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  1. #1

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    For me it's been almost a year now of mostly weekly sessions.

    I feel like it's helped me be more fluid and intentional in my movements, I've developed a pretty different attitude towards my body, towards discomfort or pain, and towards playing the guitar. It's definitely also helped a lot with my guitar teaching, instructing students on how to sit/stand with the guitar and how to physically approach the instrument. And I'm still very much a beginner with it.

    Initially my teacher and I connected because she was looking for guitar instruction and found my website and offered a barter, so it's been a half hour of my time for a half hour of hers. I had heard really great things about AT before starting so I figured I'd give it a shot.

    It took a few months for anything to really 'click' but gradually I started to get more into it and now I'm quite hooked.

    Anybody else into it?

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  3. #2

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    I think in one of his interviews/seminars Julian Lage talks about his positive experiences with AT. I haven't particularly had any formal instruction in it, but couple of years ago or so, I really got into at least trying to understand the basic principles of what it was all about, especially with regard to posture, balance, good form of the spine etc. Definitely very important things which can serve as a diagnostic towards analyzing and getting rid of physical stress factors during performance and/or practice with the instrument.

  4. #3
    Yes, I actually posted that JL clinic, here it is again:

    little bit about AT at 7:34, and I think there was an interview question about it later to which he had a pretty enlightening response. I had already been at the technique for a few months when I listened to this clinic, but hearing him open up about wider applications of the technique really got me thinking, or rather, changing my thinking.

    AT is kind of like a method of thought and can be applied to a lot of things.

  5. #4

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    I did that 20 years ago for about a year. Even bought a 'kneeling chair' (which I wouldn't mind trying again.)

    I didn't mind doing it but I can't say I miss doing it. Hadn't thought about it in over a decade before seeing this post. If I feel unduly tense I will lie on the floor on my back for ten-fifteen minutes and that usually sets me straight.

    I took my guitar to a few sessions and my instructor made some suggestions. They didn't seem to make any difference to me. What did, though, was a guitar cushion, which I now use all the time. That made a real difference.

    That said, I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that the Alexander Technique made a big difference for someone else. It might make a difference for me if I did it again now, but I gave it a solid year when I was excited about the prospect and it didn't have much impact for me. That's all I can say.

  6. #5

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    Jake, can you go into what Alexander Technique is about a bit?

    As I get older (and my kids get heavier) and I start to feel muscles I didn't know I had before I'm starting to think I need to get this guitar thing worked out so I don't end up with some serious issues down the line.

  7. #6

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    Julian Lage discusses his regular meetings with his AT instructor, and he credits the AT with his redesign of his picking:
    I had a vivid image of an Olympic diver bouncing on a diving board in preparation for a dive. It reminded me of the pick on the string. If I could “bounce” on the string—effectively sensing the equal force between the string and my hand—all I’d need to do to make the string sound would be to give up my resistance. Like the diver on the diving board, I could let the springiness of the string do more of the work. Rather than being propelled away from the string, I would cease meeting the string with equal force, and instead, give up. Let the string win. By imagining the string almost cutting up through the pick (on a downstroke), it felt as though the string played itself and I was there to create just enough friction to get things started.
    Julian Lage
    Digging deeper: The diving-board effect
    Premier Guitar 2012 June
    Robert Fripp's 3000 students of Guitar Craft courses have all been introduced to the AT.
    Another daily feature of the course was work with Frank Sheldon, an accredited teacher of the Alexander Technique. The very first Guitar Craft seminars included some yoga exercises, but Fripp soon concluded that the Alexander Technique was more effective and accessible. F.W. Alexander was a British actor who spent his life observing his posture and that of others, and training teachers to spread his methods. The Alexander Technique begins (and ultimately ends, I suppose) with simple - yet not easy - awareness of what one is doing: what bodily positions are habitual, the location of unnecessary tension, finding one's center of gravity, experiencing natural lightness, balance, poise. The technique has been widely used for decades among musicians, dancers, and actors. A minimum of three years' training is required of prospective instructors.

