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Alexander technique


Daisy
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I saw this mentioned on another thread and I've recently had a few lessons myself. Has anyone taken lessons for a long period of time and found it helps? It seems like the technique is obsessed with keeping everything- especially neck/shoulders- in a seemingly neutral back-and-down position that actually makes me more sore after playing like that (and adding a hard shoulder rest or more sponges to accomodate that). I guess I question the whole philosophy of putting your body in a neutral position and leaving it there whenever possible. I've always thought of bodies more as machines- they're made to move, (although obviously not in constantly awkward or inhibited ways.) At $40 an hour, its too expensive to argue with my teacher- so any comments from people here? At the moment I feel like the alexander lessons are messing me up more than helping, but if I thought they would eventually help I'd keep on.

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It wasn't intended to be solely for musicians. But it seems like a lot of musicians turn to it. I think it would be better suited to those who sit in front of a computer all day.

I've taken a few classes. It's not for me. I don't have anything against good posture, but I feel like AT contradicts the feeling I like of things being settled. Gravity is there no matter what.

Slouching is a more relaxed position than sitting up straight. You can fall asleep slouching but not while sitting up straight. Not that anyone should badly slouch either, but I like to droop just a little.

On the flip side, I do know musicians who swear by it and some who even swear it kept them from being sidelined permanently.

But to the best of my knowledge, none of my musical role models practice it.

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I studied Tae Kwon Do for 4 years, and Judo for 2 years when I was

younger. Martial arts are great, but I'm sure Alexander technique

or Yoga are also along the same lines. The main thing is to find

the best teacher near you. I would also recommend Tai Chi. Anyway,

if you find a good teacher, then it's really worth trying for a

while. It might help, or it might not, but it may surprise you

in that it could help things you didn't even know about.

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One of the central notions of Alexander Technique (in my limited understanding) isn't simply the idea of a neutral position, but of a positive *decision* as to how to place the body. That one should become aware of, and able to control, habits of position. It isn't simply a rigid notion of good posture vs slouching, but of becoming aware of the body as a machine, understanding it's habits and inertia's, and deciding to control positions in favor of those that are less damaging (even if more comfortable) to the body in the long run.

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our body frames are all different.  some are bulldogs, some,

greyhounds.  there will not be one size fit all....for

anything, including exercises.

however, in general, from my observations, musicians are more

developed with finer muscles in the hands and have horrible atrophy

everywhere else.

without good general muscle tone and strength, from head to toe,

you cannot maintain posture with will and awareness alone.

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"At the moment I feel like the alexander lessons are messing me up more than helping, but if I thought they would eventually help I'd keep on."

I think that reading one of the many excellent illustrated books on the Alexander Technique available at Amazon.com is the best way to approach the technique. Once you have the understanding of what it involves and how it works, then you can be more receptive and available to 'latch onto' the wonderful advantages that this way of thinking and acting brings to life.

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Alexander should be incredibly relaxing and should leave you feeling better, not worse. I think it can be extremely helpful to any musician, and I've seen it work dramatic results in master classes. You might want to check out Pedro de Alcantara's book, Indirect Procedures. Mr. de Alcantara is probably the most important teacher of the technique to musicians in the world. You ought to find out if you can ever take a lesson with him or watch a master class. Make sure you're positive about your Alexander Teacher, Daisy. Some are good and some are bad. Good luck.

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There is some common sense around supplementary training like

Alexander technique:

It is as useful or useless as any training without fishing rod for

better fishing result or any training for painters not involving

colors and brushes.

There is also one inherent danger: This technique will not and

cannot compensate for a wrong instrument-bow setup (position, form

and material of chin and shoulder rest, position of the instrument

versus your body etc.). With the exception of very few unusually

gifted players, everybody needs a really good violin teacher

for that. There are even specialist for this type of setup

problem.

Without fixing your setup for better health, intonation and

endurance any training around your body might make your wrong setup

more "bearable" and increase the likelihood of permanent damage and

slow progress even further.

