Finding Balance

July 25, 2010 at 02:39 AM ·

Because of  the controversy dealing with the use of and what kinds of shoulder rests and chin rests to use or not use, I suggest an entirely different approach. Let's accept the fact that everyone has their own approach and reasons and consider something more fundamental.  Is it not true that everything is a question of balance? If you feel you are losing your balance, you may overreact in an attempt to gain it back, but if you understand your center and know how to find your balance you can calmly move from one position to the next. To the viewer, it almost seems like a kind of discreet, highly efficient dance that you are constantly engaged in. No one position will work for every situation, so you have to remain alert and flexible and be ready to adjust to what does work. Whether you are an Olympic gymnast on the balance beam attempting to offset a misstep, or driving on an icy road having to react to the slippery conditions and know which way to turn the steering wheel, you are practicing balance. When something is balanced it feels at ease and effortless. I would submit that this should be taught to every player at any stage whether it's a bow arm issue or a left hand issue. Write about any areas of technique you like- intonation, rhythmic control with different bow strokes, vibrato, breathing techniques, posture, etc. as related to creating and maintaining balance.

Replies (26)

July 25, 2010 at 09:05 AM ·

 Greetings,

glad you made it so open ended. That@s the way it should be.  So, I`m going to write about either AT or prunes.

One of the saddest things I remember hearing from a man rated as one of the best AT teachers around was his response to the question`Do you ever se e a member of the public using good Primary control?`  His response was a flat out `No.`  This is surely true and tragic on so many levels. To explain further.

`Primary control` is the term used for the best possible relationship between head,  neck and back.  This is crucial because w e actually have a sixth sense. Not the Bruce Willis version but something rather simple place you hand above your head where you can`t see it.  Now, not one of your textbook five senses is actually telling you where your hand is at the current moment. So ow do you know?  The answer is simple that we have a sixth sense in which data from the body is fed back into the brain via little thingummyjigs called proprioceptors.  The single largesst collection of Props. is in the neck.  Data from all parts of te body passes through this processing road and one is then ale to adjust te body so that one does not fall over and so on.  It governs eveyr movement we make.  Now,  if the pathway is disrupted no only are there obvious physical repercussions in the way one looks and moves but one is also goign through life with faulty input,  compensating in less than helpful ways and effectively continually stressing out the body. This is the source of a greta deal of the worlds discomfort and stress.  The difference in appearance of an adult who has undergone AT or has somehow miraculously preserved their Primary Control ,  and regular folks is awesome.  The former appear so much more alive, have an incredible sense of peace and energy swirling around them.  The release hat occurs n an AT lesson can be a physical unlocking of the rib cage and lungs, spine that is so unnerving I have seen participants cry or scream in shock and even fear when a release is done very quickly. AT practitioners are ery highly trained and do not usually do this.  Similarly I have a colleague who is a world class cranio-sacral massage specialist. He never allows a releas e of pressure on the brain of more than thre eor four percent for a weekly sesison. One could release the whole thing at once ut a person with a suddenly freed brain mass can do irrational and dangerous things.

Anyway I digress.

Traditional AT (wich is quite rare these days) took the simplest possible procedure to work on with a person.   That was/is sitting down and standing up.  For various and rather complex reasons almost everyone distorts and misuses the body when doing this.  So much so that any action that occurs after either sitting or standing is tainted y an out of whack body.   RSI is of course directly concerned wit hands and wrists if you are a typist but without treating what may be a substantial underlying cause much time can be wasted. Likewise with instrumntalists.  But I get ahead.

Modern sitting and standing is kind of led by the waist which actually doesnt exist. the upper body continues to the hips.  The process needs to be done rather differently.  In AT one does not tell people to do something identical but in a different manner. his is setting up one new habit (correct?) in opposition to an old hait and actuall creates more tension much of the time. his is why many violin teacher shave have taught players in a direct way to `relax` or whatever and achieved apparent good results in the short term ut the player is surprised to find that the bad habit creeps back when udner stress and just shrugs it off as a necessary part of the human condition.

