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Specific techniques/tips for staying relaxed?
#2485208 11/27/15 11:03 PM
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I've recently become aware that I have far too much tension in my body when I play, and I hold my breath when I approach difficult passages. This is probably why I find it so difficult to play in front of others.

I've been experimenting with deliberately breathing and relaxing, and particularly relaxing my fingers, hands and shoulders. It makes a huge difference to the tone and fluidity of my playing.

However I'm kind of working in the dark - I've never learned any techniques for relaxing whilst playing (at least not that I can remember).

Does anyone have any specific techniques or tips they could offer?


The difference between dreams and reality is action.
Re: Specific techniques/tips for staying relaxed?
cathryn999 #2485271 11/28/15 04:03 AM
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You made the first and most important step. Pianist tend to hold a lot of tension in their jaws as they play. I try to let the sound and act of playing relax and melt away the tension of the day. For me the relaxing starts at the writs and thumbs, then spreads out.



Enjoy.


"Imagine it in all its primatic colorings, its counterpart in our souls - our souls that are great pianos whose strings, of honey and of steel, the divisions of the rainbow set twanging, loosing on the air great novels of adventure!" - William Carlos Williams
Re: Specific techniques/tips for staying relaxed?
cathryn999 #2485357 11/28/15 11:41 AM
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Focus on specific muscles you want to relax, and relax them. Especially focus on the muscles in your forearm. Your arm and hands are where the tension starts, so focus more on those.

And remember you aren't trying to relax all your muscles, only the muscles that aren't doing anything.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Specific techniques/tips for staying relaxed?
cathryn999 #2485384 11/28/15 12:49 PM
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I was only able to work on these issues with the help of a teacher who specializes in injured pianists. So you may need one of those if you get stuck.
The best thing he did for me was to help me understand what TO do -- what muscles should press, or squeeze, or relax and let gravity take over. Which positions and shapes to use and which ones to avoid. When to use the hand to lift and when to use the arm to lift and when to use the finger to lift (very rarely).
Tension is multiple muscles working against one another, and in my case, knowing which muscles should work at any given moment helped me to relax the ones that shouldn't work.


Heather W. Reichgott, piano

Working on:
Beethoven - Diabelli Variations Op. 120
Beethoven/Liszt - Symphony no. 7
Tommy (whole show)

I love Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and new music
Re: Specific techniques/tips for staying relaxed?
cathryn999 #2485538 11/29/15 12:21 AM
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Thank you phantom, dave, heather. The tip about holding tension in the jaw was great - I've discovered smiling! I videoed myself playing and I'm all like frowns and serious and grimacing.... so I decided to try playing the same piece deliberately smiling widely. When I felt myself tensing up I'd glance at my reflection and sure enough the frown had returned... so I deliberately put on the smiley face again. I feel a bit ridiculous grinning at nothing but it seems to work a treat!


The difference between dreams and reality is action.
Re: Specific techniques/tips for staying relaxed?
cathryn999 #2485544 11/29/15 01:15 AM
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The only way to solve your problem is to be 100% conscious about what you are doing with your body (at least). When you play a difficult music which requires a lot of development especially at a great speed the tension in the body appears the same way as if there is a very small sink for a great amount of flood. Tension happens if your brain and nervous system are not capable to effectively process the excessive amount of data (not only physical related). Same happens with computers when they "freeze". Any other suggestion are about the local help like take a bigger bucket to scoop the water. You need a "bigger sink" or a "lesser flood" to go away from tension.

Also it is not a good idea to "stay relaxed" while playing (as a way of thinking). I don't think that you do anything special to stay relaxed, say, while eating a soup with a spoon - you just do whatever needed to be done.

Last edited by Andrei Kuznetsov; 11/29/15 01:47 AM.
Re: Specific techniques/tips for staying relaxed?
cathryn999 #2485661 11/29/15 11:20 AM
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Welcome to the club - it seems there are fair number of us who are working on this. I'm one who played for decades before I even became aware that is was an important issue. Arrggghhh!!! And it turns out to be one that gets more important as one ages, I think.

One thing that has been helpful for me is to decide on a piece or two where I am really focused on working on relaxation, rather than trying to do it across the board. What I learn from them tends to spread out gradually to include everything else.

For me, it has worked best for those "relax above all" pieces to be somewhat challenging technically, but not so much musically - I don't want to get too involved with fancy interpretation stuff while learning this. They should be practiced ultra-slow, so you can notice every little thing that happens, and be as physically "floppy" as you can manage. And they should be throw-aways that you don't intend to present publicly - you don't want the pressure of working towards a performance influencing this kind of work.

For example, right now the first of the Moszkowski op. 72 etudes is a piece I am using to do this kind of relaxation work. It has about the right mix of difficulty and some particular technical challenges, while not presenting a lot of dense musical stuff to deal with (but still asking for some stylishness, not you aren't completely off the hook, musically).

Re: Specific techniques/tips for staying relaxed?
cathryn999 #2485675 11/29/15 12:15 PM
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Often tension is antagonistic muscles isometrically locked. Press not too hard on the key once it is down.

http://i1.wp.com/baddestmotherever.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/bw-midvale.jpg


WhoDwaldi
Howard (by Kawai) 5' 10"
Re: Specific techniques/tips for staying relaxed?
wr #2485767 11/29/15 05:36 PM
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Originally Posted by wr

One thing that has been helpful for me is to decide on a piece or two where I am really focused on working on relaxation, rather than trying to do it across the board. .


That's a great tip, thank you wr.
<drags out Fur Elise.....> ;-)


The difference between dreams and reality is action.
Re: Specific techniques/tips for staying relaxed?
cathryn999 #2485896 11/30/15 01:45 AM
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It's a life's work.

Re: Specific techniques/tips for staying relaxed?
cathryn999 #2486240 11/30/15 08:04 PM
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Perfect the piece at a faster tempo than your target. Then when you throttle back you should feel more relaxed.


Estonia L190 #7004
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Re: Specific techniques/tips for staying relaxed?
Stanza #2486374 12/01/15 05:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Stanza
Perfect the piece at a faster tempo than your target. Then when you throttle back you should feel more relaxed.

Thanks Stanza. I wish there was a *like* button.


The difference between dreams and reality is action.
Re: Specific techniques/tips for staying relaxed?
cathryn999 #2486663 12/01/15 08:11 PM
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You are very kind. Another tip is to imagine that you are the composer, then have the attitude, "I'll play that next note when I'm good and ready". Since it's your piece whatever you play at whatever tempo will therefore be correct. It's kind of liberating.


Estonia L190 #7004
Casio CDP S350

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