Friday, April 19, 2013

THE PARALYZING IMPACT OF AIR AND EMBOUCHURE ANALYSIS

Adolph Herseth

There is nothing wrong with your chops. Your mind is messing them up.

Paralysis by Analysis.

When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing (vocally) then buzz (mouthpiece).
Transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument.

Arnold Jacobs

I believe that it is best to be somewhat unconscious of our physical maneuvers but highly conscious of our musical goals.

We must not give dominance to the instrument or our various body parts. We must give dominance only to the music.

Robert Dorer 

You have to turn up the volume on the trumpet in your head.

Roger Rocco

THE MUSIC TELLS US EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW

SING BUZZ PLAY

My challenge as an instrumental teacher is very, very simple. The instrumental musicians who come to me for help with there inability to function have drifted away from their dominant awareness of the music to to paralyzing self awareness. I ONLY NEED TO DIRECT THEM BACK TO THE MUSIC. 

In over forty-five years of teaching, no young brass or woodwind player has ever asked me one question about air or embouchure.  The question I have heard quite often is, "How does it go?"I have great success raising their awareness of how the music should sound.

Many experienced brass or woodwind players think, or have been told, they have air or embouchure malfunction. I have never encountered a single wind player who actually has a problem with air, embouchure, tongue, or fingers. Their paralysis is always the result of distracting self awareness in their conscious mind. 

A VIVID CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF MUSICAL SOUND IS THE ULTIMATE DISTRACTION FROM PARALYZING SELF AWARENESS.    

THE BRASS TRILOGY

1. There is no reason for success or failure other than our state of mind.

2. Sound motivates function.

3. It’s just the singing.

Self doubt is a self inflicted wound that results from an expectation of failure. We always realize our expectations. 

Courage is the first step toward greatness.

Courage is not the absence of fear. It's the will to function in spite of it.

In over forty-five years of teaching, no inexperienced young wind player has ever asked me one question about air or embouchure. However, countless more experienced musicians have said that they have air or embouchure malfunction because someone told them so.

Much of my current teaching is directed to professional brass and woodwind players worldwide who have lost their ability to function. They have been told by other musicians, teachers, and the medical community, that they have Focal Dystonia, an incurable neurological condition. Sometimes they are needlessly prescribed injections into their embouchure.

With the exception of some woodwind players who experience paralysis in their hands, most wind players experience the symptoms of tongue, air, or embouchure malfunction. Often they are advised by teachers or the medical community that they cannot continue their career.

THE MORE A MUSICIAN CONSCIOUSLY ATTEMPTS TO CORRECT THEIR SYMPTOMS OF FAILURE, THE WORSE THEIR PARALYSIS BECOMES. IN EVERY INSTANCE, THEY HAVE CONSCIOUSLY ANALYZED THEIR TONGUE, EMBOUCHURE, AIR, OR HANDS UNTIL THEY BECAME PARALYZED. TRAGICALLY, PARALYZING SELF ANALYSIS IS PRESCRIBED AND ENCOURAGED BY MANY TEACHERS AND MUSIC SCHOOLS WORLDWIDE.

When giving a lecture or masterclass, I frequently ask attendees if they think they have air or embouchure problems or if they have been told they have problems. I’m not surprised that about one third of the musicians in the group respond affirmatively. I always assure them that there is nothing wrong with their malfunctioning body parts. Their physical symptoms of failure are the result of a problem with their conscious state of mind.

I HAVE NEVER ENCOUNTERED ANY WIND PLAYER WHO HAD ANYTHING PHYSICALLY WRONG WITH THEIR EMBOUCHURE, FINGERS, TONGUE, OR ABILITY TO EXPEL AIR. HOWEVER, I HAVE ENCOUNTERED MANY MUSICIANS WHO THINK THEY HAVE SOMETHING PHYSICALLY WRONG. THEIR PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF FAILURE ARE THE RESULT OF AN INEFFECTIVE STATE OF MIND.

