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#458559 - 11/05/07 09:56 AM Alexander Technique - wow!
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
Having struggled with undue tension in my piano playing (among other things) for much too long, I decided to take lessons in the Alexander Technique over the course of this past year. It has been a gradual process of getting better awareness of my body and improving function through directing and "letting go."

During the past month we have moved from the table and the chair to the grand piano. Today I was invited to play at the end of the lesson and, with direction, experienced the most amazing feeling of lightness and freedom and (un)control. The p+ passage I have been struggling with came out singingly ppp and my tone improved as I observed in amazement as my hand seemingly played the piano on its own. A very pleasurable experience.

Anyone else out there applying Alexander Technique to their piano study? Would find it interesting to hear others' experiences.

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#458560 - 11/05/07 10:27 AM Re: Alexander Technique - wow!
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
it's basically what Taubman method for pianists. see discusion here:

http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/2/13997.html#000021

but after all, one has to feel that 'lightness' to play effectively at advanced level without being injured. i read a book on Alexander technique, and know the idea and am still trying to apply it to playing piano, not always sucessful though...

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#458561 - 11/05/07 04:28 PM Re: Alexander Technique - wow!
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
“Alexander is very helpful beginning from the moment you are introduced to it, and knowledge continues if you will simply practice and follow it. There is lots to read, especially with the Conable's books.

Any of these methods and practices below are interesting and serve different needs. If one wants to improve body movement to balance oneself or to relieve tension and stress, here are a few of the leading exponents to study. I find that ideas from each are very applicable.
I may have forgotten an important educator, by all means add your contributions.

Please enjoy your research and investigations!”

Betty

SYNOPSIS:
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE is a form of education that is applied to recognize and overcome reactive, habitual limitations in movement and thinking. The Alexander Technique is usually learned from individual lessons with a teacher using specialized hand contact and verbal instructions. The Technique is also taught in groups, often using short individual lessons which in turn act as examples to the rest of the class.
The Technique takes its name from F. Matthias Alexander, who first observed and formulated its principles between 1890 and 1900. (Wikopedia)

THE FELDENKRAIS METHOD is an educational system centered on movement and the body, aiming to expand and refine the use of the self through awareness originated by Dr Moshé Feldenkrais (1904-1984), a Ukrainian Jewish physicist and judo practitioner of Eastern European descent. Among his many published books was Awareness Through Movement where he presented a view that good health means functioning well---working well, having satisfying relationships with emotional maturity, able to access a full range of responses to any situation---as opposed to health in a medical sense, or in any sense divorced from how humans actually function in day-to-day life. He asserted that his method of body/mind exploration improved health in this way.
He was more interested in the goal of holistic functioning than merely physical treatment, typified by his statement "What I am after is more flexible minds, not just more flexible bodies".
(Wikopedia)

ÉMILE JAQUES-DALCROZE (July 6, 1865 – July 1, 1950), was a Swiss musician and music educator who developed eurhythmics, a method of learning and experiencing music through movement. (The influence of Eurhythmics can be seen in the Orff Schulwerk pedagogy, common in public school music education throughout the United States.) (Wikopedia)

“PULSE PATTERNING INTRODUCTION”
http://www.hope.edu/pulse/introduction.html
Piano Education Page Website – Search out the site.

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#458562 - 11/05/07 11:28 PM Re: Alexander Technique - wow!
Bernard Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/01
Posts: 3857
Loc: North Groton, NH
theJourney,
 Quote:
Anyone else out there applying Alexander Technique to their piano study?
Yes, I did a couple of years worth of lessons. It was of tremendous benefit. I'd very much like to persue taking another set of lessons, it's been a few years.

