This is a continuation of yesterday's post "Improve your technique. and banish overuse injuries with this one idea."
We learned yesterday that quality of movement is a way of talking about whether you're stiffening or freeing your body while carrying out a given action, and that good quality of movement supports good technique. In this post, we will look at its effects on sound production and chronic body pain.
What is the effect of quality of movement on your sound?
Just as a bell with no obstructions rings freely - “doooooooooooong” - and a bell with a cloth draped over it only produces a “thud”, so when your body is stiff your sound will be stiff and when your body is free your sound will be free.
Your instrument is built to resonate. Just as a great instrument can resonate with many colors over its whole register and a mediocre instrument will resonate with few colors over only a few notes in its register, a player with great quality of movement can get his/her instrument to resonate to its full capacity of tone color and a player with poor quality of movement will only get his/her instrument to resonate with few tone colors.
I see this time and again with my students. In our lessons they will begin playing and their sound may be small, brittle, and clunky. Then, after I work with helping them free their body of stiffness, their sound suddenly becomes resonant, haunting, and full of life. Even my beginner violin students, when they aren’t squeezing the bow or violin, can get their crummy little glittery purple-glazed ¼-size factory-built violins to ring and ring. It’s really astonishing just how much their sound changes when they unstiffen their body, even a little bit.
What is the effect of quality of movement on chronic body pain?
Improving your quality of movement also removes one of the causes and conditions for chronic body pain. Like I’ve mentioned in previous episodes when you move stiffly, heavily, and with too much tension, your muscles tend to break down. Tension, held for long periods of time, causes the connective tissue of your body, fascia, to become more solid and sticky. This, in turn, limits the blood flow to your muscle cells and causes your nervous system to begin sending pain or numbness signals. This is also why some of your muscles may feel all bound up and sore - it’s the fascia that’s gotten stuck because you’re holding tension in your muscles for too long.
When you move more freely, on the other hand, your muscles never stop moving. Even when you’re just sitting still, standing, or laying down, there are “micro-movements” than can happen throughout all of the muscles in your body - breathing and balancing are two examples of this movement that never stops. When you move freely, even the movement of twiddling your little finger can ripple through your whole body. In my Alexander Technique training I’ve experienced this profound interconnectedness many times and it is always accompanied by a feeling of deep release, relief, and awareness.
When you allow this to happen in your body your muscles don’t get bunched up, your movements feel effortless, and there is a sense of exquisite control over your movements. You no longer force your body to do things; rather, you have the intention to do it and simply watch as your body effortlessly carries out your intention. When this happens in music-making there is a sense of being totally in-the-moment, of a powerful and graceful stage presence, and your sound will be more resonant than you thought possible. This is the power of quality of movement.
In tomorrow's post I will put this all together into a single idea that will help transform your technique, sound, and well-being for the better.