Smaller is Better!

When it comes to setting our goals, it’s easy to dream big. Dreaming is excellent, but it is often difficult to take actions that will lead us straight toward our goals.

It is difficult not to consider every obstacle in our path as the materialization of the failure of this great dream. Why not just split this dream in different stages, as the climber who climbs the mountain one step at a time, his only goal to be the next step. On an expedition and in my life in general, I often use this technique, enjoying and concentrating on every step taken towards my ultimate goal.

“Do the difficult things while they are easy, and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao-Tzu Not only split our dreams into intermediate steps allows us to draw a clearer path towards our goal, but in addition, each little success can be savored. This action enjoying the success, as brief it may be, will help you build your confidence in your abilities. Your brain will store all as small victories against adversity. One can also, by doing so, easily adjusts the shot and reacts to an unexpected obstacle.

Set yourself small goals, achievable fairly easily, every day, every hour, every minute, every second of your life. Next, take concrete actions to achieve them. Enjoy every success, do not minimize them.

“What saves a man is to take a step. Then  another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it.”  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry From time to time, go wide angle, re-evaluate the distance that separates you from your dream, analyze if this is still what you want and finally, adjust your actions in the right direction. Continue your expedition one step at a time, living every effort, every step forward and every small victory.

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matters the road is the life.” J. Kerouac

© Jean-François Desrosby, D.Mus. 2019

Blades of steel!

If there were only one piece of advice to be garnered from everything that I address in my research, this would surely be that relating to the separation of the shoulder blade. This is actually the most common issues among musicians. By relaxing the shoulder muscles, we cause a structural problem in the shoulder blade region. The latter becomes prominent. If you pass your hand over the shoulder blade, and you can actually feel the tip of it, this means that you are afflicted by this terrible “evil” that I call the “sharp blade”!

Like many nerves, muscles and tendons that cross at the shoulder blade, it is essential that it be maintained in its proper place (coaptation) to ensure optimal movement of all members driven by the structural elements crossing at this place. The effect of a well-positioned blade can be felt by the fingertips. To maintain the blade in place, it is essential to ensure the tone of some of the upper back muscles. This is achieved by extending the shoulders (and the collarbone) slightly and adding this a slight forward motion. It goes without saying that the shoulders must be extremely toned, and under no circumstances should one release the muscles below this region.

I am aware that it is difficult to visualize without example, but I am working on something that will help you better understand these concepts. Stay tuned!

© Jean-François Desrosby (D.Mus.) 2019

Visualization: Getting started! (What you see is what you get!)

No matter at what level is your ability to visualize, it can develop in a daily work. Start by imagining you where you practice your instrument: what it looks like, smells, how you feel when you would normally enter this room.

Imagine yourself trying to perform simple extracts on the guitar. Imagine the sound it produces, acoustics, resonance. To develop this ability to visualize, you should work on it 10 to 15 minutes a day.

For example, you can train to see yourself going up on stage, play your repertoire with pleasure and visualize the warm welcome of the public. You can also visualize a difficult passage seeing you be successful in your head, the brain then lower the psychological barrier that was created earlier.

In addition, you can train yourself to see your fingerings and your scores to accelerate memorization. You can train yourself to relive a performance that was a success for you. Imagine staying focused, despite all possible distractions. Imagine reacting  in the right way.

You can help you overcome your blockages thanks to visualization. The secret is in regular training.

© Jean-François Desrosby (D.Mus.)

Posture and self-confidence

We already know that posture plays a significant role in optimizing our movements when playing an instrument. Many of you may be surprised to know that posture also affects self-confidence.

If we can guess the level of self-confidence of someone by analyzing his posture, it is as well true that our own posture reflects our confidence in ourselves.

So if our posture reflects our confidence, can we influence our level of confidence intentionally by changing our posture? The answer is yes. Good posture will affect your level of personal confidence in addition to giving others the image of someone more confident about his abilities. If we add those benefits to both the injury prevention and optimizing technique, there is no reason for you not to work to improve your posture, and this, in your instrumental practice as in your daily life!

