Relax! Improve Your Playing by Releasing Tension Dr. Liz Aleksander - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Relax! Improve Your Playing by Releasing Tension Dr. Liz Aleksander and Andrew Morency University of Tennessee at Martin Tension Goal when playing: minimize tension Tension radiates to other areas Physical and Mental Tension

  1. Relax! Improve Your Playing by Releasing Tension Dr. Liz Aleksander and Andrew Morency University of Tennessee at Martin

  2. Tension Goal when playing: minimize tension ● Tension radiates to other areas ● Physical and Mental ○ Tension is caused by using the body in an inefficient way ● We do need some level of physical involvement in four key areas ● Breathing ○ Posture ○ Hands ○ Embouchure ○ BUT: there needs to be as little tension as possible ●

  3. Tension How & when to make these changes ● Some changes are easiest to start working on when AWAY from the clarinet! ○ When practicing, make these fundamental adjustments while warming up (esp. long tones) ○ Direct awareness to area & address the issue ○ Don’t judge or berate yourself! ○ Relax into the change; don’t force it ○

  4. Breathing: Importance Deep, low, relaxing breaths result in: ● More air ○ Better sound ○ Mental relaxation ○ Shallow breaths lead to: ● Less air ○ Anxiety ○ Fatigue & endurance problems ○

  5. Breathing: The Science Behind It Diaphragm is the muscle most responsible for breathing ● 80% of breathing work done by this muscle ○ Breathing occurs when diaphragm contracts and pulls down ● Belly breathing ○ Diaphragm pushes downward into the abdomen ■ Fills more air sacs in the lungs - more air to use ■ We use accessory muscles to allow maximum air intake ● External intercostals- lift the rib cage up and outward ○

  6. Breathing: The Science Behind It When the diaphragm relaxes, we breathe out normally ● But to forcefully exhale, we have other muscles that help force the air out ● The internal intercostals and abdominal muscles squeeze the rib cage down & push the ○ diaphragm back up forcefully Control over these “core” muscles allows us to exhale with force ○

  7. Breathing: Inhalation & Exhalation Inhaling ● Every good inhalation begins with a good exhalation ○ Diaphragm breathing ○ Feel back & sides ■ Breathe low ○ Open throat ○ Yawning ■ Nose breath ■ Exhaling (playing!) ● Fast (cold) vs slow (warm) air ○ Don’t be swayed by well-intentioned conductors ■ Open throat - maintain this from inhalation ○

  8. Breathing: Diagnosing Tension Unfocused tone ● Problems projecting or lack of presence in the sound ○ Articulation (esp. staccato) exacerbates tonal issues ○ Uncontrolled or unpredictable entrances ● Problems with connection around the breaks ● Inability to play loud ● Issues with response and/or cracking, esp. above the staff & in the altissimo ● Pitch is flat, esp. above the staff & in the altissimo ●

  9. Breathing: Strategies to Release Tension Breathing low ● Listen to the sound of the breath ○ High pitched - Shallow/Tense ■ Low pitched - Deep/Relaxed ■ Feel for expansion of back & sides ○ Avoid raising the shoulders when inhaling ○ Inhale through your nose ○ Lie down ○ Use Breath Builder ○

  10. Breathing: Strategies to Release Tension Using cold air ● When seated, pick feet up & hold legs parallel to floor ○ “Play” it on the airstream only ○ Open throat ● Yawn (maintain while playing too) ○

  11. Posture: Importance Optimal position = optimal body health, free breathing, optimal musical sounds ● Poor Posture = pain/injury, more difficult to breath freely which leads to poor sound ● Posture affects: ● Tone ○ Dynamics ○ Articulation ○ Technique ○ Keeps body healthy and efficient ● The body is good at compensating for poor posture! It’s hard to fix once it’s become a habit, so this needs to be addressed early & often! When & where to address postural issues ●

  12. Posture: The Science Behind It Proper posture consists of supporting the body along the axis ● Sit on the ischium ● The “sit down” bone ○ Leaning will make very small muscles work hard to maintain bad posture ●

  13. Posture: The Science Behind It Remember: muscles are straight tissues, so they work best when aligned ● The abs play a major role in keeping the body straight in the front ● They’re also used for playing! ○ The erector spinae group pulls the other direction from the back ● But don’t hyperextend! ○ You want a balance between your back and abs ● Front Back