    Much of our work with Sheldon was directly connected with our guitar practice: how to find a comfortable, relaxed sitting position in which it would be possible to practice for hours on end without getting stiff. But Sheldon also used a variety of games as tools for observation. One game was like the one where a whispered message passed from mouth to ear gets progressively garbled until at the other end of the line it bears no resemblance to the original - except that Sheldon had us do the game in bodily movement. Ten people stood in a line, and the first one did some simple motions observed by the second. The second person then turned around and tried to duplicate the motion of the first; the third person mimicked the second, and so on. By the end of the line, lo and behold, the original motions were utterly lost, replaced by a hideous accumulation of habitual gestures of self-consciousness and startling. Through such means Sheldon encouraged us to become aware of the power of habit and to begin a long process of self-observation.

    The first big group lesson in the Alexander Technique was Tuesday at noon. Subsequently, throughout the afternoon, Sheldon met with small groups of four or five, assessing every person's individual standing posture. I have never been particularly pleased with my body image, but was quite unprepared for the revelations Sheldon's analysis gave me - such as the fact that I had been going through life with my head tilted upward, nose literally stuck up in the air, and had accepted this as a normal position. Sheldon gently tilted my head forward until everyone in the room agreed it was now straight. He asked me how it felt. I said, "It feels like I'm staring at the ground!" And so it did. This experience was one of many such insights I received at the seminar - insights that came like a flash, in moments of "Aha!" that would be followed by months and years of follow-up work and probing into their meaning.

    Eric Tamm
    Robert Fripp: From Crimson King to Crafty Master
    Last edited by Kiefer.Wolfowitz; 06-03-2014 at 03:52 PM. Reason: Quote from Eric Tamm's chapter on Robert Fripp's Guitar Craft, which discusses Alexander Technique applications

  8. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    Jake, can you go into what Alexander Technique is about a bit?
    It's kind of hard to describe. The more I do it the more I understand what it actually is. Honestly it took me a few months to even figure out what the hell we were doing!

    I believe the AT perspective is that if a huge element of injury prevention (and better, more efficient movement) is having 'good use' of the spine, not compressing it at any point, and if it is long and strong, then more or less everything else in the body can follow. So the process is essentially maintaining that long spine throughout all activities.

    Now, I'm still a beginner to it, so that definition is probably flawed.

    Here has been my experience so far with my teacher:

    I stand in front of a chair and she uses both light physical manipulation (touch and guiding me with her hands) and indirect verbal cues to try to have me standing with as little "holding" as possible. For example, rather than holding my shoulders forward or back, we find how if the head is "forward and up," it lengthens the spine and the shoulders naturally rest on the ribcage. Then there is no tension of muscular effort being used to 'hold' the shoulders in any fixed position.

    This aspect of the process just evaluates what happens when I stand, where do I hold tension, where I am using the weight of my body to compress my spine at any point, essentially. We probably spent equal time covering the same stuff in a seated position.

    Verbal cues are given as indirect means to get to a point of "good use." Indirect because if I say "stand/sit up straight" you'll do something habitual that actually isn't standing up straight. Or if I say "stop being tense in your hip joint" you'll likely do nothing or even tense up your hip joint because you'll be thinking about it.

    A lot of the AT deals with sensory perception...what we might think is straight or relaxed or whatever in our own bodies may be the opposite. So there's the combination of the teachers physical guidance (to experience the new sensation of better 'use' as they call it) and the indirect cues that are little mental/verbal tricks to get you using your body in a way that you might struggle to do just through direct conscious thought alone.

    Exhausting all that for a while, I try to sit down in the chair, and then we observe all the habits I have regarding getting down into that chair...arching my back or rounding my back, lunging my head forward or back, etc, and we apply a similar process as I described regarding standing, now to the movement of bending my knees to lower myself in space towards the chair. And then to come up.