FMF

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The funny thing is, I feel that I'm set up fine- so does my teacher. After watching my audition tapes over the last week, I can honestly say that I don't look tense when I play, and I also feel basically fine. (After a long day (5+ hours of playing) I do get a bit sore but not in one spot. My chiropracter (who is very qualified to work with musicians) says that a little bit of soreness is normal and that my set up looks fine. What the Alexander teacher seems to be saying is that if you play with "alexander" methods your body will never have any stress on it and you will never get sore. That just seems weird to me- after all, we're using our bodies to play, not just sitting there. I don't know...

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Unfortunately there are at least three variables to the

equation:

A "fine" setup can turn out "not fine" in no time when you are very

demanding and successful about intonation. Quite a few players

do not realize that their setup has got at least a 50% share in

successful intonation and NOT the duration of the practicing.

A "fine" setup can turn out "not fine" in no time when you are very

demanding and successful about fast playing.

A "fine" setup can turn out "not fine" in no time when changing

your dress.

Other way around: the less demanding you are about intonation and

speed of acquiring a piece and playing it in tempo the less

important is your setup. In another thread here we discussed the

difference between players studying e.g. a Brahms concerto for 12

months and others for 4 weeks to get stage ready. There the

proper setup is responsible for at least 50% of the success.

FMF

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I wish there were at least one outstanding musician's endorsement out there for Alexander Technique.

If say, Yefim Bronfman, Christian Tetzlaff, Joshua Bell, Pinchas Zukerman, or any other great musician were to swear by it, then that would mean something.

I find musicians who swear by it often have problems that they've given up on finding common sense solutions to. And just as often they become obsessed with eliminating all tension to the point that they forget about music.

A little bit of tension is ok, the body can take it. But straining something for hours is not ok, and that needs a technical adjustment. This kind of advice is better given from someone knowledgable about playing the insturment, rather than a posture and body movement expert.

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Outstanding musicians often have a natural understanding of the technique without ever studying it. This is part of what makes them outstanding. Arthur Rubenstein is always cited as the prime example of exhibiting every trait of having studied the technique without ever having studied it. I've seen it in a masterclass setting where the technique will completely change a person's sound for the better. It is an incredible thing to see and it was so instantaneous that there could be no other explanation.

I think general Alexander practice can be extremely helpful, but I think flaco has a good point and that you're best off looking for an Alexander teacher who specializes in dealing with musicians. We have very specific needs.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
flaco
I find musicians who

swear by it often have problems that they've given up on finding

common sense solutions to.... This kind of advice is better given

from someone knowledgeable about playing the instrument, rather

than a posture and body movement expert.

You're exactly right on both points.

Great natural players "see" the solutions to many issues as simply

common sense. The rest of us pay teachers to point them out.

All of us know not to do certain things with our bodies: hunch our

shoulders or hike our chin up while driving or at the computer,

clench our jaws hinges, grind our teeth. It's common sense, but we

do them anyway because we don't notice that we're doing

them

If we could always notice what we do on the violin and fix

it, we'd only have to hear (or say) anything once.

Wouldn't that be nice? "Guide with your first finger when you

shift." There, all done.

Our bodies are single integrated systems, and what we do in one

place affects what happens in another. Try playing with your feet

in an odd position for a few hours. You may end up with a stiff

thumb, or your double stops might go right down the tubes. I

wore a new skirt in a concert once that didn't allow my knees to

find their usual angle, and my vibrato got nasty-tight. Go

figure.

Our bodies are instruments too; we play them. A good Alexander

teacher will help you to notice -truly perceive - how you are

playing your body so that you yourself can make the changes that

will allow you to get out of your own way. Most violin teachers

know fairly little about pelvic alignment; a body-wise person can

tell you where a pelvis should be and where yours is, and what it's

doing as you raise your arms. It doesn't matter if you're hoisting

a tennis racquet, a Strad, or a stein of lager.

Notice I said a good Alexander teacher. There's a difference

between the proper work of a muscle and the improper strain of a

muscle that is being unnecessarily overworked, or two groups of

muscles fighting each other. Someone who insists on total and

complete relaxation of every muscle is looking for an amoeba, not a

violinist.

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