A child doe snot correct things that are not working in this way. They simply cut a new groove. et up a new connection in a different channel.  So instead of saying `sit down`  in a beginning AT lesson the student will be asked to bend the knees while standing in front of a chair. The act of `bending the knees` is not associated with the act of `sitting down` so the misuse of the body can be by passed by the AT teacher who is simltaneously releasing the misused muscles(squiffy primary control) as the student bends their knees.  like wise standing up is a radically different `indirect` procedure.  the studnet simply bends forward at the hips until the weight of the body combined with good primary control flips the body into sanding position before the student has even realised it. Standing up is not a question of supporting the upper body with the legs, but rather supporting the legs with the upper body.  

So to the topic in question. Except for those msuciians aread doing it most plaers do not,  by extension of te problem mentioned in the first prargrah, have good primary control IE use of te od. So all those long hours of rehearsing taking breaks etc are so much more difficult,  so mch less rewarding than they could be and a cause of so many injuries to so many profesisonals who jsut shrug them off as `normal.` 

This is for me, the major issue of balance used in a very specific sense that effects  all musicians as well as the population of the western world in general. health care cost being what they are as well as the depression and violence which is connected o some degre e with the way we treat our bodies and by extension our minds in this er,  sophisticated era.

Cheers,

Buri

July 25, 2010 at 11:00 AM ·

Ronald: "Is it not true that everything is a question of balance? If you feel you are losing your balance, you may overreact in an attempt to gain it back, but if you understand your center and know how to find your balance you can calmly move from one position to the next. To the viewer, it almost seems like a kind of discreet, highly efficient dance that you are constantly engaged in. No one position will work for every situation, so you have to remain alert and flexible and be ready to adjust to what does work."

Amazing, you could have written exactly the same paragraph - for ballroom dancing!  Perhaps all activities really come down to using your body (and probably also mind) in ballance.  Its odd that one day the violin just slips in place and everything is easy whereas the next it feels lumpy and difficult to control. 

In ballroom we imagine a point at the mid point of the upper back that we move from.  This places the entire body in ballance for each step.  Do you have a way of preparing yourself to play where you are conscious of such a 'magic spot' - that is the one point which you can know you can return to and regain ballance?

July 25, 2010 at 11:42 AM ·

buri, i am going to go on a limb to ask this way: before you were introduced to a.t., your musical life must be in a bloody mess. (now probably a different type of mess because of your cat :). where was or what happened to your "sixth sense" then?   why is it that you have to discover a.t. to rediscover yourself?  were you essentially so unaware to not realize the presence of your 6th sense or your musical upbringing/training destroyed it, suppressed it?  or both? :)  you seem intuitive, inquisitive and well read.   i just find it hard to believe you could be so uninformed prior to a.t., that you had to wait for a.t. to turn on the switch.  i must have over-estimated you! :)

elise, concur with you on ronald's stellar writing, with universal application as it seems.  in fact, what he talked about is essential for golf as well.  recently, a fellow nobody from south africa took the golfing world by storm in a major tournament because his sense of balance (and therefore tempo) is far superior to those with bigger muscles and less style.

not sure if this will make ron uncomfortable.  but my excuse is that it is for the greater good of the interest of many players with this issue in mind.  on youtube you can actually find a video where ron played a slow if not rare piece in such a way that is telling.  it is delicious, like a dish prepared with just the right touch. 

July 25, 2010 at 11:46 AM ·

Elise : "Amazing, you could have written exactly the same paragraph - for ballroom dancing!"

...and for the martial arts. I am working through Bruce Lee's books, on general body stretching, weights, and striking. Balance is so important! Without balance, there is no strength, and in playing the violin, reduced accuracy. As I mentioned before in another thread, I use a shoulder rest, partly for support, and partly to maintain a comfortable angle to play with ease. One other aspect of Bruce Lee's teaching (and of course of many others) is that no body part should rotate outside its natural range, and you can be near that limit when playing.

