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50 Hortense St
Glen Iris, VIC, 3146
Australia

0490 126 293

Practice of Jeremy Woolhouse, pianist and Alexander Technique Teacher in Melbourne, Australia

Specialist in working with musicians, RSI, posture re-education, neck, back and chronic pain management. 

Articles on Alexander Technique in life - by Jeremy Woolhouse

Monthly blog articles by Jeremy Woolhouse.  Alexander Technique for daily life, music performance, specialised activities, pain relief and management.

Filtering by Category: Musicians

Embodied Training for Instrumental Technique

Jeremy Woolhouse

Instrumental technique may be considered as the interface between concept and sound.  Our technical prowess determines how effectively our ideas flow from imagination, through the instrument, to the listener.  The definitions we create of technique, guide our practice and teaching.  They may be a liberating or limiting factor.  We inevitably acquire a set of judgements around what is appropriate technique, and what is not.

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Positive posture at the piano

Jeremy Woolhouse

Piano instruction books often depict ‘the right posture for playing piano.’  They may illustrate a pianist with a straight back, feet on the floor, and forearms parallel to the floor.  There are advantages and disadvantages to presenting images like this.  If a student were to hold this position, the holding may become very limiting for piano technique, not to mention tiring!  Through an investigation into positive poise, we can explore some principles of coordination for playing.

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Considerations in position of the piano stool

Jeremy Woolhouse

When asked about school chairs, FM Alexander is quoted as saying “We need to educate our children, not our furniture.”  The same can be said about the piano stool - it is far more profound and fundamental to learn to change one’s coordination than to learn where to put one’s stool.  The former also informs the latter.  We can look to Alexander Technique not for a prescribed position of piano stool, but for principles which can guide our decision making.

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From pain to proficiency playing piano

Jeremy Woolhouse

Moving from pain management and prevention of injury, to confidence, technical and musical proficiency at the piano.

Of all the instruments, piano may appear to have a most straightforward ergonomic. The pianist doesn’t have to hold the instrument, control breathing, deal with major symmetry challenges or contort for fingering. In spite of this, the rate of pain reported by pianists is high. Wrist pain, hand or forearm tension, tendinitis, carpal tunnel, frozen shoulder and back pain are commonly experienced by pianists.

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A pianist in pain - a revolution through Alexander Technique

Jeremy Woolhouse

A nineteen year old aspiring to become a professional pianist, got to the stage where he’d be writhing on the floor from back pain after playing for fifteen minutes.  Three Alexander Technique lessons gave sufficient perspective to manage the crippling back pain.  This is the story of how I came to Alexander Technique and the fundamental learning of my first three lessons.

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Constructive thinking in performance

Jeremy Woolhouse

A fine balance is required in the performing arts.  Attention must be divided among essential specifics, and simultaneously be united towards coordinated performance.  Too much attention on one aspect is as disastrous as too little.  

When musicians perform, we consciously initiate certain aspects of coordination and action.  Many more processes are managed outside of our consciousness.  Some, we can learn to become aware of, and we may learn to directly modify these.

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Alexander Technique and RSI

Jeremy Woolhouse

Musicians and computer users are at the top of the list for Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI).  
Alexander Technique’s unique approaches make it a powerful tool in prevention and management of RSI symptoms.  poise and action in accord with Alexander Technique principles promotes long term resolution of underlying causes of strain.

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When does 'good enough' happen?

Jeremy Woolhouse

Looking to the root of stress, one common theme is that of not being good enough. Musicians might recognise this in the form of ‘not doing enough practice’.  Alexander Technique identifies the struggle which arises and introduces practices which dissolve the context for such judgement.

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Stop trying to be musical

Jeremy Woolhouse

In any educational process, there are inevitable ups and downs.  When progress stagnates, this is an indicator that some mode of thought is preventing further development.  One of the most confounding barriers to a musician is when an intention for musicality inadvertently creates conditions which limit performance.