    As I progress, more movements are introduced besides just sitting and standing, and looked at and analyzed through the same lense.

    A big part of the process is lying down on the floor essentially 'doing' nothing but taking mental stock of what your body is doing when lying down...for example, you might find lying down on the floor, doing 'nothing' that you actually hold a lot of tension in your..fill in the blank. There are other activities done lying down on a table with the teacher's guidance.

    Related to the guitar, a little more detail is given to the use of the arms and hands (not something we've gotten super in depth with, only a little) but the AT perspective is that a big element of injury prevention is use of the neck, head, and back, as everything follows from that. The spine needs to be being used properly for anything else, like the hands, to work efficiently and safely.

    Honestly, I don't have expectations of getting a lot out of it, but I find it a very interesting study, and I certainly already have gotten quite a lot, both physically and mentally. There haven't been many formal studies on AT so it's not an accepted medical practice or approach, but the medical perspectives I have heard from my teacher seem to be very much in sync with what physical therapists have told me - the AT just uses a different means to get to a similar end.

  9. #8

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    I'm leaning towards it...

  10. #9

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    Jake,

    At the moment, I am in the middle of reading "Indirect Procedures (A Musician's Guide to the Alexander Technique)
    by cellist Pedro Alcantara.

    Not by pure literary interest, but because I'm investigating options to assist in the long term healing of a 6 week old shoulder injury. I have one friend who virtually eliminated back pain issues he had most of his adult life and is now standing at least an inch taller through Alexander sessions.

    I have had more experience with "Feldenkrais" classes, which I like quite a bit.
    In the class setting, the teacher leads the group through repetitive subtle movements, but continuously adding new details about complimentary muscles and general awareness.

    I am one of the newly insured but am very green about doctor pursuits and I'm somewhat mistrustful of them.
    Previous to this injury, I have been to one doctor checkup since High School (which wasn't yesterday).
    I wish I could say the same thing about dentists.

    On this healing project I have already been to a GP doctor, a chiropractor, a masseuse, an acupuncturist and a physical therapist. I would say that the exercises and manipulations of my PT have been the most helpful so far.
    An orthopedist is on the horizon, who knew that xray radiation isn't smart enough to read soft tissue info.

    Although this book presents many exercises (starting in about 50 pages from my present bookmark), it is my impression that the best results would be obtained working with a trained observer to help refocus us as we unconsciously slip back into the "misuse of self".

    Approaches that work on building a sustainable infrastructure and not just make pain go away intuitively feel correct.
    The book is well written, but it is far too early to form an opinion on Alexander Technique.
    I am interested to hear anything that you or anyone else has to say on the subject.

    Bako

  11. #10

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    Like you Jake, I've been doing a barter with my AT teacher (guitar lessons).

    I thought your above description pretty much summed up my experience as well.

    It can be quite amazing when the AT teacher gently manipulates your body (very subtle) and you feel your spine and everything else open up - you feel taller and lighter and realise how much tension you've been carrying round the whole time.

    I have to admit though, in the last two months I've dropped the ball a bit. I've been getting through the busy part of the uni semester and really going for it - as a result I've been spending lots of time slouched in front of the computer. I try to naturally sit up straight (as according to AT - not forced and stiff) but after a little while I find myself falling back into a slump on account of feeling run down.

    I think it's a case of 2 steps forward 1 step back - just like playing guitar. You've got to keep at it until those bad habits (deeply ingrained patterns) no longer are the 'default' mode you keep returning to.

  12. #11
    At the moment, I am in the middle of reading "Indirect Procedures (A Musician's Guide to the Alexander Technique)
    by cellist Pedro Alcantara.
    Thanks for the title! I'll have to check it out. Next on my own list is Amazon.com: An Alexander Technique Approach to Jazz and Rock Guitar Technique eBook: Ethan Kind: Kindle Store

    Not by pure literary interest, but because I'm investigating options to assist in the long term healing of a 6 week old shoulder injury. I have one friend who virtually eliminated back pain issues he had most of his adult life and is now standing at least an inch taller through Alexander sessions.
    Sorry to hear about your injury but great that you are being proactive about it after only such a short time,assuming that is not a typo.