Several years ago a professional trumpet player contacted me regarding his "embouchure dystonia".
His first words just before his initial lesson were, "Roger, I have bad news. I have just returned from the doctor. He told me there is nothing physically wrong with my chops."

I replied, "That's the good news!" 

A teacher once told me that if I could cut the tongue out of my mouth, I would be a good brass player. Yes, my tongue was not functioning well to articulate notes playing the tuba. However, I had no problems when I used my tongue to talk or chew food.

THERE WAS NOTHING PHYSICALLY WRONG WITH MY TONGUE.

Another teacher noticed that I was not breathing well so he told me to sit in front of a mirror and observe the expansion and contraction of my chest and stomach. A week later at my next lesson, I told him that the visual analysis he had prescribed, paralyzed me to the point that I could barely play. He angrily exclaimed that if I didn’t do the visual analysis, I would never play.

I WAS QUITE HEALTHY,  SO IT WAS OBVIOUS THERE WAS NOTHING PHYSICALLY WRONG WITH MY ABILITY TO INHALE OR EXPEL AIR FROM MY LUNGS.

Still another teacher told me that I had embouchure problems because there wasn’t enough room between my upper lip and nose to shift the mouthpiece 2/3 upper lip-1/3 lower lip. He told me to cut the upper rim of my mouthpiece so there would be room to move it higher on my face.

THERE WAS NOTHING PHYSICALLY WRONG WITH WHERE I COMFORTABLY PLACED THE MOUTHPIECE ON MY LIPS WITHOUT SHIFTING UP OR DOWN.

There is plenty of air at your lips when you play cracked (“rejected”) notes.

You are an expert breather. You have been breathing to sustain your life for a long time.

Arnold Jacobs

The key to playing well is found in speech.

No child studies their breathing , tongue manipulation, or vocal chords in order to say words. Their ability to speak is motivated by their awareness of the sound of words.

It’s the conscious awareness of the sound of words that motivates the subconscious mind to execute all the physical mechanics that are required to speak.

THE DETECTABLE vs THE UNDETECTABLE ELEMENTS OF PLAYING

We are all familiar with the “toys” many brass teachers use to detect air and embouchure. They include embouchure magnifying mirrors, clear plastic mouthpieces, embouchure visualizing rims, bags, balloons, tubes, respirometers, and other medical devices.

In all my years as a professional musician and teacher,I have never once observed a competent brass player using any visual or mechanical devises.

The only brass players I have seen using them are those who are struggling to play. These devices are useless because they attempt to substitute weak conscious awareness of playing mechanics for a powerful conscious awareness of sound.

The subconscious mind has complete awareness and command of all the mechanical skills that are necessary to play an instrument or do anything else. Those skills are motivated by sound not paralyzing analysis. To motivate complex mechanical function the subconscious reactive mind is much more powerful than the conscious intellectual mind. A flea has no intellect yet it can execute great mechanical skill in order to fly. Our subconscious mind skillfully execute thousands of commands to our various body parts to sustain life, walk, or talk .

Substituting weak conscious intellect for powerful subconscious function inevitably results in failure.

We must not bypass the immense power of the subconscious reactive mind by attempting to substitute with weak conscious intellect. We cannot detect motion or pressure of air, muscular manipulations, or frequency of pitch using the sense of feel which is relatively weak compared to the senses of sight or sound.

To an extent, we can detect air flow and pressure away from playing by blowing on our hands or into a mechanical device. However, there is very little ability to detect air flow or pressure while playing. We have great ability to detect sound as we play. Awareness of sound is a powerful motivator mechanical function. 

Feel and fail are four letter words to a brass player.

Attempting to play by feel is like trying to empty a swimming pool with a straw.

When you try to play by feel, you are going the wrong way down a one way street.

Arnold Jacobs

We cannot motivate function through the use of sensory symptoms. We must motivate function through motor (muscular) systems.

