Working with Instrumentalists







A problem in modern-day instrumental performance

Research shows that more than 50% of professional orchestra string players are playing with pain. Obviously there is nothing wrong with their technique – the problem lies rather with the carriage of the body. Well-organized movement throughout the skeletal frame is needed to support the complex, highly precise and highly demanding movements of virtuoso musicianship without undue stress and injury.

Specialized, effective interventions

The Feldenkrais Method® offers a sophisticated, highly effective approach to resolving the negative impact of anomalies in performers' body organizatiion. Group classes of Awareness Through Movement® are recommended for entire sections of an orchestra, and Functional Integration® sessions can zero in on an individual's particular problem, helping string players, wind players and vocalists resolve their performance pain issues effectively and permanently.

Alan Fraser is especially well-qualified to work with musicians, with over 50 years' experience as a performer as well as 30 years' experience as a practitioner. The more deeply one can delve into the precise physical movements of high level musical performance, the better one can recognize where an intervention can be most effective.

Improving the Self-Image

The problem lies in the performer's self-image. We may feel that a proud, open bearing is going to help our playing, but if we lock our torso into extension, other parts of the body move with less ease. Others may love hunching over their instrument as they play, in a kind of intimate embrace. Again, there is nothing wrong with rounding the body – unless it becomes chronic.

Alan's lessons in Feldenkrais for performers gently reveal to the neuromotor system the detrimental aspects of one's posture, and coax the brain into reorganizing the complex arrangement of muscular contractions and relaxations that animate one's playing. He does this with extremely small, slow and gentle movements, enriching sensation by reducing effort. This is the level of activity at which the brain can best perceive and learn.


A DEMO LESSON EXCERPT (translation from the Serbian below)

  • "Do you feel different now?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Do you like it?"
  • "Yes!"
  • "Yes, your sound is already better. Play a bit more, let's see what else we can do. . . .
  • "Now your bones are doing more of the work, the muscles less, than usual, right?"
  • "Right."
  • "It's a strange feeling, eh? But there's an ease to it and a special sound. Your muscles are freed from having to hold the body up. They are free to do their real job, moving, because the bones are doing the job of standing you up. When your muscles are holding you, you are not free to move, but when the bones hold you up, you are free to move. I know this is really strange for you, but for a first try, it's fantastic... And now we're going to refine it a little, so it becomes more familiar to you."

ALAN SPEAKS ABOUT HIS WORK

"Your sound improves when your connection to your instrument is more organic – in Feldenkrais terms, free from parasitic contraction. Both stiffness and relaxation are superceded by vitality, where you are actively engaged in producing a sculpted, resonant, expressive sonority. An institute illuminates the functional components of this movement style through the lectures, through listening, through explanation, and through experience – how to link musical conception to physical organization. My teaching is very much 'hands-on:' at times I will simply explain with a gentle touch, that senses and guides without intruding, that joins your hand fluidly to your instrument to create a tone both rich and immediate.

'My experience in both piano and Feldenkrais helps my ear and eye ferret out hidden points of tension or weakness that prevent you from creating this sound. Seeing the hand as a mini-body – the fingers as legs, the metacarpal-phalangeal joint as a hip joint, the hand as a pelvis, and the arm as a torso that breathes – gives special insights to a pianist's hand on key, helping me pinpoint precisely where it fails to stand, walk, run and jump effectively. Seeing a musician's shoulder as a hip joint helps connect the hand to the whole body, whose dynamic sitting supports the hand in its empowered relation to the instrument.

'This physical focus always stays in touch with the music. Each physical strategy has an affect on the sound, the phrase shape, the musical and emotional expression. Mapping the movement of your physical structure onto the musical structure, you move better while mastering musical content more effectively."


Embodied Performance Practice

Alan is one of a growing number of Embodied Performance Practitioners. Many teachers play well and teach well, but don't know enough about body organization to effectively help their students when they develop physical problems. On the other side, many doctors and physiotherapists don't know enough about musical performance to understand the unique physical demands made on a performing musician. The Embodied Performance Practitioner is professionally trained in both domains: in a bodywork modality such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais Method, sacro-cranial work, osteo[athy, etc., and in musical performance. The insights gained by expertise in both realms offers musicians who suffer as they play an invaluable resource.

Working with Alan Fraser

If you are an instrumentalist or vocalist who wants to work with Alan, please don't hesitate to contact us. You are welcome to attend a piano institute, work with him one on one either in person or online, or to book Alan to lead a workshop with your orchestra, instrumental or vocal ensemble. Not only will the frequency of injury in your ensemble be reduced, your sound will improve. Don't wait, contact us today!