Musings on Learning Music



with a footnote on bifocals...

Do be careful about your posture and your position. Those of us on the far side of “forever young” know that our bodies don’t heal as quickly as they used to. Our aging bodies will have enough trouble with the non-symmetrical positions instruments require; don't make it harder on your joints and muscles by being sloppy about position! This is especially important right now when you are excited about starting or getting back to your instrument; pay attention to your body! If something hurts, take a break. If something hurts every time you play, talk to me or talk to your teacher - you may have something you are doing wrong or there may be a simple fix that will take care of the problem.

“No pain, no gain” is a lie!

Returnees, some of you may have had pretty bad position when you were a kid learning this instrument. Chances are your body will fall right back into its bad habits! Use a mirror to check that you are in the correct position now - it will feel weird!

Beginners, you will likely find that the position you are supposed to be in may feel very uncomfortable - that is true for everyone and you will get used to it; check often to be sure you are correct and take frequent breaks to let the muscles relax.

So what can you do?

Stop frequently and roll your shoulders, stretch your fingers, arms and even legs. Muscles that are held in stationary positions for long periods of time aren't getting enough oxygen because the blood is restricted. Stop and stretch everything (including your face!) to get the blood flowing again.

Be careful of your position; check the pictures in your lesson book (see me if you need a picture) - specifically:

-Percussion: Keep both feet solidly on the floor to anchor your body. Keep your elbows in, but not squeezed tightly to your sides. Use a snug grip, but don't squeeze your fingers too tightly. Breathe!
-Winds: Sit up straight, sit out on the edge of your chair. No crossed legs (how can your lungs expand if your legs are pushing up on your abdomen??). Fingers are in a relaxed curve, not flat, and the fleshy part of the finger pad should be the part that is touching the key or the valve or the slide.
-Trombones: use a light grip with your right hand, holding the slide between your thumb and your first and second fingers - let your wrist do a lot of the work!
-Saxes: turn your mouthpiece so that your head/neck is in a natural, straight up and down position, and not held at an angle. Check in a mirror.
-Flutes: watch for your head being at an angle. Check in a mirror. Your head/neck should be in a natural straight up and down position. Hold your instrument close to horizontal to the floor to keep everything in alignment. Your right shoulder will get tired - rest it frequently.
-Everybody: keep your shoulders relaxed; your shoulders are not earrings! Keep them down. Set your instrument down and walk around every once in a while during your practice time. Go get a drink of water - stay hydrated!

Musicians’ injuries aren’t as talked about as sports injuries, but they are quite common. Be careful of your position so that you don’t have to experience this part of playing an instrument!

Sigh... By now, if you wear bifocals, you know what a pain that is when you are playing music! The line or the change in the lens is ALWAYS in the wrong place! Beware of getting your head/neck in awkward positions that will cause a stiff neck and cramping. Again, roll your head some and stretch those shoulder muscles.

I finally bought a pair of “band/orchestra glasses” that were mostly mid-range so I could see the music, with a little bit of distance on the top so that I could see the conductor! I went with the kind with a definite line so that there was no fuzzing in and out of focus in the mid-range section.


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©Diane Muffitt