  14. Posture: The Science Behind It Remember to always use the largest muscle for the job ● Use these big muscles to support your instrument ● Roll your weight back ● Support the weight on your deltoids and trapezius ○ Leaning forward to support the instrument puts stress on ○ weaker / smaller shoulder muscles & areas of the body like the wrists Make sure your shoulder muscles don’t raise up ● Remember, roll them back! ○

  15. Posture: Diagnosing Tension Hunched shoulders ● Slouching ● “Good girl” posture (upright, but stiff & tense) ● Reaching for the horn with the head / neck ● Holding bell between the legs / knees ● Crossing the legs ●

  16. Posture: Strategies to Release Tension Maintain natural skeletal alignment ● Imagine string pulling upward from the crown of your head ○ Jump! - how you land is most stable ○ Use a wall ○ Distribute weight evenly ○ Shoulders relaxed down the back ○ Balance an object on your shoulder to detect excess movement ■ Sitting vs. standing posture ● Keep as relaxed as possible ● Yoga, Alexander Technique, & body mapping ●

  17. Hand Position: Importance Even, facile technique ● Faster technical passages ● Most importantly: avoids injury (RSIs) ●

  18. Hand Position: The Science Behind It Muscles provide the force that moves our body ● But tendons & ligaments directly attach to the bones ○ Muscles can be much more easily stretched & bent than ● ligaments Imagine a massage ○ Tendons & ligaments are made of a different type of ● tissue that only stretches one direction, and your hand is filled with it! This is why it’s very important to pay attention to how ○ your hands are aligned!

  19. Hand Position: The Science Behind It Problems caused by over-stretched or misaligned ligaments & tendons include: ● Decreased mobility ○ Fatigue / exhaustion ○ RSIs (repetitive stress injuries) like tendonitis & Carpal Tunnel Syndrome ○ Unlike muscles, tendons & ligaments take a much longer time to heal than muscles ● This is why proper hand posture is so important! It: ○ Prevents injury ■ Allows a wider range of movement ■ Increases endurance ■

  20. Hand Position: Diagnosing Tension Uneven fingers ● Inability to speed up technical passages ● Lack of control, inc. inability to play fast passages at a slower tempo ● Squeaks resulting from not consistently covering the holes completely ● ANY pain in the hands, wrists, or arms ●

  21. Hand Position: Strategies to Release Tension If you have ANY pain, let your teacher know AND go to the doctor! ● Stretch before playing ● ALWAYS warm up! ● Long tones ○ Fingers ○ Articulation ○ Take breaks ● Straight wrists ● “C” hands ● Work on this SLOWLY, using scales or other conjunct material ● Neckstrap? ●

  22. Embouchure: Importance Air creates vibration and vibration creates sound ● Vibrations are essential for creating sound ● Relaxed muscles allow for more vibration ○

  23. Embouchure: The Science Behind It It’s hard for blood to reach tense muscles. ● You need blood to deliver oxygen! ○ Small muscles always tire quickly ● Use the largest muscles you can ○ When the muscles of the jaw completely relax, the ● mouth naturally opens

  24. Embouchure: The Science Behind It Muscles called constrictors wrap around the throat ● This “open” position of the muscles maximizes air ○ flow into the throat During yawning or swallowing ○ Muscles that control the throat are hard to ● consciously control Try tapping into natural instincts like yawning ■ and swallowing Try focusing on the base of the tongue or the ■ throat

  25. Embouchure: Diagnosing Tension Visual cues ● Crunched chin ○ Jaw motion, esp. when changing register ○ Tonal cues ● Changes based on register or articulation ○ Unfocused sound (air issues can also cause this) ○ Pitch cues ● Flat = embouchure is too loose ○ Sharp = embouchure is too tense ○ Biting is the most common problem (and is caused by tension!) ● Pinched sound (esp. above the staff & in the altissimo) & uncontrolled entrances ○ This overlaps with breathing issues because biting compensates for not using the air correctly. ○

  26. Embouchure: Strategies to Release Tension Jaw is open & relaxed; lips & surrounding muscles work to cushion reed/mouthpiece ● There’s some muscular involvement around lips ○ Flat chin ■ Use ALL lips ■ Avoid tension ○ RELAX the jaw open ■ Feel for the hinge of the jaw opening ■ Feel for open throat ■ Avoid “dragon throat” - stay open & relaxed ■

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