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Removing interference

Jeremy Woolhouse

Alexander Technique is a process of removing interference.  Without interference, concept flows into action effortlessly.  Restrictions of physics still apply, so a conceived ideal may not be possible, but performance will be closest to intended, and most rewarding to the performer, when interference is minimised.

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Alexander Technique and Taubman Piano Technique

Jeremy Woolhouse

Alexander Technique trains the use of oneself, in any situation.  To the aspiring pianist, it is an effective technique to improve how one uses oneself at the piano.  It falls short, however, of training a technique of playing the piano.  Five years of territory study and additional years of private instruction gave me some ideas of piano technique, but there remained a incongruity between the coordination I’d learned through Alexander Technique, and what I understood the demands of playing the instrument to be.  I discovered the Taubman Technique to be the bridge to that gap.

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Sitting on the knife’s edge: the uncomfortable comfort.

Jeremy Woolhouse

There is a reaction known as “fight or flight” which is triggered when we perceive danger.  It is very appropriate when there is danger which needs an immediate fight or flight as a response.  This happens very rarely in modern society, the response is usually triggered by an emotional threat for which fight or flight as a response is inappropriate.  The resulting tension can create a massive limitation to performance and may guarantee a result which we were aiming to avoid.

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​Consciousness and The Zone

Jeremy Woolhouse

In the sports and performing arts, there is what is known as Flow, or “being in The Zone”.  It is considered the ‘state of mind’ where one is wholly absorbed in performance and is associated with moments of peak output.  Although heralded as the ultimate state, performers often report being The Zone also leads to pain, or that pain interrupts Flow.  This article considers the apparent paradox of using consciousness to preserve Flow and eliminate the negative side affects.  It is relevant to anyone who associates being deeply engrossed in a task with stiffness or soreness.  

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Fix the problem or practice the solution.

Jeremy Woolhouse

There is a wonderful book by Pedro DeAlcantara called Indirect Procedures.  The title epitomises both the main challenge students have with Alexander Technique, and the profound solution it proposes.  I present here an example of a problem, and the unexpected principles which lead to its resolution

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Judgement: The Good, The Bad and The Objective.

Jeremy Woolhouse

From the small act of getting in and out of a chair, to the musician on the stage, there are numerous decisions to be made.  Discernment and Judgement are forces which use observations as a force which can elevate or destroy satisfaction in any act.  This article uses the example of pianistic performance, but aims to speak relevance to all activity

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Constructive thinking in performance: fundamental principles of peak performance of any skill.

Jeremy Woolhouse

A fine balance is required to manage any specialised skill.  Attention must be divided amongst essential specifics, and simultaneously be united towards coordinated performance.  Too much attention on one aspect is as disastrous as too little.  I consider three fundamental categories encompass all constructive attention. Thinking is most positively constructive to coordinated performance when balanced across the three areas.  Thoughts outside of their parameters interfere with successful engagement in skilled activity.

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An alternative approach to RSI resolution

Jeremy Woolhouse

One of the most common symptoms of the digital era is Repetitive Strain Injury, or RSI.  Also known as Occupational Overuse Syndrome it includes ailments such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel, gamers thumb and tennis elbow.  Alexander Technique presents a unique approach to resolving symptoms and goes further than any other modality or intervention to remove the underlying causes.

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A Universal Principle of Learning and Training.

Jeremy Woolhouse

At the core of study in any modality and in any demographic, is a principle I call Progressive Complexity. It is the method by which we can start with any degree of incompetence and progressively acquire skill. This one principle is the foundation for my teaching practice in Alexander Technique, and in piano tuition. Whether it is realised by the pupil or not, an inability to engage the full potential of Progressive Complexity is what leads students to seek support of a teacher.

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An improvising pianist’s endorsement of Alexander Technique

Jeremy Woolhouse

The Alexander Technique has become an indispensable aspect of my pianistic performance and practice.  It has complemented, informed and enhanced my musical education, and taken my development well beyond what conventional music education did.   

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