A simple example : when you are in your violin playing position, your left wrist can easily rotate away from the neck (fingers off the fingerboard, of course), but you are almost at the limit of rotation in the other direction. So, to me it makes sense to be playing at an angle which increases that range of limited rotational movement.

If I get pain anywhere I always check these two points : balance, and whether I am near the limit of any range of movement.

One last thing : my posture is exactly the same whether I am playing the violin or not (oh yeah, and I only hit things that don't hit back, like a heavy bag.) :)

Jim
 

July 25, 2010 at 12:06 PM ·

"In Wresting the hands, head, feet, even shoulders can be used in feint. The hips never lie. When the opponents hips move the commitment is made. The center for most physical activities is in the hips." - Bill "Red" Schmitt 35  year Illinois High School wrestling coach .891 career winning percentage (19 consecutive year state dual meet champions)

July 25, 2010 at 01:23 PM ·

"In Wresting the hands, head, feet, even shoulders can be used in feint. The hips never lie. When the opponents hips move the commitment is made. The center for most physical activities is in the hips." - Bill "Red" Schmitt 35  year Illinois High School wrestling coach .891 career winning percentage (19 consecutive year state dual meet champions)"

Does that work for the violin?  I'm not being totally funny actually, I can imagine that a grounded base would really help.  And keys to ballance are not always logical.  Then again, you could also sit in a chair! :D

 

July 25, 2010 at 03:36 PM ·

It seems to me that no matter what we do we use the same body. The fundamental mechanics of our bodies apply to any discipline we wish to pursue. By gathering observations from many disciplines we can obtain a more holistic approach. Or at least, so it seems to a mere beginner in this particular pursuit. I wasn't trying to expound on violin playing skills of which I have yet to learn the basics. I was merely sharing  an observation from my own experience. I would add to you in particular Elise that I cannot speak to dance at all. Even the fundamentals of dance have eluded me.

July 25, 2010 at 08:29 PM ·

 Greetings,

>buri, i am going to go on a limb to ask this way: before you were introduced to a.t., your musical life must be in a bloody mess. (now probably a different type of mess because of your cat :).

Yes it was.   The limb you are going out in is well balanced...

One of the reasons I feel so strongly about the issues I raised was iinitially due to the fact that the teaching profesison an Britain , and much of elsewhere I suppose ,  fails, failed its young people.  A small number of elite teachers got a grip on thes ekind of issues although even then they only focus on exteral aspects which is not enough. For the rest of us we had to struggle on not knowing what we are doing, get into music college and hack though x number of works all aimed at getting out of music college where we eitehr spend live sstressed out with other messe dup players in orchestras or become teahcer sand pass on our failings o the next generation of victimes who have such bright hopes for the future.

After studying AT for some time I realized the music world wa spurely a microcosm.  As I said in my previous post,  the issue is one concerning all humaity. Alexander firmly belived that the principles o AT could create a better saner world for eeryone. In particular the principle of `endgaining`  is very applicable in this case.

 

 >where was or what happened to your "sixth sense" then? 

AT actually talsk about teh sixth sense and it makes sense. Meeting the seventh sense is more disturbing;)

  why is it that you have to discover a.t. to rediscover yourself? 