    And yeah I think I'm appearing taller too! I notice myself at times standing above friends who I know for a fact are several inches taller than me.
    On this healing project I have already been to a GP doctor, a chiropractor, a masseuse, an acupuncturist and a physical therapist. I would say that the exercises and manipulations of my PT have been the most helpful so far.
    An orthopedist is on the horizon, who knew that xray radiation isn't smart enough to read soft tissue info.
    I've had several different physical therapists and I have found a good PT can be invaluable resource, while a bad PT can even make things worse.

    Although this book presents many exercises (starting in about 50 pages from my present bookmark), it is my impression that the best results would be obtained working with a trained observer to help refocus us as we unconsciously slip back into the "misuse of self".
    Yes, like I wrote in my lengthy description above, the process leading the individual to "good use" is a combination of the verbal cues and the physical guidance of the instructor.

    For example, it all starts with the head being "forward and up" and it is incredibly challenging to simply 'feel' how this "forward and up" actually works. It requires an instructors physical guidance, otherwise you are just guessing.

    The nature of the technique is that it is addressing your habits as well as misconceptions about your own body. You may think you are doing something, some conscious activity, when you're really doing something else.

    It is the opinion of my teacher that you can't actually learn the technique and without a good teacher and his or her physical guidance.. Like I said, I am a beginner to it so I don't feel like I have the data or perspective to form a useful opinion about the issue on my own. But all that being said, if it is practically feasible, I'd highly recommend hands on AT sessions.

    I should have added before, a potentially simple way to receive actually hands on AT sessions without the cost of private one on one sessions might be to seek out a class where AT instructors are being taught the methods of physical manipulation and volunteer as a test subject for their educational process. I was told, by a friend who did the training, that they often need guinea pigs. Something to look into.

    Approaches that work on building a sustainable infrastructure and not just make pain go away intuitively feel correct.
    AT takes a very different approach to pain, one that has been at times frustrating regarding how indirect it may seem, but over time I am seeing the value.

    In the process of learning more about AT I have also had several personal epiphanies about my own mental approach to my pain and discomfort. Others might not have the same experience, but this might be the most substantial change in my life since I started it. I now see more clearly many links between thought and pain, both in the moment and sustaining pain.
    Last edited by JakeAcci; 06-04-2014 at 09:24 AM.

  13. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by 3625
    I have to admit though, in the last two months I've dropped the ball a bit. I've been getting through the busy part of the uni semester and really going for it - as a result I've been spending lots of time slouched in front of the computer. I try to naturally sit up straight (as according to AT - not forced and stiff) but after a little while I find myself falling back into a slump on account of feeling run down.

    I think it's a case of 2 steps forward 1 step back - just like playing guitar. You've got to keep at it until those bad habits (deeply ingrained patterns) no longer are the 'default' mode you keep returning to.
    I feel you...I think my progression went something like:

    1. I would occasionally notice how bad my use was, then attempt to correct it

    2. I would often notice how bad my use was, then attempt to correct it, only to notice how bad it would just be just a minute later and then I'd go "dammit!"

    3. I would often notice how bad my use was, then be pleased that I was being aware and capable of making the observation.

    4. Now I feel pretty aware of my use I'd guess...75% of the time, and many things actually have become ingrained such that I look different at rest and other people have commented on this. I'm constantly 'cueing' myself, but it's a gentle thing and I let it go sometimes.

    Having to spend a lot of time at the computer can definitely be problematic. I like using dictation software and/or my phone and being able to stand up and walk around for part of my work time.