A very good book: "Indirect Procedures' by Pedro de Alcantara. He's a cellist and AT teacher but the book covers more than just cello playing.
_________________________
"Hunger for growth will come to you in the form of a problem." -- unknown

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#458563 - 11/05/07 11:32 PM Re: Alexander Technique - wow!
Bernard Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/01
Posts: 3857
Loc: North Groton, NH
signa,
 Quote:
i read a book on Alexander technique, and know the idea and am still trying to apply it to playing piano, not always sucessful though...
Although it's possible to pick up quite a lot from a book, AT is subtle and a few lessons with a teacher would be quite valuable as an orientation.
_________________________
"Hunger for growth will come to you in the form of a problem." -- unknown

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#458564 - 11/06/07 03:46 AM Re: Alexander Technique - wow!
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
 Quote:
Originally posted by Bernard:
signa,
 Quote:
i read a book on Alexander technique, and know the idea and am still trying to apply it to playing piano, not always sucessful though...
Although it's possible to pick up quite a lot from a book, AT is subtle and a few lessons with a teacher would be quite valuable as an orientation. [/b]
I agree with this. I also did read a couple of books beforehand and tried to apply them on my own (the best was "Body Learning - Regain your natural poise" by Michael Gelb. I found the books from Conable and Thomas Mark a bit too much like high school anatomy classes). However, since the Alexander Technique is about avoiding "end gaming" and focuses on how we function rather than directly focusing on obtaining results, it is difficult to find a personal approach that actually yields results without appropriate external feedback.

It didn't really work for me to approach it intellectually. I think you need to have an Alexander teacher lay their hands on you. For me, there was enormous value from the teacher in developing conscious awareness of unrecognized tension, breaking through unknown, unconscious habits, internalizing accurate body maps to stop mis-using myself, replacing faulty but "comfortable" kinesthetic sense about what feels "right" and finally, how to go about doing by non-doing.

Perhaps I may be an example of an exceptionally uptight individual, but it took three months of lessons on my teacher's table and daily laying down on the floor at home just to get to the point where I was starting to get the basic hang of being able to direct myself into a dynamic state of spinal extension and neck relaxation to even start moving forward in the ongoing learning process...but oh am I glad now for this early investment!

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#458565 - 11/06/07 11:38 AM Re: Alexander Technique - wow!
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
thanks for suggestions! i'll see if i need a teacher for that. i've done some dancing before and have pretty good body awareness and have never encountered any piano related injuries because of that. but something needs to feel than just be taught, i guess, and sometimes, it just needs time and experienment on movement and feel to finally get it.

i'm practicing Chopin op.10.1 first 2 passages lately (not that i'd learn the whole thing yet), and realized it's just so difficult to relax between each arpeggio group, which btw is the key to play it in speed without tiring. i tried to get the feel of 'lightness', and still is hard to do, and sometimes i feel it and sometimes i don't. here, Alexander principle would apply, and i just have to get it so that i could eventually master the technique to play something fast without tension or fatigue.

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#458566 - 11/06/07 10:39 PM Re: Alexander Technique - wow!
Silent Thoughts Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/05
Posts: 314
I've had one lesson in Alexander Technique and it was quite incredible. However, reading about teachers in my current locale, it was difficult to figure out who would be worth paying for. A lot of Alexander teachers seemed to be a bit suspect with what was promised or just plain unprofessional. In addition, lessons in my area are quite prohibitively expensive.

Does anyone know how to find a good teacher aside from being recommended one directly? (If you can recommend one in the Washington DC area, though, I certainly wouldn't object).

Thanks in advance.

- Silence

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#458567 - 11/07/07 02:34 AM Re: Alexander Technique - wow!
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
I agree that the search for a teacher can be quite difficult, especially in the "outlying areas" such as the former English colonies. \:D I found this site through google that may help: http://www.alexandertech.org/

I was fortunate enough to be referred to one of the teachers with 30 years of experience as an Alexander teacher who works 3 days per week working for the Amsterdam Conservatory with graduate students. You may want to contact your local University and/or Conservatory to see if they also have made Alexander Technique an integral part of their program and if they can refer you to an experienced teacher.

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#458568 - 11/07/07 07:00 PM Re: Alexander Technique - wow!
AaronSF Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/07/04
Posts: 732
Loc: San Francisco
I've had over a year of Alexander technique lessons, and they have been incredibly helpful. My teacher is also a voice teacher. She accompanies her students at the piano, so she's intimately familiar with how the body interacts with the piano. My lesson also ends with my playing for 5-15 minutes, my teacher gently prodding and supporting me into better body awareness and form. It's far more subtle than I imagined from reading about it! Tension leaves when the body is maximally aligned, giving one much more freedom of expression at the piano.