That is a key question.Rediscovering oneself requires a realization that soemthing is wrong,  the will to do soemthing about it and the tools to so something about it , in that order.   In general,  humans don`t even get to first base unless they are faced with imminent death or severe loss.  The moribund homeostasis of humanity is quite wel researched and documented.  Second , as mentioned in first post,   the data for dealing with the issue must be avaialble. With poor primary control it isn`t and the perosn cannot move forward.  There are other tools besides AT.  The unique (it really is) quality of AT is that it draws attention to a condition that is a necessary precursor to any activity. It is not in itself an activity with a clearly defined set of targets to achive. So,  if one wnated to take up yoga that is agreta idea iwth enormous benifits.  To practice T and then take up yoga.  Doubes the bang for your bucks.  Ironically,  quite a few yoga instructors have now studied AT and combine the teaching services they offer the public.

were you essentially so unaware to not realize the presence of your 6th sense or your musical upbringing/training destroyed it, suppressed it? 

Like everyone else. Most people cannotconsiously define their 6th sense excpet according to the Bruce Willis movie (which I really like...)  Musicla upbringing didn`t destroy it.  Playign an instrument shoudl make anyone a little more aware of where their body parts are. The danger is one becomes over focuse dand loses track of the big picture.

 

or both? :)  you seem intuitive, inquisitive and well read.   i just find it hard to believe you could be so uninformed prior to a.t., that you had to wait for a.t. to turn on the switch.  i must have over-estimated you! :)

Easy to do.

Cheers,

Buri

July 25, 2010 at 09:16 PM ·

In every discussion on balance and movement in string playing, players will want to consider the pedagogy of Paul Rolland.  Please see www.PotomacAcademy.org for a short description of his ideas and also for information on the Paul Rolland Workshop, Aug. 2-6, 2010 at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.  His book, "The Teaching of Action in String Playing" is available through ASTA at www.astaweb.com, and the DVD by the same name is available at www.PaulRolland.net.

July 25, 2010 at 09:35 PM ·

buri, enjoyed reading your answers.   do children have enough capacity or facility to benefit from the teachings of a.t.?    i mean practically speaking, do you see kids in a.t workshops?  not that i have kids as a reason, but that why bother going into adulthood with bags of burdens unless one has to...

also, i wonder if you or ron or others can share with us some role models that have a good command of this "balance" concept, ranging from older generation to current?  who do you recommend for the younger generation to pay attention to?  so far we have seen some examples according to some of you that have areas that can improve.  we also hear how great it is to have a better control of the body.  it will be enlightening to see some video links of those in action.   turning philosophical into practical and useful.

ps.  if it is politically incorrect to name some and leave out others, feel free to email me:)

pss.  what is the name of the bruce willis movie?  play hard?

 

July 26, 2010 at 04:25 AM ·

 Greetings,

I agree that the Rolland stuff needs a great deal more exposure.  That man was a genius.

Al

 

>buri, enjoyed reading your answers. 

That`s a bad sign.

  >do children have enough capacity or facility to benefit from the teachings of a.t.?    i mean practically speaking, do you see kids in a.t workshops?  not that i have kids as a reason, but that why bother going into adulthood with bags of burdens unless one has to...

Depends on what age range you are referring to.  one of the key points about AT is that one can use `adult` faculties to -consciously- restore the use we make of our bodies to good order.  This emphasis on `conscious control` tends ot put it more i the adult domain.   Nonetheless it can be of great benifit to anyone of any age with a differnt degree of emphasis perhaps although I shoudl reiterate thta even adults shoudln`t try to talk through what they are doing.  The word is the problem.   But a skilled teacher could just play with the muscles of of a child and help keep the bdy on track. AT would be excellent for your daughter though.  This is a reflection on what I wa sthinking this mornign that we always go to AT after the event when it shoudlbe use dproactively.

In theory a child should not need AT until after 5 or so (a rather rbitrary figure I picked out a hat) when the natural use that wese in babies (doing the splits without thinkg, leading with the eyes, crawling and so on) begin to be screwed up by compulsary education and ill informed school masters and mother in laws who strat trying to get their kids o sit up straight and all that kind of twaddle.  The guy I mentioned who is world class in the filed (Jeremy Chance) used ot practice on horses at his family farm.  They loved it. Dogs also love it apaprently.   Cats are according to him,  the only mammal he has eevr use dit on that object very violently to the process....

