

So last night, Kate (my AT teacher from AT Body Sense) and I decided to take things to the next level. Up until now all the work we’ve been doing has been me lying on a bed (start easy, so lying down means there’s fewer things moving or needing stabilising, consciously or unconsciously), me sitting down,moving in  and out of a chair and walking around.

So far so good.

Now we’ve done that foundation work, that has created an excellent preparation for working directly with the instrument. And boy, did we do some work – or not work, if you want to look at it that way. AT is not about doing more stuff, or doing full stop. It’s about not doing anymore.

Who knew it would be so mentally and physically challenging to not do something! Hah hah! Kate assures me that the tiredness I feel after a session means there’s good change happening and I believe her too from what I’ve experienced to date.

So what did we do?

First up Kate got me playing, just as I would normally do. Observing how I hold myself whilst playing something I’m very comfortable with and then with something still being committed to full memory, something I was less comfortable with. From this little exercise she could note where I was holding tension in my body from the get go, where I was putting tension and moving when reacting to a glitch, and how I was moving my body in respond to or in aid of the dynamics or musical direction of the music. All this from about the sum total of about 50 bars of music!

After explaining and demonstrating to me where I was holding myself back and limiting even the sound and tone I was making, she then proceed to show me alternative approaches to moving – such as being free to move back and forth from the hips and not from the chest, and generally being softer though the chest.

She then proceeded to work directly hands on with me whilst playing (an interesting and actually very helpful challenge in itself!), to draw my awareness to what I was doing with my body and actually how I could move it. The amazing and fantastic thing was that when I relaxed these area and allowed myself to move and be moved in certain ways my volume and tone just went KABOOM! There was a discernible difference from my vantage point and Kate said she was blown away and wished I could hear it from her perspective. A massive difference. Not that I had rubbish tone beforehand, but if this technique can help me get an an extra 10% that I now know is there, then bring it on!

So her advice over the coming couple of weeks for me was to just carry on my practice as normal but for 5 or 10 minutes in a session bring my full awareness to my body and where I can make myself more available for awesome ear-popping tone and volume! And I will! And I’ll let you know how it goes.



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