  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes
    I did that 20 years ago for about a year. Even bought a 'kneeling chair' (which I wouldn't mind trying again.)

    I didn't mind doing it but I can't say I miss doing it. Hadn't thought about it in over a decade before seeing this post. If I feel unduly tense I will lie on the floor on my back for ten-fifteen minutes and that usually sets me straight.

    I took my guitar to a few sessions and my instructor made some suggestions. They didn't seem to make any difference to me. What did, though, was a guitar cushion, which I now use all the time. That made a real difference.

    That said, I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that the Alexander Technique made a big difference for someone else. It might make a difference for me if I did it again now, but I gave it a solid year when I was excited about the prospect and it didn't have much impact for me. That's all I can say.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences Mark. As with everything I suppose it's always "YMMV." I have to say I'm more interested in it as a study for its own sake rather than any specific benefits it will give me.

    Out of curiosity, what were you hoping to get out of it at the time?

  15. #14

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    I studied with a well known teacher in my area about 20 years ago when having bad overuse injuries. It helped a lot and was fascinating to study. Basically taught me to listen to my body and really aided to feel and release excess tension.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by JakeAcci
    Thanks for sharing your experiences Mark. As with everything I suppose it's always "YMMV." I have to say I'm more interested in it as a study for its own sake rather than any specific benefits it will give me.

    Out of curiosity, what were you hoping to get out of it at the time?
    I don't recall now how I heard of it. Must've been in a book... I was in my 20s then and didn't have any physical ailments. I was more curious about how proper use of my body would help me. My posture was never the best (aside from playing guitar, I read a lot and write a lot, so 'slumped over' is my default position) and I tend toward the absent-minded and have been known to bump into things. Nothing about the experience was unpleasant. I found a teacher within a half-hour's drive of my place, went to her house, which was a pleasant place, and she was very nice. It was always comfortable to lie on her table and get into the position and be manipulated this way and that. But I could never point to any specific benefit from it. (The same thing might do me more noticeable good now, as I'm older and less flexible than I used to be.)

    The day you started this thread, I ordered a couple books on AT from the local library. They haven't arrived yet but should soon. One is called "Master the Art of Swimming." I swim laps for a half-four most days and wonder if this book might make me aware of certain things that might make the exercise more effective. I also ordered a more general book on the technique. Perhaps reading it will refresh my memory of what happened in all those sessions. It is possible that one reason I incorporated some parts of the technique into my daily living and am no longer aware that that's where they came from....

    Nothing about the experience was negative and if I could barter for sessions now, I would, just to see how it all seems to me now.

  17. #16

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    I just started to undergo Alexander Technique last month. I agree with you that at first, it was tedious. I feel heavy after a couple of sessions, but it was just my body coping with the method. Now, I am enjoying the technique and I start to feel better as the days go by.

  18. #17
    Thanks for reviving this thread. I've been bad about my formal AT practice, schedule just too busy and it got de-prioritized, however I still try to apply AT to much of what I do, especially exercise.

  19. #18

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    One of the most important of Alexander's Principles for guitarists is "primary control", which, vastly over-simplified, means learning to place your head at the top of your spine in balance, and let everything else follow down to the floor, whether sitting or standing. Doing so changes the way you sit and balance your bone structure in a way that frees the muscles and nerves. Once found, in my experience, your playing, even for pro-level players with a long background in serious practicing, immediately improves in a very noticeable way. Jerald Harscher at The Poised Guitarist website utilizes Alexander's principles, and Lage got some help from him with impending focal dystonia, as I did with actual focal dystonia. It's amazing how many of us play injured for years at a time, and others don't learn about their body-mind connection and achieve high technical level through overstimulating and creating heat and tension by misusing the machine, thus developing focal dystonia, which is a very serious loss of certain techniques that are the very basis for a technique. So learning about Alexander applied to the guitar can do almost anybody good. Jerald teaches via Skype and he's a very good diagnostician.