Usually I don`t see children at AT classes or events. Its a little bit like Tai Chi Chuan. Children`s energy tens to be very up, outward and explosive so its more interesitng for them to use it in a very active way.  AT and Tai chi is more aout releasing stuff that has been shut down or out.

>also, i wonder if you or ron or others can share with us some role models that have a good command of this "balance" concept, ranging from older generation to current?  who do you recommend for the younger generation to pay attention to?

Great tennis players.  Tiger Woods (some aspects to be avoided),  Janos Starker. Those African women with long necks that balance pots on their heads.   Theres a very famous French Aikidoka whose name I forget. Ueshiba (aikido).  Sprinters.  Hilary Hahn, Repin.  But you still can`t beat Oistrakh,  Starker and Rubenstein...;)>  Things like Iado and the Japanese Tea ceremony. Or,  take alook at Nigel Sutton (my ex Tai chi teacher) demonstrating a Tai Chi Kata. I`ll try and track that one down. You have to look past the beer gut. A lot of it is actually accumulated internal energy.....

pss.  what is the name of the bruce willis movie?  play hard?

The Willis movie is called `The Sixth Sense.`  Its not bad in an odd sort of way. I don`t think he shoots anyone in it.

PS http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJh_lyq4Z6U

thats the youtube of Nigel Sutton doing Tai Chi Chuan. (You can dind ore form ther eI think)The thing to loo out for which puts him right at the top of the totem pole is the level of the hip joints doesn`t vary. That is one of the central tenets of Tai Chi and is a lifetiems work.   Its what makes an 11 minute slow kata as exhausting and powerful as as a couple of hours dancing around in some less useful systems.

Incidentall, thats sort of what I look like except that he is fit and I@m not;)

PPS On the same page you can see

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlJFLOkFdsM&feature=related

Master Tan was the last disciple of Chen Man Ching who took Tai Chi Chuan to new heights. Master Tan is actualy one of the toughest guys on the planet pound for pound.  I stayed with him in Singapore twentyyears ago and he was and looked liked remainig an undefeated fighter against any style that challenged him.    I asked what he would do against a three hundred pound US cage fighter and he just riolled his eyes (something he did a lot when I wa saround;)) and said he woudl just have to be` reeeaallll dirty.`  It may have come out more elegantly in Chinese.

 

Cheers,

Buri

 

July 26, 2010 at 04:40 PM ·

Al, Milstein would be another example, who, to my ears, played better at the age of 82 than I've ever heard anyone else play who was "up in years".  I dare say in addition to a very efficient and organized practicing routine, Milstein did not abuse his body and knew how to make it work as well as could be expected- his Goldmark Violin Concerto recording is legendary and there's a fantastic reading of the Brahms and Tchaikovsky concertos when he was in his seventies.

You might want to take a look at how Christian Tetzlaff bends his knees and moves his bow  in this masterclass he gave at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=4515

His musical insights are valuable but it is interesting to see the balance in his body language and how effortless he looks.

Herbert Von Karajan, the conductor is another example.  There is a way he moved his hands and carried himself on stage. There is a determined yet fluid energy to his movements as witnessed in this video which I highly recommend not so much for watching Von Karajan's body language but for gaining insight into how he approached the interpretation of music and the probing intellect he demonstrates.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000GQL8NQ/ref=pd_luc_sbs_04_03

 

July 26, 2010 at 08:33 PM ·

 Greetings,

Milstein is, to my mind, the most perfetc example of balance in the -broadest- sense of the word.  Not only on te violin but in life.   He claims for example in one of his interviews that he was `lazy` in the summer and spent a lot of time palyig tennis.  I think he tended ot travel by ship most of the time and if he thought he wa sgetting to stressed out he didn`t do a concert although asfar a si am aware he was never what might be called unprofessional in this respect.    He was well read and thoughful in a typically grmpy autodidcat manner. He wa sa skilled painter and os forth.  He seemed to have ha d afairly stable aand deep family life that noone ever saw much of  and he had -very- close personal friendships with a slecet group that lasted a life time.