Alexander technique is NOT a quick fix -- not something that can be "learned" in a few lessons. It takes time, sometimes a lot of time, for the body to unlearn bad habits and learn new, good ones. And it's not just about form at the piano. The technique affects ALL movement for the better. For me it's definitely been worth it!

I'm on hiatus with Alexander technique lessons right now because I had rotator cuff surgery in September. Alexander technique has helped me in my physical therapy. I hope to get back to lessons in January.
_________________________
Aaron

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#458569 - 11/11/07 04:01 AM Re: Alexander Technique - wow!
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
Yes, my teacher also works primarily with singers.

My experience has also been that it takes a lot of elapsed time for new habits to emerge through inhibiting old reactions and redirecting new actions. By definition, you can't isolate it to one area, but rather the technique helps you to transform all movement.

Additional benefits for me have been that I breathe better, no longer experience cramp when typing, am able to cook or do up the dishes, etc. with ease of movement & no more tension than required, and even jog and swim easier.

Only recently have I been able to transfer the transformation realized in relatively simple tasks (slicing a potato) into one that gives benefits in a relatively complex task (playing the piano).

What I find fascinating about the technique is that the changes appear to be very subtle but the results are anything but.

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#458570 - 11/12/07 10:15 AM Re: Alexander Technique - wow!
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
The problem I see with all these
methods is that they designed to make
you feel good but don't really improve
your playing--you've got to suffer in
order for that to happen. Thus,
they should not be confused with piano
instruction, but rather, identified for
what they really are, which is
supplementary, feel-good type programs.
For example, someone could devise a hot
tub/massage routine that would be given
as a theraputic supplement to piano
instruction. This would make you feel good
and relaxed, which might be important to
some players, but it wouldn't actually
improve your playing.

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#458571 - 11/12/07 10:24 AM Re: Alexander Technique - wow!
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Actually Gyro, a hot tub would improve you. That's why Glenn Gould soaked up to his arms before playing.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#458572 - 11/12/07 10:51 AM Re: Alexander Technique - wow!
Bernard Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/01
Posts: 3857
Loc: North Groton, NH
Gyro,
 Quote:
The problem I see with all these
methods is that they designed to make
you feel good but don't really improve
your playing...
From my own personal experience I say you are quite wrong. Alexander Technique taught me how to work at removing that ceiling which kept me playing in a limited way, that otherwise I had no idea how it would be overcome. Before AT I was playing in a very localized way with no apparent way out.

I will say though that it is best if you can find a piano teacher that knows about AT and has had AT lessons. If you take AT lessons but have a teacher that isn't well informed, you may find some improvement but I'm thinking it won't be as great as if your piano teacher has done AT.
_________________________
"Hunger for growth will come to you in the form of a problem." -- unknown

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#458573 - 11/12/07 03:01 PM Re: Alexander Technique - wow!
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Gyro said:

"The problem I see with all these methods is that they designed to make you feel good but don't really improve your playing--you've got to suffer in order for that to happen."

So are you saying you get or give "Gold Stars" for the suffering you do while playing the piano?

I've always thought your postings have an interesting slant, Gyro. Can we attribute it to your role and philosophy as a "martyr"?

I don't quite understand why that posture really bothers me. Suffering hurts. Terminally hurts. How does one win through suffering electively?

We're talking music making here. I would think suffering is a horrible penance and an overwhelming obstacle. In fact, I know it is!

Problem solving should be empowering not diminishing. Striving for perfection will bring out the beast every time, it is better to have high standards and the pursuit of excellance. Music is brought out from within, it is not beaten into, there should be no assault in any way.

I subscribe to the "Flow", "Pleasure", "Growth" path to Music Literacy.....and the "First do no harm" philosophy.

Betty

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#458574 - 11/12/07 04:45 PM Re: Alexander Technique - wow!
Jim Frazee Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/31/06
Posts: 392
Loc: Westchester County, New York
Bernard and others:

The Alexander Technique is taught at Juilliard both in the college and night divisions.

Gyro: Try alternating hot and cold water rinses (run hot water from the tap with an ice bath next to you, both as extreme as you can stand, plunging both hands into each for as long as you can) for about five minutes before you play. The difference in fine motor skills is amazing and, after repeating the exercise for some time, becomes part of your normal playing even without the baths.
_________________________
PianoPerfection
Teacher, performer, technician
Westchester County, NY

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