What's Alexander Technic about

Non doinG

While reading Missy Vineyard's book "How you stand, how you move, how you live" "Learning the Alexander Technic", in-between I was walking on a wide beach in France. Generally the book is about "non doing"
Here is one experience of "non doing" of my own while walking on the beach:
The sand on the beach isn't always the same. Sometimes it's more tough to walk on, sometimes it's easier.
After reading this whole book, and realizing we all are such do-ers , even then it was difficult for me to adapt my walking speed to the sand I was walking on. If I didn't want to force myself into walking I had to adapt my speed of walking to the sand my feet were walking on. 
Maybe because me wanting to keep the same speed,  to keep up a specific tempo while meeting more difficulties, or  to keep up walking in the same pace as my neighbor- walker, I realized we humans are very likely to force ourselves into doing too much!
How do we deal with tempo, speed and learning music?
How do we deal with all the people around us, who can play the piece you are studying yourself ? How can we except ourselves and stay with your own pace? 






physical movement makes our thinking weaker

From the book " Nooit meer te druk" ( never too busy) from Tony Crabbe:
The scientist J.C. Welch has shown that physical movement diminishes the capacity to think. If people have to think real deeply, this reduces their physical capacity for almost 50 %. 
Also the professor of psychology at the University of California, Harold Pashler has started a research where the people needed to do a physical effort and at the same time a mental effort. Here the participants seemed to perform worse if they had to do more then one thing at a time. Even if it only were two things at one time. 
His conclusion was partly explainable because of the double duty paradigm. Our brains aren't designed to do two things at once, they interfere with each other. Multitasking can reduce the accomplishment from a master- student from Harvard University to the level of an eight year old.
As musician you have to do both at the same time, physical and mental effort, so it's very important to learn to play with the least physical effort necessary, to keep all your possible attention at the music.

the 5 minutes practise

When I had lessons with the cellist Natalia Gutman, she suggested me I should study no longer then 5 minutes on one specific passage, and then change subject. 
Actually this is a great idea considering the A.T., because the idea behind this method is not to solve a problem or be able to play the passage perfectly after 5 minutes, as she explained clearly to me. You may not end-gain to a goal, but just work at the specific passage for 5 minutes, think about this and then leave it alone until the next day or practice hour.
Sometimes during dish-washing you can think about this passage again and a new idea of how to study this passage can suddenly pup up in your mind, and you can try it next time.

  • the work, the study isn't about playing perfect, there is no end-goal, it's about the road to it that counts. 
  • one can study more different subjects in one hour
  • one can always go back to your primary directions, when you change your subject after 5 minutes.You create a little break in-between the hour of practice to rethink your directions.
  • it works against RSI problems
  • by leaving it alone, your mind will subconsciously or consciously think about the problem you wish to solve. You are much more forced to use your brain to solve problems.  

fixating with your eyes?

If you use your eyes to play the right notes with your left hand, your eyes can fixate your fingers and make them less flexible.
Also , when you look at your fingers of your left hand your head bents down, so your neck is in trouble. Five to seven kilo’s your head weights, so poor neck, who has to carry all this weight with these small muscles in the neck. When the head is right on top of the spine, forward and up, the head creates this great energie for the whole body. 
Students often use their eyes to clamp on to  the music in front of them, to hold on to the notes, instead of being at ease with their body and be able to use their ears. Playing by memory might help a great deal. 

Why are the eyes so dominant?  Why are we using them to hold on to something?
Why are musician's using so much of their eyes and much less their ears? 

Fingers lead the movement from the arm

As in the Alexander Technic, where the head leads and the rest follows, you have all kinds of secondary directions. With playing cello, your primary direction is also the head,  here you listen, you think, you direct, and your secundary movement with your arms ,here your fingers lead  the movement.Fingers will go first and the underarm follows, the upper arm follows after that, etc. 
When you think of hands on back of chair, you are directing your wrists towards each other. If you think of this direction while playing your bow stroke from right to left, immediately your upper arm can drop, and your weight of your upper arm can drop.

Studying in loops

When we study a difficult passage, we have to keep our head clear and only study what’s necessary. A difficult passage should first be analysed in the different problems that occur. Then focus first on one of the problems.
You start at the basis of the line, when you have this you build up the difficulties gradually. First all left hand notes on one bow, or not too many notes, then add the bowing to it, then double stops with easy bowing, then add the difficult bowing to it etc. etc. 
Studying in loops is the best way to build up difficulties, first easy loops, and gradually you add difficulties. It’s good to stick to a tempo, a pace , a flow, and not change this too easily. So to keep your quiet and keep the overview. 
As with the Alexander Technic, in a lesson we are busy coming back to the base of movement, standing and sitting and the movement going to stand or to sit. You think your primary directions, and then you add the detailed secundary directions. 

keep the ritme in the musical line

To feel the pulse, this is crucial for playing at ease.
To make a difficult musical line easier, we have to look for the basic structure of the musical line. To find the basic structure, it's good to find the notes that are on the pulse of the music. When we can play these notes in tempo, little by little we can add the other notes ( off beat notes) to it. This way we keep the musical structure and beat in the music, in order to keep our natural use and breathing. This way we create peace in practicing, and adding the notes when we still feel no stress, because there is a natural pulse in the music.  

Weight of the head and the arm? 

The perifiric vieuw, studying by accident....

The periferic view, you don't loose yourself into the smaller details, and you always see the bigger picture. You work in the small details, but you inhibit also from those smaller details and see the bigger picture.
When you have a difficult passage, you don't want to focus totally on this, but you can think around it.

Studying shifts

When we study shifts we tend to overfocus on the problem. To follow the thought of Non Doing, you can leave the problematic, stressful shift and study the notes around the shift. Then, nonchalant you make the shift, without any focus on the shift, as if you are not playing a shift, and study the next position. The thought of playing something difficult ,makes us stressed and stiff. The muscles will tense up, only from the idea it might go wrong. We have to fool ourselves a bit, think we don't do any shift, until accidental we make the shift. 
Meanwhile  we study the positions before and after the shift. 
After some time you feel safe up there and down there, and you learned the jump without focussing on the most difficult part.

perform in a concert and studying at home

Studying at home can be very specific, you really think about all details, what are the directions your frase is going to, what is the dynamic, what is the tempo etc. But when you play, or perform in a concert,  you don’t want to copy all you have studied, but leave it alone, and let the music come out by itself, as if it’s something totally new. Then new things can happen, things you didn't plan, you experience the music and tell the music to the public as if it is the first time you hear the music. That's non doing in the performance.