More on tension

July 28, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Posted in Short Blogs | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,

After posting yesterday’s blog, questions came to me.

  • How much tension is “necessary” for what I am trying to accomplish?  More to the point, am I adding tension?  If I have habitual tension in my shoulders, and I place my hands on the piano keys, it is likely I am holding myself differently than I would if I tended to move more freely.  When I was working with an Alexander Technique teacher, we spent one session exploring my piano playing.  It took many tries to play one phrase without engaging my neck, back, and jaw, and when I finally accomplished it, there was so much emotion released in that act of free movement, I almost started sobbing!
  • Do I hold any attitudes or beliefs that contribute to my tension?  Can I explore these? 
  • How can I “work on” not being tense?  What an ironic question!  It will not help me to approach this with my usual drive and determination, because that will add unnecessary tightness.  In the aforementioned AT session, I did not sit down to the piano until we had spent a good half hour getting into a lighter and more effortless place with my posture and breath.  I cannot will myself to relax – I have to walk down a patient and conscious path in that direction, every time.  And it is a different path each time, otherwise I am approaching it in a rote way, which I have found to be almost useless.
  • How can I approach this with my mantra of doing it imperfectly?  There are so many days that I have only a limited time to practice.  Is it more important to work on technique as often as possible, or to work on “practice readiness” by walking down my AT path first, which might cost me my practice time?  I don’t have an answer to this right now.
  • I understand that if I practice a piece with tension, I am practicing playing it tense, which is the result I will get.  I also know myself well enough to say that one of the most important things I am learning these days is how to say “This is good enough for now.”

For the present I am going to do my best to dwell in the paradox this last piece contains.  A friend once asked me if I could expand myself enough to hold two (or more) conflicting feelings at the same time.  I have just been given another opportunity to explore that frontier.

2 Comments »

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  1. I have the sense that what your instructor told you about tension not being a bad thing could really be interpreted to mean “strength” is not a bad thing. Perhaps the word “tension” is creating to much?

  2. I had that thought too, and it’s possible that’s what he meant. Specifically, we were working on a chord on the violin, which means putting three or four fingers down on three or four different strings, and I simply couldn’t reach and hold the right pitches all at the same time without contorting my hand. I’m inclined to think (now, a year later) that he meant it was okay to stretch and contort for just that chord, and then release. And of course what I was doing instead was holding on to the tension as I continued the piece. Another point is that over time my fingers will become stronger and more able to reach all those notes more easily, so the tension will become increasingly lessened with practice. And maybe that is what he meant as well. What I really love is how much it made me explore, which turned out to be the greater gift!


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