It`s interesting to compare this with Heifetz who led an -unbalanced - life with fewer and fwere friends and less of a diversity growthin spite of his sharpness of mind.  One could idly speculate that Heifetz might have been so much more if he had allowed his genuis freer rein .  On the othe rhand, it is only idle specualtion. But this kind of balance in life is important and therein lies another lesson for the wannabe superhero violnist of today.(And their parents)

On the more physicla level ther eis so much good stuff out ther eon you tube to look at it boggles the mind.  Some lvely example I looked ta today:

Rostropovitch playing Bacg Bach Prelude form cello suite no1.

Julia Fischer playing Mozart double cocnerto first movement k364.  Incredibly long neck but she keeps the pressur eoff the violin and the hea dvery free. Right off at som points. Its a good lesson.   Also a very muscial version of her playing Paginini 16.

Hilary Hahn playing Pagininian is terrific in terms of the kind ofbody movement Ronals was talking about as well as sheer mechanical efficiency. It doesn`t get much better than that.

These are about the full extent of movement before it turns into the -look at me- syndrome which is actually a demonstration of one of the most fundamental erorrs of performance practice:  the purpose in performing is to -elicit- emotion in the listener.  =Not- show them yours.

As one AT told me,  who wants to watch somebody crying?

Cheers,

Buri

July 26, 2010 at 11:13 PM ·

PRACTICE

July 27, 2010 at 01:34 AM ·

But you still can`t beat Oistrakh

Agree!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I know many versions (many people) of good posture exist though.  But Oistrakh was very stable. He had wonderful posture on every video I saw.

Interesting discussion!

Anne-Marie

July 27, 2010 at 02:25 AM ·

Choreograpy  when playing is wonderful. It seduces me too, and I can get confused between what I experienced live or on video, versus a a sound recording of the same performance.

Fighters have been mentioned. There is a lot of grace and dance in many of the martial arts. But see mixed martial artists actually competing for a physical win  (rather than being judged on "form"), and much of the grace goes away.

How much do the same things apply to violin playing? A recent thread was critical of Bell for his  way of moving during playing. Who among the critics can match his playing? He puts the music out pretty well, doesn't he?

Just because one looks awkward or tense doesn't necessarily mean that they are. Different bodies have different natural ways of moving, just as our voices naturally sound different and have different ranges and capabilities.

July 27, 2010 at 08:33 AM ·

I generally do not use the word 'balance" in the  the class,I prefer to use the word "alignment".Alignment makes more mechanical sense to me.We can think of alignment as either even, in relation to,  or angle  .With proper alignment we achieve balance. With proper balance we achieve ease.

I think every musician should have a full size mirror in their practice room.Watch yourself practice ,and watch yourself walking.The only way to adjust a shoulder rest and chin rest properly is in front of a mirror.With out a mirror you will exaggerate movements.It's important that ever musician understands basic posture,and common errors.

http://www.bigbackpain.com/posture.html

Remember poor posture makes you look dumb and weak.Where as exaggerated posture(Military pose) makes us look arrogant ,pompous and aggressive

 

July 27, 2010 at 08:19 PM ·

The link about back pain which also links to rotator cuff and other important areas to avoid injury is very useful. Thank you for posting that , but I have a question for  Charles and everyone else:
If "with proper alignment we achieve balance", then do you consider the typical violinist's tendency to turn the head to the left  and drop the neck down a bit to reach the chin rest to be faulty alignment or not aligned correctly and therefore one cannot achieve balance in such a position. Are players only in balance when their head is straight and neck not nodding down a bit. Look at the following preparatory movements in how violinists bring the instrument into playing position. Note the head turn, however slight or not it may seem and discuss whether this is improper alignment and therefore not balanced. This goes by very quickly so look closely:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8s5aV60yFA&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDdt4TOfAQQ&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6I4zoyEwT3s&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3D_RgmTQbk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOlF3tJLTUs&feature=related

And this one is particularly interesting because of the slight movements in the head as if looking for a comfortable place or way to position the chin/jaw on the chin rest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpdK25xcZeM&feature=related

 Is it likely that pianists and cellists have fewer issue with the head and neck because they are not placing their instruments under their chin/jaw?

