In the next three posts I will cover how to improve your technique and sound, while reducing the number and severity of overuse injuries you experience. I will address the following questions:
What is quality of movement?
What is the effect of quality of movement on your technique and sound?
What single factor can improve both your technique and sound simultaneously?
What is quality of movement?
Simply put, quality of movement has to do with whether your body is becoming more stiff or more free in a given moment. A big part of what I teach to my students is about how to recognize and describe different qualities of movement in their body. Here are some examples:
Stiff vs free
Heavy vs light
Narrowing vs widening
Contracting vs lengthening
Becoming more spacious vs compacted
Mobile vs immobile
“In a box” vs multi-directional
Straight vs rounded
Supported vs braced or slumped
Tensegral vs columnar
Pushing down vs floating up
Lumbering vs gliding
Pressure vs suspension
Creaky vs well-oiled
Sense your body right now. You may notice areas of stiffness - think back on this list and see if you can choose a word that best describes the kind of stiffening you notice. You may also notice areas of freedom in your body - again, think back on this list and see if you can choose a word that best describes the kind of freedom you notice. The more sensitive you become to the various qualities of movement happening in your body, the better able you will be to free yourself of stiffening.
What is the effect of quality of movement on your technique?
Have you ever felt like you were fighting your body while making music? Or that your body just didn’t do what you wanted it to?
In no way can you escape the fact that you play your instrument with your body and that the functioning of your body affects your ability to produce music. This may seem obvious on the face of it, but I find that most people are so preoccupied with the outward activity of making music (or doing whatever other activity they do) that they never even think to consider what their body is doing.
A technique is simply a means to an end. However, one thing that many people don’t understand is that the quality of the technique affects the quality of the end. What I look for in a technique is not only whether it will get the job done, but how easily, and efficiently, too. This is vitally important because what do you play your instrument with? Your body. This is doubly true for singers, actors, and dancers whose body is their instrument. At a minimum, you don’t want your techniques to hurt your body and, at best, you want your techniques to improve your health and well-being.
I have great news for you - what improves your well-being and improves your techniques is precisely the same thing!
If you want the facility to hit that high note, the endurance to perform that monumental concerto, or to nail that 32nd note run with effortless ease, improving the quality of movement in your body will help make that easier for you. When you improve your quality of movement your agility, speed, and power will also improve. You will no longer be fighting against your body, and you body will do exactly what you want - this is the power of quality of movement.
How do you improve your quality of movement, you ask? I'll give you one guess... it starts with "A" and rhymes with "schmalexander technique"...
Tomorrow - "Learn the hidden secret of how to get a resonant sound."