© Jean-François Desrosby (D.Mus.)

Visualize or not visualize, that is the question!

A student asked me: how visualization can help me? My answer was simple: The brain cannot tell the difference between an imagined experience and a real experience. It deals both on the same footing. So what you train yourself to see or feel, your brain registers it as a real experience. Take special care not to imagine the worst, because your brain will be able to help you to realize it! Yours to try using this tool with all possible variations, for sure it will help you reach your full potential!

© Jean-François Desrosby (D.Mus.) 2019

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 relaxed 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 one 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 complains 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 a 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.) 2019

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 function, 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. Unfortunately, if it remains unoccupied, it will act as a moral being, and our personal filters will guide its decision-making.

There 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 cannot, 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.) 2019

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 through 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 the 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 a 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.) 2018

Brain, Hormones and Performance

Cortisol a friend who is also an enemy!

Our body is a fabulous machine. With the evolution through the centuries, it is capable of the greatest achievements and is designed to enable us to cope with all situations. Stimuli around us trigger a multitude of chain reactions in the depths of our being. These reactions are what allows us to survive our environment.

Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. Very important for several metabolic functions of the human body, it allows among others to regulate glucose in the blood, controlling blood pressure levels, to secrete insulin, stimulate the immune response and inflammation. Normally, this hormone is present in the human body in greater quantity in the morning and in lesser quantities in the evening. It was named by some researchers stress hormones, not because it is secreted in times of stress, but because it is secreted in large amounts by the body when it is subjected to intense stress.

A slight increase in cortisol may have several positive effects on the human body. For example, it gives us a boost of energy for survival reasons. It increases the ability to memorize and immunological capacity, reduces sensitivity to pain and maintain homeostasis (balance) of the body.

Cons secreted by high doses during periods of stress or chronic stress related to lifestyle, cortisol is a real poison. It reduces cognitive performance, suppresses the thyroid function, causes blood sugar imbalances, reduces bone density and muscle mass, reduces immunity and may cause higher rates of abdominal fat responsible for several diseases such as heart disease and metabolic syndrome. It is therefore, important to limit the action of cortisol at times when it can really be helpful. To do this, we must learn to stop the secretion of this hormone. Before and after a stressful event, it is important to charge our batteries. It must then be fundamental to take a time buffer before and after it.

Several activities can reduce the level of cortisol. Include breathing exercises, yoga, Tai Chi, Qi-Gong, moderate physical activity (according to our fitness), meditation, listening to slow music, to sleep and all activities that enable us to feel present and in harmony with each other. These ways will be developed in depth later in this blog.

© Jean-François Desrosby (D.Mus.) 2018

Basic Concepts

The majority of musicians are sensitive to correct positioning of the main body axes (vertical and horizontal). For cons, the optimization requires a more in-depth and knowledge of key physiological mechanisms that lay behind every little move of a musician. The avowed aim is to optimize the position of each member to facilitate movement of the fingers that is unconstrained.

The number-one  rule of my approach is to use each muscle for the work for which it was designed. In this way, the stronger muscles will take care of tasks requiring strength, such as the continued rise of the left arm and supination or pronation of the right hand.

The small muscles that are more agile, will take charge of movements requiring lightness, precision and speed.

If you are afraid that my writing contradicts your beliefs, immediately put this blog on your black list and look no further into.

Please return to the Cave of Plato. ; )

If you are curious, and if you want to understand how physiological principles come into play when you execute a particular movement, it will be my pleasure to introduce you to the biomechanics applied to music…

I’m officially no longer part of a school of thought… Like for all great thinkers of this world, all the guitar schools contain mostly the correct answers, but biomechanics can help us in making micro-adjustments that are helping us to unlock our guitar technique in the respect of our morphology, which allows us to improve.

© Jean-François Desrosby (D.Mus.) 2018