Tone versus relaxation

The first error of the musician who is conscious of his well-being is  listening to people who constantly remind him that the most important thing in the practice of his art is to be relax but they forget to specify how to a relax! The result is the emergence of tension.To counteract these pressures, the well-intentioned musician accentuates is relaxation, which accentuates the tension.

The result of this accentuation of relaxation appears to be an escalation of tension for no apparent reason. After discussions with his teachers, colleagues and friends, all advise him to do ne thing: Relax!

While it is true that relaxation may be an appropriate solution to the problem of tension,  we must first understand the mechanisms that are behind the idea of relaxation.

For example, take the shoulders. If a musician wants to relax the shoulders, he lets them fall down. As a result, he complais of stiffness in the neck. This is a typical example of what I call  “false relaxation”. This state involves releasing a particular muscle in order to relax a body part. What we must understand about the concept of relaxation is that each muscle has its antagonist.

Therefore, relaxation can only occur when there is perfect balance between the antagonistic muscles. Relaxation does not involve muscle relaxation, but a dynamic tone of the antagonistic muscles that maintain the member in a position of inertia. We thus speak of an active rather than a passive relaxation. The balance of forces produces a feeling of muscle relaxation.

© Jean-François Desrosby (D.Mus.)

Performance psychology, basic concepts

The brain is a tireless worker. It is never idle. If it is not occupied, it can bombard us constantly with (primarily) negative thoughts through our subconscious.

Filters also direct our thinking. All data that reaches the brain is altered before being interpreted. The brain does not have the power to register the negative form. It is therefore important to set clear goals and to expose them in an affirmative and positive way.

For example, if one says,

« I will not fail, the brain registers: « I will fail ». So one must say, « I will succeed! »

Our conscious minds are responsible executing all that work that is linear, sequential, logical, mathematical, analytical and verbal. On the other hand, our subconscious minds are liable for everything that as to do with intuition, creativity, motor fonction, emotion-management and the storage of memories.

Clearly, the subconscious has a lot to do with our

instrumental practice. It allows us to deploy all our assets when the time comes to perform. Unfortunatly, if it remains unoccupied, it will act as a moral being, and our personal filters will guide it’s decision-making.

The are at least four types of filters that can alter our perceptions.

It is therefore clear that the information that reaches us is not pure information. It is also easy to understand that each of these elements comes to power to interfere with our future performance. Indeed they have the power steer our brains to places that may not be in line with our desired level of performance. For example, someone who feels unable to perform a certain technical passage technique will not succeed.

“Do it or do not do it, There Is No try!”  Yoda

“If you think you can, you’re right. If you think you can not, you are right. ” Henry Ford

“I have not failed, I found 10 000 ways that did not work!” A. Einstein

The good news is that everything seems to suggest that this situation is not immutable. The latest research results on brain plasticity show that it retains the power to change throughout the human lifespan. We can always learn, regardless of our age.

Everything can be reshaped. We can change our beliefs, our values and our meta programs when they obstruct our goals. It is also possible to change our goals such that they are in line with our values and beliefs. The important thing is to ensure that all of the elements are working in the same direction by beginning a process of self-discovery. To do this, we can make a move to get to know. The assistance of a psychologist or other professional help to clarify a complex situation.

In the next post, we will t explore practical solutions to optimize our mental performance.

© Jean-François Desrosby (D.Mus.)

The basic positioning of the body

The first constraint encountered by the classical guitarist in his body positioning is that he must be seated.

Initially, the guitarist should try every means to respect the two axes, (i.e. the vertical and the horizontal axes). Let’s say the guitarist needs to sit as if a wire were passing trought the center of his head to go down to the tip of the coccyx.

It is very important that the head rest in the axis, both vertically and horizontally. It reaches a weight of around five kilos, nearly 8% of the total body’s mass, so it is important to keep in line in order to avoid unnecessary tension.

Despite maintaining the vertical axis, the lower back and neck must be held in slight lordosis. This prevents the discs and the fluid around them from pressing on the numerous nerves that surround the spine. As simply pressing on these nerves can cause a slowdown communication to the muscles, it is doubly important to keep this slight lordosis. Moreover, this position is also effective in the prevention of disc herniations.

If we begin at the floor, the feet must be well supported on the ground, because it is in this ground support that we draw strength and stability. Needless to say,  the use of ergonomic support for the guitar is essential. By using conventional support, it is impossible to have both feet firmly planted, and we must thus compensate for the misalignment caused by the elevation of one foot relative to the other. There are several types of ergonomic support for guitar. Those that are fully adjustable and ensure complete stability of the instrument are preferred.

Then the body weight should rest on the pins. Both have to absorb an equal weight. The pelvis must remain mobile and must move even during the practice of the instrument. This prevents the emergence of lower back tensions. The chair should be high enough so that the legs are higher than 90 degrees. In this way, part of the body weight rests on the legs. This position is one that promotes action. In addition, it results in a light natural curve in the lumbar spine, which ensures the desired slight lordosis. The abdominal muscles must be tonic to maintain the vertical axis. The rest of the shoulder girdle should be toned, but I’ll give more details in subsequent posts.

© Jean-François Desrosby (D.Mus.)