The Feldenkrais Method can offer musicians a totally new horizon in their performance, learning and approach. Playing a musical instrument can be a very habitual activity — we hold the instrument in a certain way for long periods of time repeatedly with little variation. Through the method you can find more comfort with your instrument and prevent future discomfort or injury. However, there are also benefits that reach far beyond physical comfort. Here are just two of them that I have experienced that are perhaps less obvious to somebody approaching the method for the first time.
The Feldenkrais Method is an education method focusing on learning. How we practice is vital to how well we perform. Many musicians are taught that pain and sacrifice comes with the territory and some people accept this. Competition rather that celebrating our individuality is encouraged. Musicians can tend to feel like they need to be one step ahead, chasing something elusive. All of these thought patterns contribute to a constellation of bodily tensions that inhibit our self expression and the development of any further virtuosity. Practice becomes a chore, rather than something to find pleasure in. Many are in such rush to improve and are so attached to results that they are seldom in the present moment when practicing, thus the fruits of their labour are limited, and the vicious cycle continues.
The Feldenkrais Method teaches you to be interested in the process rather than a goal. It is a method of learning to learn and all of the strategies employed in an awareness through movement lesson can be taken into the practice room. Going slowly, using directed attention (a vital skill that many musicians can improve), reducing the amount of effort you use, taking regular rests, reversibility and using differentiation are all learning strategies employed in a Feldenkrais ATM lesson and from my experience after some time they organically become integrated into how you practice. You will find that you cannot help incorporating these learning strategies into your instrumental practice, especially after experiencing how effective they are during an ATM lesson.
What you once found impossible, becomes possible. Difficult passage work becomes easier and displays of virtuosity can eventually become effortless. Yes, effortless! You will learn to enjoy practice again, and re-discover the sense of pleasure that perhaps initially attracted you to music.
Every musician experiences some form of anxiety at some point in their lives, some people suffer much more than others. Performance anxiety is something that I have experienced in various extremes from mild excitement to crippling fear. I once was giving a big recital in South Africa and I really felt the pressure, at one point I turned to my partner and said “I don’t think I can do this.” After giving myself a pep-talk I got on the floor and did a forty-minute Awareness Through Movement lesson. I was able to completely alter my mental state; when I stood up I felt capable, grounded and even excited. That recital was the best I have ever given! Our mental state is inseparable to muscular tonus. By letting go of the neuromuscular pattern of anxiety I was engaged in I was able to alter my mental state. The Feldenkrais Method teaches you how to self-regulate, on and off stage. Perhaps you are curious? You may be sceptical … don’t take my word for it, find a local Feldenkrais class and give it a go. In my years of experience with the Method I have yet to leave a lesson without something to incorporate into my flute playing.
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