 

July 27, 2010 at 09:24 PM ·

"How do you get things to work in a coordinated, efficient, effortless, and hopefully pain free way?"

Speaking as a a clueless newbie :-), I just keep looking for coordinated, efficient, effortless, pain-free ways to do something.  It's easy for me to say since I am still in the fetal stages here and hence still actively searching for how to hold things and not cramp up, but as long as you keep aware of your body, what hurts where, and keep looking for the best way to do something, that's really a lot of the battle for most things.  It's a mindset thing, I think.

July 28, 2010 at 01:34 AM ·

wow, this thread is developing nicely.  it is going to take a while for me to browse through all the info.

i just want to make couple comments.

in general, good posture for the long haul makes sense, duh.  so from a teaching and learning perspective, good posture should be a major concern from day one.  i think most people can get away from bad posture once in a while, but a few unfortunate ones can develop life changing impairment after only a short exposure.  since teachers and students have no clear way to tell who is who,  it is just the smart thing to do to have good alignment, good balance, however  defined.

having said that, i also hold the view that there are outliers and geniuses out there that defy our common perception.  they twist their bodies but don't hurt.  they endure physical challenges with no traumatic consequences.  they have taken a path none have chosen.  not for me to copy, not for me to judge.

violin-wise, if i see someone with postures that i may not be able to handle myself or approve with 2 thumbs way up, my reaction is usually that, dang, how did this person pull this off: looking unconventional and the the same time sounding great? 

i simply do not have the gall to say: now if he or she is better postured, then he or she will sound even better.  i think there is enough individual variation to allow individual styles some of which are not just functional, but functioning optimally for the individual. 

 

July 28, 2010 at 07:16 AM ·

 Greetings,

al,  ther e can sometimes be diiference that is nothing to do misus e of the body. Indeed the mainstream approach may actually be  less than maximally efficient and yet somehow become entrenched  for some reason.   Jeremy Chance used to talk about how Mark Spitz develope d his own way of swimming which everyone told him wa s wrong until he cleaned up at the olympics. Now people do it his way.

The interesting thing about having good `Primary Control` is thta one can be in a relaitvely contorted or poor psotion and still function quite well.  In my AT teache r training classe s we ha d this demonstrated rather well when we were asked to sit in a slumped position on a chair and then aide dto good Primary Control by the teahcer without leaving the slump.   It`s the differnec ebetween night and day although why anyone would wnat to sit slumped is a mystery.

On one of his Videos Galamian makes an almost off the cuff remark to a player which I think has great significance and wa sintended as such.  He said almost casually as te studnet wa sleaving` Remeber , if it looks ugly, its usually wrong.`  

Szigeti was  an example of someone whose playing was at times amonst the best on the planet.  Nonethless Flesch talks about how hard he had to struggle to play well in later years.  Stern describes a cocnert in which the ealry stages were awful before he got his act togethe r an d played magnificently.  I think as these kind of mechanically inefficeint genii get older it is a mark of their sheer talent that the force of thiei inspiration overrides whatever happens in a less than efifciacious way in the body but it becomes a progressively harder struggle that takes longer and longer.

As far as the neck is concerned a detialed explanation of what not to do shoukd be de rigeur for a majority of violinist who actually place their jaw on the chin rest in one of the harmful ways imaginable .  This is alas,  commnon place.

