For the podcast called “I Used to Play Piano”, hosts Ioanna and Zara interview Jeremy Woolhouse to chat about Alexander Technique, piano technique, experiences with pain at the piano and solutions to technical problems.Read More
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
If you experience pain when playing piano, your body is telling you that you are at risk of injuring yourself. Piano technique is not inherently painful. Even a mild discomfort is an indication that you can improve on piano technique; whether this may be the specific movement of fingers on the keys, the balance of the whole body to support your hands, or a combination of both.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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 resolutionRead More
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 activityRead More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More