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Custer`s last stand?

February 27, 2008 at 11:12 PM

Every complex human endeavor seems to go full circle in terms of skill gaining and sustaining. An example of this that interests me is yoga. In a lot of systems one starts with a position called `the corpse.` One lies flat on ones back and , more or less, does nothing. Beginners will tell you this position is very easy and relaxing. Advanced practitioners will tell you this position is one of the most difficult! Violin playing is pretty much the same. So many great players take time everyday to just play what are apparently the simplest exercises a beginner might be doing, perhaps on open strings. They are both learning and sustaining advanced technique.
In Tai Chi Chuan one of the hardest simple exercises is standing. Legs are shoulder width apart; arms are slightly out so that the space the size of an egg is under the armpit; the top of the head pulls up to the sky and so on. It doesn’t look like there is much to it. But stand like that for ten minutes and the places where you are holding tension in your body start to send that stress down though your Dan Tien (point below the navel) into the feet and then earth. Do it right and the soles of your feet hurt like heck! I think something similar to this exercise might be rather useful on the violin. Its really not easy to specific at a deep level to players who write in that they have neck, back, shoulder ache etc. Except of course telling them to get Alexander lessons. On the other hand they might be able to help themselves by doing something `simple` like the following.
As best you know how, stand balanced and relaxed. Pay attention to your ankles and feel they are soft Then the knees, the hips and so on. Imagine a string on the top of the head pulling up. Tuck the tailbone slightly under as though a string is extending from it pulling down into the ground. Put the violin up while maintaining position of shoulders, head neck as much as possible. Bypass all the `scrunching up` you do in the usual excitement of throwing up the violin to play this weeks Sarasate. Put the bow on any string in the middle. Check the relationship of the hand arm etc so it is all in a nice comfortable straight line. No distortions or awkward angles. Now do nothing. Watch the clock and start with one minute. Build it up over days and weeks to what ever you feel is right for you. As the time goes on keep your mind active in seeking out what the body is actually doing. Where does it feel like it is contracted? Can you send that tension down through you Dan Tien , down your legs , through your feet and into the ground. Keep telling the body parts that feel stress to `do less.` This is a very powerful instruction that the body responds to quickly. Avoid the words `don’t tense up` since this has the exact opposite effect. (Funny it is one of the favorite lines of so many teachers;))

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on February 27, 2008 at 11:59 PM
Buri, my job requires me to sit a lot. Would you say sitting is easier than standing? Will you agree with the following advice: sit on your sitting bones. Feet on ground and feel your knees are suspended, so as your head. Allow your hip, shoulders, and elbow joints to get loose, etc.

I’ll be working with a different certified AT teacher (her name is Johanna Godliman, I don’t know if you’ve heard of her) starting this Friday. She started AT in England back in the 80s and has been passionate and active about it since than. I’m very excited about it.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 28, 2008 at 12:36 AM
no, sitting is much harde ron the body than standing...
You are on the right lines with attention to the Sitz bones. After that I recoomend a simple exercises or awareness. I wrote it out in detial in an old blog so I will take a lok and get back to yoyu,
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 28, 2008 at 12:53 AM
Yixi I couldn`t find what I wa slooking for because i have written so much it even surprise smenow!
I did cut this from a previous blog*
1)I allow my shoulders to release away from one another.
2) I allow my left shoulder to release away from my right hip, and my right shoulder to release away from my left hip.
3) I am allowing my hands to lengthen away from my shoulders.
4) I am allowing my hands to widen as my fingers lengthen.
5) I’m letting my pelvis move freely, tilting back more.
6) I am allowing my knees to soften and bend slightly.
7) I am allowing my feet to spread on the ground as my toes lengthen.
8) I am allowing my lower jaw to release from my ears.

Now try playing again and see if you find anything different.>

If you haveN@t read all the blogs I wrote in 2006 you might find some interesting stuff in there. There is quite a long essya on sititng.


From Yixi Zhang
Posted on February 28, 2008 at 3:17 AM
Thank you so much Buri! Actually I got almost all your old writings on AT printed out, but due to the recent the house renovation, they are 'hiding' somewhere. Will try what you said above first and try to stand more at work.

Should be interesting to see what my new teacher will say.

From Ronald Mutchnik
Posted on February 28, 2008 at 4:26 AM
Or the teachers and conductors that give the seemingly positive instruction to relax but "say" it at the top of their lungs!
I enjoyed this blog and apologize that I haven't thought to look at these before but I will start to do so.
Thank you for your invaluable contributions to this site!
From Drew Lecher
Posted on February 29, 2008 at 4:58 AM

So when I say, be erect, stand/sit tall like a ballerina or gymnast, as having a string attached to the head lifting up, lift the chest, suck in the gut and tuck in the butt, breathe deep, be up and alert like a squirrel in the grass when I walk the dogs, stay over the arches, lift the instrument, bring the bow up to the strings, balance, balance, balance… it coincides with your excellent blog?


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 29, 2008 at 6:00 AM
yes, but just workign through all that uses up all my practice time....;)

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