The use of mechanical “toys” attempts to bring awareness of playing mechanics to the sense of sight. There is an important reason why there are no mechanical devises or mirrors in my studio.

WE CANNOT PLAY AN INSTRUMENT BY MOTIVATING THE SENSES OF SIGHT OR FEEL. OUR GOAL PLAYING AN INSTRUMENT IS TO PRODUCE SOUND. AWARENESS OF SOUND MUST BE THE MOTIVATING ELEMENT. WE HAVE GREAT POTENTIAL FOR AWARENESS OF SOUND IN OUR IMAGINATION. 

THE SOUND THAT WE PRODUCE EXTERNALLY WITH AN INSTRUMENT MUST ORIGINATE INTERNALLY IN OUR IMAGINATIVE MIND. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT WE HAVE THE COURAGE TO FOCUS PRIMARILY ON THE SOUND OF THE INTERNAL INSTRUMENT. 

IF WE ARE LISTENING TOO INTENTLY THE EXTERNAL INSTRUMENT, WE WILL ATTEMPT TO CREATE FUNCTION WITH SENSORY AWARENESS. FAILURE WILL BE THE INEVITABLE RESULT BECAUSE ONLY SOUND AWARENESS WILL MOTIVATE FUNCTION.

Some teachers use the sense of sight by using mechanical devises to distract the student from the paralysis resulting from their intellectual analysis. I have found that non-musical mechanical devises take the player further away from the sound rather than bring them closer to it.

All of the devises in my studio are instruments that function only to create musical sounds. Their purpose is not to become more aware of air or body parts.

Awareness of sound is the ultimate distraction from paralyzing analysis because it directly and powerfully motivates the mechanical skill required to produce sound.

Adolph Herseth

Think sound not mechanics.

Roger Rocco

Sound motivates function.

Imagination is much more powerful than intellect.

IMAGINATION vs. INTELLECT

Arnold Jacobs

We can have an intellectual understanding of the music but we must not be intellectual about how to produce it.

We must have the (non-intellectual) mind of a child.

Our minds must focus on telling a musical story.

The product is musical sound not mechanical function. Go for the product.

Roger Rocco

Computers were developed by powerfully imaginative minds to compensate for weaker intellectual minds.

Albert Einstein was an average student intellectually but he had a vivid conscious imagination. Imagination is a very powerful force because it motivates the power of the subconscious mind. When creating motor function, conscious intellect bypasses the power of the subconscious.

Robert Collier (The Secret of the Ages)

The conscious mind is the gateway to the power of the subconscious.

H. A. Vandercook

If you can sing it, you can play it.

Arnold Jacobs

I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn’t matter how my lips feels or how I feel.

There are acoustical laws that must be obeyed. We must send frequencies to the instrument that it can respond to. We must sing the music in our head while playing.

IMAGINATIVE MENTAL SINGING vs. CONSCIOUS INTELLECTUAL ANALYSIS

Conscious intellectual analysis with mirrors and optical devises motivates the senses to transmit information from the external tissues to the brain (input). Since the brain is focused primarily on receiving weak information through sensors, output diminishes so there is little mechanical function. Motor (muscular) function is motivated by the transmission of information from the brain to the muscle tissues (output).

Your subconscious mind will respond faithfully and powerfully to your conscious awareness of sound.

However, your subconscious mind will search for sound using the sense of feel if your conscious awareness of sound is vague or absent. Your subconscious mind already knows how to execute the mechanics necessary to play. Your conscious mind only needs to have a powerful awareness of the notes you want to play. When you only have a vague awareness or no conscious awareness of the sound, your subconscious mind will attempt to create a “feel” awareness of sound by converting your lips into ears. Lips have great potential to produce sound but they are very poor detectors of sound. We must prevent the subconscious mind from searching for the sound by feel in the lips. We only need to provide a vivid awareness of the sound in the conscious mind.

THE MOST VIVID CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF SOUND IS ACHIEVED BY MENTALLY SINGING WHILE PLAYING. 

 SING BUZZ PLAY

A number of years ago I observed a demonstration of which areas of the brain were active while playing an instrument. The brain of a violinist was scanned as she played. The part of her brain that was most active was the same part that is active in speech. She was speaking with sounds created by the violin rather than vocal chords.

Some sounds are labeled words and some are called music. It doesn’t matter how we label them because all sounds originate as conscious thought in the same area of the brain. The messages of sound can be transmitted to any tissue. People who have had their vocal chords removed because of cancer learn to speak crudely using other tissues in their throat.

We all learn to speak without any conscious understanding of the mechanics involved. Over time our subconscious mind learns the mechanics necessary to realize to our conscious awareness of sound. We only need to allow a child the time and repetitions necessary to make it happen. Since a brass instrument has no sound of it’s own, the sound that emerges from bell is a direct reflection of the mind of the player.

Arnold Jacobs

There are two instruments. One in the hands and one in the head. The instrument in the hands is a mirror reflecting the one in the head.     

Roger Rocco

You must be an honest musician because you have a lie detector in your hands.

(3:1) THE GOLDEN RATIO AND “THE LADDER OF AWARENESS OF SOUND”

We must have a powerful conscious awareness of the sound in order to produce a powerful resulting sound with an instrument. Vocal singing and mouthpiece buzzing are powerful tools that raise our awareness of sound. I advise students to sing and buzz, in any combination, three times to elevate their musical awareness. The sets of three should be repeated until the sound awareness has been elevated enough so that they can maintain conscious singing while playing.

Sound awareness must be powerful enough to overcome all distractions such as feel, the instrument, or the conscious analysis of mechanics. Once they have learned fingering and playing position, my elementary students only asked the following question.

HOW DOES THE MUSIC GO?

They never asked me how to play their instrument! They knew much more than me because they play them everyday. My success as a teacher and as a player has always resulted from my communicating the music to my students or myself. Yes, it’s that simple. Any music therapist knows that music has a very powerful influence on the mind.

We must have a simplistic approach to motivate the complex mechanics required to play an instrument or do anything else.    

H. A. Vandercook

Keep it simple.

THE HOT STOVE SYNDROME (PARALYZING NEGATIVE CONDITIONING)

Paralysis by Analysis inevitably results in a history of failure. Over time the physical discomfort and emotional pain the player experience becomes associated with and reinforced by the instrument. The instrument becomes a "hot stove" that the subconscious (reactive) mind rejects as harmful. The rejection results in paralysis of the embouchure, breathing, tongue, fingers, or any combination of those elements of playing.

The normal reaction to the paralysis, discomfort, and emotional pain is to consciously restore function and to feel good.

Feeling good when you play is a by-product of playing correctly. You cannot motivate correct playing by attempting to feel good first.

As the player consciously attempts to motivate the tissues and feel good, they create more failure resulting in increasing paralysis and emotional pain.

Paralysis (dystonia) is motivated by the subconscious mind in response to a history of failure. The process of restoring function can only occur if the player gradually creates a history of success.  

Most of my teaching involves helping musicians recover or develop their playing skills that have been lost, or never achieved. They usually have dedicated themselves to paralyzing analysis of their air, embouchure, and sometimes fingers. Most often the self analysis was prescribed to them by well intended teachers, technical method materials, and music schools.

My job is always very simple. I only need to alter the musician’s state of mind by directing them to focus only on the music.
 
Self analysis is not only unnecessary, it results in destructive paralysis. If children self analyzed how to speak or walk, they would never be able to do either. Many musicians devote their lives to learning how to master playing an instrument but never do.

IF YOU MASTER THE MUSIC FIRST, MASTERY PLAYING THE INSTRUMENT WILL FOLLOW.   

THE MUSIC TELLS US EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW.

IT’S JUST THE SINGING!

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