The problem exists because there are two actions going on simultaneously and they use different vertabrae to achieve this effect.   First of all one turns the head to the left (if one wishes) with the head staying on a lateral plane without dipping.

SEcond one drops the hea dor nods.

Combine these two actions and one actually creates a corkscrew effect which slightly displeces the vertebrea so the best possible use o of the body is impossible.  

It is so sad that such a simple point is litlte known in the violin word and such a source of problems for so many players.

Cheers,

Buri

July 28, 2010 at 01:16 PM ·

Buri, I am so glad you pointed out these issues- especially regarding the corkscrew effect of the turn of the neck and the drop- it is all too common and it amazes me that so many play this way not realizing the harm they do overtime, and even in the short run. There's only so much abuse the body can take and if one wants to enjoy the violin for a long time to come, it behooves each and everyone of us to treat our necks kindly and sensibly. This brings added  meaning to the old saying, "keep your head on straight".

July 28, 2010 at 07:38 PM ·

 Greetings,

thanks Ronald. There`s an interesting aspect to this somewhat related to AT.

One of the reasons babys and young children use their bodies so well is the sequencing of an activity (body movement event ,  if you like.)

Typically a babyis made up mostly of curiosity.  They see something moving and the eyes follow it.  They hera a sound and -look- to the source.   Always the eyes are elading and the body follows.  After we become more and more verbal ,  including internal instructions we somehow start to use the body differnelty and in an unhealthy way.   AS violnists we are often taught fom the beginning to `turn te head to the left.`  Nothing intrinsically wrong with that.  However,  we have often learned this mental construct in which the hea dis an inanimate object balanced on top of a rotating neck.  Thus the instruction is somehow translated as,  what?

Well,  just do it.

Now try `looking to the left.`  In te firts case one often finds that a large percnetage of neck muscle is being used and tightned i in the upper back and at the base of the skull.   Looking to the left is a movement initiated by a wish and then the eyes lead. Somehow that tensing of muscles proces seems to have been bypassed.  Incidnetally, when turning the head to the left the right eye lead and vice versa. If the left eye is leaidng to the left then the body becomes discoordianted and playing/practice is inferior.

Cheers,

Buri

July 28, 2010 at 09:36 PM ·

That is fascinating, Buri. How curious that we override that which should be natural because of verbal instruction. This is probably why cats and other animals can jump and land so well. They do not override their natural inclinations with verbal instruction. As human beings we have a blessing and a curse before us- the gift of language- like any tool, it has its place, but it can be used the wrong way or used in place of other tools more useful. You have opened a fascinating door...perhaps another topic or blog...

July 29, 2010 at 01:59 AM ·

I have little to contribute as far as the initial questions in the thread since I've been playing the violin for only a few months and I'm still in a tough search for balance and accuracy in most of the movements I make when studying. I just wanted to say that this thread has made me think, observe and learn a lot of things I hadn't realised. I actually started AT lessons this week - I had been thinking of starting some form of physical training for quite some time (mainly to see how to deal with my own anxiety and clumsiness derived from different tensions and to improve my overall "relationship" with my body) but if it had not been for this website, I would never have heard of AT at all, as it is not really well known in my country. I find it fascinating and surprising so far - it's incredible to see how many things we ignore about the way we use our bodies in the common day.

So, I guess I have you folks to thank for all the insight and experiences you share in this website. I begin to see that the violin and oneself (not only one's body, but also in a more holistic sense) are probably two of the most difficult things in the world to master... but it's nice to see how much one can learn and rediscover in time. =)

July 29, 2010 at 02:52 PM ·

What I find is a poor  pose will gradually  be adopterd into the way we walk ,exercise ,lift and every day basic movements.So this poor weak posture is bad enough on it's own and then we hammer these weak joints with everyday movements, creating more problems and pain.

 

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning
Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Violin-Strings.com

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin

Warchal

Barenreiter

Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe