Sunday, February 22, 2015

THE EPIDEMIC OF FOCAL DYSTONIA

Adolph Herseth

No greatness can be achieved if the trumpeter is paralyzed by fear.

If a trumpeter is fearful when they play, they should consider another line of work.


Roger Rocco

MENTAL COMMITMENT TO MUSIC = PHYSICAL COMMITTMENT TO CREATE IT.

WHEN A MUSICIAN BECOMES PARALYZED (FD), IT IS BECAUSE THEY HAVE LOST THEIR MENTAL COMMITTMENT TO THE MUSIC. WHAT FOLLOWS IS THE LOSS OF THEIR PHYSICAL COMMITTMENT TO CREATE IT. WHEN THEY TRY TO CREATE A PHYSICAL COMMITTMENT BY CONSCIOUSLY ANALYZING THEIR PLAYING MECHANICS, FAILURE IS THE ONLY OUTCOME. THE PHYSICAL MECHANICS ARE MUCH TOO COMPLEX FOR THE INTELLECTUAL MIND TO COMPREHEND. WE MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO CONSCIOUSLY COMMIT TO THE MUSIC RATHER THAN HOW TO PRODUCE IT. WHEN WE DO, WE ACCESS THE POWER OF THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND RATHER THAN BYPASS IT. AS ARNOLD JACOBS TELLS US,

                                     PLAYING WILL BE A JOY

FEAR is a subconscious state of mind that seemingly protects us from an expectation of physical or emotional harm by motivating paralysis or action. We cannot consciously control fear but we can control how we respond to it. If we respond by removing the conditions that are motivating it, the influence of fear will subside. ATTEMPTING TO ELIMINATE FEAR WITHOUT FIRST REMOVING THE MOTIVATION WILL ONLY INCREASE ITS PARALYZING INFLUENCE.     

COURAGE is not the absence of fear. It is the will to function in spite of it.

DISCIPLINE is the will to do whatever is necessary to accomplish a goal.
Most people never realize their goals because they are paralyzed by their fear of failure.

RECOVERY from Focal Dystonia is a lifelong process that requires courage, discipline, and the great power of persistence.

We cannot consciously control our fear because it motivated by the subconscious in anticipation of failure or danger. However, we can control what is motivating our fear by consciously removing what is causing it. 

Fear of failure is the result of an expectation of failure which results from a history of failure. An expectation of success can only result from creating a history of success. In time, all expectations, positive or negative, become powerfully associated with and reinforced by the instrument we are holding.     

When a history of failure has developed over an extended period of time, the subconscious mind begins to interpret the instrument as the source of emotional pain and physical discomfort. However, the protective response of the subconscious is not protective. It sabotages us by motivating paralysis, greater pain and emotional suffering.             

THE MUSIC MAN, MEREDITH WILLSON

WE USE THE THINK SYSTEM HERE! YOU ONLY NEED TO THINK THE TUNE TO HAVE IT COME OUT PERFECTLY CLEAR.

THERE IS NO REASON FOR YOUR SUCCESS OR FAILURE OTHER THAN YOUR STATE OF MIND!

The symptoms of failure are physical but they are the result of failure in the mind. We cannot correct failure in the mind by first trying to correct physical failure. We must have the courage to first commit mentally to the music we want to produce. 0nly then can we be free of the paralyzing influence of the mindless instrument in our hands instrument.

The precise subconscious physical motor skills necessary to create the music with an instrument will powerfully follow the direction of the powerful conscious musical awareness. This beautiful symbiotic relationship between the conscious and subconscious mind is nothing new in our lives. It allows us to function with ease in the external environment every moment we are awake.

If you want to make a more powerful physical commitment to playing mechanics, you must first make a more powerful mental commitment to the sound you want to produce. If you try to create physical function without musical awareness, dysfunction is the only possible result.

SERGIO CAROLINO

Mind vs. Metal (or tissue)

SOUND MOTIVATES FUNCTION!!

IT'S JUST THE SINGING!!!

THE STRADIVARIUS VIOLIN IN THE HANDS OF ITZHAK PERMAN, THE AMATI CELLO IN THE HANDS OF YO YO MA, THE YAMAHA TUBA IN THE HANDS OF SERGIO CAROLINO, AND THE STEINWAY PIANO AT THE HANDS OF LANG LANG ARE LIFELESS, MINDLESS OBJECTS UNTIL THEY REFLECT THE GREAT MUSICAL MINDS OF THE MUSICIANS PLAYING THEM. THE MOST IMPORTANT INSTRUMENT IS NOT THE ONE IN THE HANDS. IT IS THE ONE BETWEEN THE EARS!    

THE AWARENESS ON AN INSTRUMENT IS THE HANDS IS OF LITTLE IMPORTANCE COMPARED TO THE AWARENESS OF THE MUSIC IN THE MIND.

WE SHOULD NOT SEARCH FOR SOUND INSIDE THE INSTRUMENT BECAUSE NO SOUND EXISTS UNTIL IT IS CREATED IN THE MOUTHPIECE AND SENT INTO THE LEADPIPE. 

MEANINGLESS TERMS LIKE FAT AIR, FAST AIR, WARM AIR, OR AIR FLOW ARE DISFUNCTIONAL BECAUSE THE WIND PLAYER HAS VERY LITTLE CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF AIR WHILE PLAYING. HOWEVER, THE WIND PLAYER CAN HAVE GREAT AWARENESS OF SOUND WHILE PLAYING. FUNCTIONAL TERMS ARE RESONANT SOUND, HEAVY SOUND, LIGHT SOUND,  AND SOFT OR LOUD SOUND,  I HAVE FOUND THAT TERMS LIKE DARK AND BRIGHT SOUND ARE MUCH TOO VAGUE TO REALIZE UNLESS THEY ARE A DIRECT IMMITATION OF SOME OTHER SOURCE.

A BRASS INSTRUMENT IS JUST A MINDLESS LENGTH OF TUBING AND A CONE AT THE END OF A CUP MOUTHPIECE. NEITHER THE MOUTHPIECE OR TUBE HAS  MUSICAL SOUND OR INTELLIGENCE OF ITS OWN. THE TUBE ALREADY HAS A STATIONARY COLUMN OF AIR THAT MUST BE SET INTO VIBRATION WITH SPECIFIC FREQUENCIES OF SOUND THAT ARE CREATED IN THE MOUTHPIECE. THERE IS VERY LITTLE AIR FLOW SO IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO DISTRACT OURSELVES BY TRYING TO CREATE MOTION OF AIR. TERMS SUCH AS FAST AIR, WARM AIR, FAT AIR, AND FLOWING AIR ARE PARALYZING DISTRACTIONS FROM THE AWARENESS OF SOUND.  

IMAGINATIVE MUSICAL SOUND ORIGINATES AS CONSCIOUS AWARENESS IN THE MIND. IF WE DO NOT INTERFERE WITH PARALYZING INTELLECTUAL ANALYSIS, THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND WILL MOTIVATE THE COMPLEX PHYSICAL MECHANICS NECESSARY TO PRODUCE THE SOUND IN THE MOUTHPIECE. THE TUBE AND CONE AT THE END OF THE MOUTHPIECE CAN AMPLIFY AND COLOR THE SOUND BUT IT CANNOT CREATE IT! 

EMBOUCHURE ANALYSIS IS ALSO AN UNNECESSARY PARALYZING DISTRACTION FROM THE SOUND. IT IS THE AWARENESS OF SOUND THAT MOTIVATES THE EMBOUCHURE, AIR, TONGUE, AND FINGERS, NOT VISA VERSA.

SOUND MOTIVATES FUNCTION.

THE OBJECT IN THE MUSICIAN'S HANDS IS NOT THE REAL INSTRUMENT. THE MUSICIAN HOLDING THE OBJECT IS THE REAL INSTRUMENT. 

IT'S NOT ABOUT SELF AWARENESS. IT'S ONLY ABOUT MUSICAL AWARENESS.

LISTENING TO THE INNER EAR OF YOUR MIND WILL DO ALL THE WORK IF YOU ALLOW IT. IF YOU CONCENTRATE ON LISTENING TO YOUR EXTERNAL EARS, YOUR PLAYING WILL FEEL LIKE YOU ARE, "TRYING TO PUSH A PIANO UP A FLIGHT OF STAIRS".

WE MUST FIRST ESTABISH A POWERFUL MENTAL  AWARENESS OF SOUND BEFORE THERE CAN BE A POWERFUL PHYSICAL COMMITMENT TO CREATE IT. 

WE MUST BE PROACTIVE ABOUT ACHIEVING SUCCESS RATHER THAN REACTIVE WITH OUR RESPONSE TO FAILURE.

Arnold (Jake) Jacobs

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

Adolph (Bud) Herseth

Transfer the singing (mental) and buzzing (mouthpiece) to the trumpet (instrument).

Think sound not mechanics. 

Will Scarlett

Even the most posiive technical thought is still negative.

THE ANALOGY OF THE GENERATOR, LIGHT BULB, AND MIRROR

We are generators of sound that originates in the conscious imagination and is created in the brass mouthpiece like light in a bulb. The mindless tubing with valves or a slide is only a mirror that receives and reflects sound but it cannot produce it. The real instrument is not the one you are holding. It's the cup on your chops where sound is created. I no longer play a tuba. I play a mouthpiece with a tuba or sometimes a length of tubing with a funnel on the end. It doesn't matter where the mouthpiece is located as long as I'm committed to producing the sound I want. My subconscious mind will faithfully and powerfully respond to my conscious awareness of the sound as long as I don't interfere with paralyzing self analysis and self awareness.

Most of my current teaching involves working with professional and advanced non-professional musicians who have lost their ability to function mechanically to produce musical sounds with an instrument in their hands. All were once successful performers but are now perplexed by the symptoms of paralysis and discomfort that have crept into their playing. I’m always the last person on the list of people they first consult for help.

Before contacting me, they usually have been deteriorating for several years and have suffered physical discomfort and great emotional pain. Many are on the verge of losing their playing or teaching jobs and are facing the end of their career.  

Tragically, many very successful careers are lost because the lack of understanding of what is going on, why it is happening, and not knowing to do about it. Medically prescribed injections are not the answer because there is nothing physically wrong with the body parts involved in playing an instrument. They most often complain about having problems with malfunction of air, embouchure, or tongue. Sometimes, they are experiencing uncontrolled trembling, pain in their throat, jaw, hands or fingers.

I recall the first lesson of an excellent principal trumpeter who experiencing paralysis. When I open the door to my home, his first words were, “Roger, I have bad news. The doctor just told me there is nothing wrong with my chops.” I replied, “That’s the good news” Virtually everyone who comes for help has applied every pedagogical methodology they know without success. Most often it involves air/embouchure or tonguing analysis. With woodwind players, it frequently involves awareness and analysis hands and fingers. Frequently, the medical community is consulted but since the paralysis and pain is not the result of a medical condition, there never is a positive outcome. The doctors usually are stumped and inform them that their careers are over and they should find something else to do.

Unfortunately, many doctors think that Focal Dystonia is the result of too much muscular repetition over too much time. If that were true, our hearts would develop the same symptoms.
Although some people do develop an arrhythmia of their heart as they age, it’s usually the result of inadequate use rather than overuse.

My personal process of recovery has been ongoing for over forty years. That journey has given me a great opportunity to understand the condition, and to help myself and many others.

Contrary to the misinformed advice that is being offered by the medical and educational communities, there is a solution for recovery. Focal Dystonia, whose primary symptom is paralysis, is a condition with an excellent possibility for recovery.

Focal Dystonia is technically defined as the involuntary firing of muscle tissues. For instrumental musicians that may be a symptom but most often it’s paralysis of the embouchure, breath, tongue, or fingers. The paralysis makes it impossible to create and send sound to the instrument.

The usual response is to treat the symptoms of paralysis by making a conscious effort to restore air/embouchure function. However, since the malfunction is being motivated by the subconscious, we cannot treat symptoms of paralysis at the conscious level of awareness. We must understand what is motivating the subconscious to cause paralysis.

The paralysis of Focal Dystonia is always motivated at the subconscious by the players expectation of failure, emotional pain, and physical discomfort. Recovery begins with the process of altering the expectation of failure to and expectation of success. That can only occur when the player creates a new history of success. The process is simple but requires determination, discipline, and persistence.

Roger Rocco

IF YOU DON'T BECOME THE MASTER OF THE MUSIC, THE MINDLESS BRASS TUBING IN YOUR HANDS WILL BECOME THE MASTER MOTIVATOR OF YOUR PARALYSIS.

THE FEEL GOOD METHOD DOES NOT FEEL GOOD!

FEELING GOOD WHEN YOU PLAY CAN ONLY OCCUR AS A BY-PRODUCT OF PERFORMING WITH A RESONANT SOUND. YOU CANNOT MOTIVATE EFFECTIVE PERFORMANCE BY ATTEMPTING TO FEEL GOOD FIRST. 

SOUND MOTIVATES SUBCONSCIOUS FUNCTION. CONSCIOUS INTELLECTUAL AWARENESS PREVENTS TONE PRODUCTION BECAUSE THE PROCESS IS INCREDABLY COMPLEX AND WE DO NOT HAVE THE INTELLECTUAL CAPACITY TO EXECUTE THE MECHANICS. IF LIFE SUPPORT BECAME AN INTELLECTUAL ENDEVOR, DEATH WOULD BE THE IMMEDIATE RESULT.

Unfortunately, severe physical discomfort is a powerfully distracting symptom of Focal Dystonia.
Our usual response to pain is to eliminate the pain which is what is going on with everyone who seeks my help. A good friend once told me, It feels like I'm trying to push a piano up the stairs when I play.

The subconscious is motivating fear, pain, and paralysis in response to an expectation of failure, which is based on a recent history of failure.

To eliminate the symptoms, you must eliminate what is motivating them. An expectation of success, based on creating a new history of success, is the medicine I prescribe to everyone.

H.A. Vandercook  

Keep it simple.

If you can sing it, you can play it.

Adolph Herseth

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

Roger Rocco

You can not have a high level of musical commitment with a low level of musical awareness.

Limited expectations of success produce limited results.

When the horn gets in the way, get away from the horn.

SING BUZZ PLAY

Once a new history and expectation of success has been established away from the instrument and has been transferred to the instrument, it will no longer have a paralyzing influence on buzzing the sound created in the mouthpiece. The instrument will freely allow the buzzing to be motivated by consciously singing the music mentally while playing the mouthpiece inside the instrument and ultimately...

IT'S JUST THE SINGING!

FROM SILENCE TO SOUND

VERY OFTEN, THE FIRST SYMPTOM OF FOCAL DYSTONIA IS THE INABILITY TO PRODUCE A STARTING NOTE.

 Adolph Herseth

There’s nothing wrong with your chops (breath, tongue, fingers). Your mind is messing them up.

Paralysis by Analysis

THE CAUSE

The primary cause is the gradual development of a history and expectation of failure triggers a paralyzing protective mechanism in the subconscious mind. In time the expectation of failure and impending doom becomes a conditioned reflex (Pavlov) associated with and reinforced by the instrument.

We become sabotaged by our subconscious because we always realize our expectations no matter if they are positive or negative.

Roger Rocco

My job is very simple. The musicians who come to me for help have drifted away from their awareness and commitment to the music into self awareness and self analysis. I only need to redirect them back to a powerful awareness and commitment to the musical sounds they want to produce.

There are many possible conditions of playing that lead to a paralyzing relationship with the instrument. I refer to the paralyzing relationship as The Hot Stove Syndrome. This condition always results from experiencing too much failure over an extended period of time. I rarely see the syndrome in very young and experienced musicians because there has not been enough time for it to develop. However, I frequently notice it in high school level musicians who have been playing for several years and are influenced by analytical teachers or their analytical perfectionist personalities.

THE IMPERFECT PURSUIT OF PERFECTION.

The perfectionists personality is never satisfied about anything they accomplish with an instrument in their hands. Gradually, the subconscious mind considers the instrument to be the cause of emotional dissatisfaction.

The subconscious or reactive mind seeks to protect us from emotional and physical harm by inducing fear, action, or paralysis. When a history of failure has developed with an instrument in the hands, the subconscious mind associates the resulting emotional pain and physical discomfort with the object.

A great conflict develops between the subconscious reactive mind, which wants the player to remove the instrument from the hands, and the conscious will, which is overriding by continuing to hold it. Unfortunately, the subconscious mind has powerful control over the inner universe of our bodies, so it reacts by causing paralysis of the mechanics of playing.

COMMON CONDITIONS OF PLAYING THAT LEAD TO THE PARALYSIS OF FD.

1. Focus on self awareness, self analysis, or the instrument.
2. Influence of low level performance either self motivated or externally motivated.
3. Fear of failure and self doubt.
4. Not understand the mechanism of success.

Arnold Jacobs

We cannot master playing an instrument without mastering our awareness and understanding of the music first. That is like trying to learn to speak without first becoming aware of the sound of words.

Roger Rocco

Sound Motivates Function

Music is an auditory art form not a mechanical one. We must emphasize sound rather than mechanics in our playing and teaching.

In our everyday lives, the mechanics of accomplishment are motivated by the accomplishment.
We don’t consciously think about how to pick up a glass and bring it to our mouth. We just do it
beautifully without paralyzing self awareness and self analysis.

The music tells us everything we need to know. 

Adolph Herseth

Sound is the criterion for how we do this and that.

Think sound not mechanics.  

Shinichi Suzuki

We can teach a child how to play an instrument the same way they learned how to speak.

THE ENDLESS PROCESS OF RECOVERY

Since the cause of malfunction is the result of drifting away from musical awareness into self awareness, recovery can only be achieved by re-establishing a powerful awareness of the sound we want to produce.

Adolph Herseth

When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing (vocally) then buzz (mouthpiece). TRANSFER THE SINGING AND BUZZING TO THE TRUMPET.

Bud says nothing about air/embouchure analysis, tongue, or any other mechanics of playing.

Arnold Jacobs

It is best to be somewhat unconscious of our physical maneuvers but highly conscious of our musical goals.

RECOVERY PROCEDURES FOR BRASS PLAYERS.

In my personal playing and teaching, I emphasize external mouthpiece playing over internal mouthpiece playing to avoid the paralyzing influence of the instrument.

I have developed several alternate instruments (not toys!), that accept a mouthpiece, for the tuba.

NONE OF THESE ALTERNATE INSTRUMENTS HAS ANY PARALYZING INFLUENCE BECAUSE THEY HAVE ALWAYS FREELY ACCEPTED ANY SOUND I CREATE IN THE MOUTHPIECE. 

Cone or Funnel
Leadpipe and Funnel
Extended Tube and Funnel
Valveless Tuba

The BERP and the Arturo Sandoval Valve Section are also very useful tools to encourage singing and buzzing without the paralyzing influence of an instrument.

I notice there are many brass players who have a BERP attached to their leadpipe but unfortunately, it's nothing more than a Christmas decoration because it's used so little.

Mario Guarneri recommends using the BERP 50% of the time in practice sessions.

I play the BERP 100% of the time even when my mouthpiece is in the leadpipe rather than next to it. It doesn't matter where my mouthpiece is located no matter if I'm in my studio or on the stage. 

Roger Rocco

If we don't transcend the instrument with a powerful awareness of sound, that originates in the conscious mind and is realized in the mouthpiece, the instrument will influence us by powerfully motivating paralysis, involuntary motor function, and discomfort. 

The cone or funnel provides amplification for the buzzing which is an important factor in creating a resonant tone. The physical size of substitute instrument has a psychological influence on the fullness of the sound. I notice that I’m able to produce the most resonant tone buzzing into the valveless tuba. I have removed the valves from a large Boosey and Hawkes, Imperial Eb tuba. Even though the mouthpiece sound sent through the leadpipe, does not extend beyond the first valve casing, the tone sounds like it’s being amplified by the entire instrument.

I recommend 35-45 minutes of external buzzing daily (music not exercises before transferring the sound to the instrument. I enjoy buzzing along with everything I hear on my favorite recordings. All music should first be learned vocally and on the mouthpiece to avoid creating failure with the instrument.

Artur Schnabel

I always prepare the music mentally before I realize it at the piano.

Roger Rocco

I gave up tuba playing long ago. Now, I play an 18 ft. mouthpiece with valves.

Play the mouthpiece inside the instrument, not the instrument.

The function of a teacher is to create opportunities for success. We must provide those opportunities for ourselves as well as others. I have learned more from my students than they have from me.

THE INSTRUMENT TRANSFER UTILIZING THE GOLDEN RATIO, 3:1

1. Sets of singing and buzzing three times, in any combination, before transferring to the instrument.
Repeat sets or once as needed until the transfer is successful.

2. Transfer the mental singing and buzzing to the instrument as if the instrument does not exist.

In 1976, I was forced to leave The Seattle Symphony prematurely, and return to Chicago, with my tail between my legs. I had become completely paralyzed and could not perform in the annual
Wagner Ring Cycle. For six weeks prior to the start of the Ring, I spent six weeks in Chicago trying to solve the mystery of what was happening. I desperately practiced 12-14 hours a day but returned to Seattle without even the slightest improvement.

It’s a three and a half day drive from Seattle to my home in Chicago, so I had a lot of time to think about what had happened. I kept a mouthpiece on the passenger seat and frequently played
Interstate Concertos and Symphonies while driving.

After a while, it occurred to me that my mouthpiece playing was totally free and that it had always been so. There was nothing wrong with the function of my chops, tongue, or air. I was very puzzled and intrigued by my enlightened realization.

I decided that when I arrived home, I would pretend the tuba did not exist when I placed the mouthpiece in the leadpipe of the instrument.

I WAS ABLE TO PLAY THE TUBA FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MONTHS!!!

In fact, I was not playing the tuba. I was playing the mouthpiece inside the tuba and it accepted the sound freely without causing me to become paralyzed. The tuba lost it’s influence because I had successfully transcended it’s paralyzing influence by freely producing precise musical sounds in the mouthpiece that could be accepted rather than rejected by the air column within the horn.

In all wind instruments, no sound is possible inside the tubing of the instrument until it’s first created in the mouthpiece, double reed, or head joint.

IT’S VERY IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE SOUNDS FIRST CREATED IN THE MOUTHPIECE MUST BE SYMPATHETIC WITH THE FREQUENCIES THAT THE AIR COLUMN OF THE INSTRUMENT CAN ACCEPT OR THOSE FREQUENCIES WILL BE REJECTED BY THE INSTRUMENT.

TRANSCENDING THE INSTRUMENT

I suggest practicing with a variety of instruments and mouthpieces to reduce the impact of physical feedback. I find in my own practice, that with the change of equipment comes a renewed and elevated mental commitment to the music. Awareness of feel and the influence of the instrument is greatly diminished when I'm mentally committed to the music.

CASE STUDY

A friend advanced to the final audition for a principal position with a major American orchestra. Just before his audition, a major malfunction with his instrument made it impossible to play. He was forced to borrow an unfamiliar instrument and perform without preparation.

When he related the horror story, I told him it actually was a wonderful opportunity. He was challenged to a higher mental commitment to the music and won the position.

CASE STUDY

As a member of the French Army, trumpeter Maurice Andre was without access to an instrument for six months. However, he did have a mouthpiece so he practiced extensively without the trumpet. When he finally had access to his trumpet, he found that his tone production and general performance had elevated significantly.

CASE STUDY

As child Arnold Jacobs, spent significant time hospitalized for asthma. However, he practiced his mouthpiece while in the hospital. After being discharged, he always found that his playing would improve.

Jake first played a bugle in the Boy Scouts. Later, he progressed the trumpet and trombone which was the instrument he decided to settle on. He ended up on the tuba at the age of fifteen, only because his trombone was lost on the car trip from California to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he was awarded a full scholarship. They didn't have a substitute trombone but there was a tuba he could play. He won the principal tuba position with the Boston Symphony three years later.

The different instruments and mouthpieces meant nothing to Jake because he was only committed to the music he wanted the audience to hear.

Since woodwind players don’t buzz music on their mouthpiece or reed, I ask them to sing vocally and simultaneously finger the instrument to raise their awareness of the music. String and percussion players have a great advantage because the can vocalize simultaneously as they play.

Glenn Gould stopped giving live performances because his vocalization was distracting to the audience. However, his voice could still be heard faintly on recordings. The same was true of the recordings of Maestro Arturo Toscanini.

It’s very important to understand that the mental singing of every note must occur simultaneously as the notes are played.

CASE STUDY

I recently has a conversation with a horn player who I knew many years ago when we were students playing in The Civic Orchestra of Chicago. I recall that he was a talented musician but did not stand out among a group of exceptionally skilled horn players in the orchestra. His teacher recommended that he find some exceptional niche he could develop to separate himself from the crowd.

He decided that he would become a master of the natural horn. Today, he is a world renown soloist who has many wonderful recordings and has taught at several major universities.

When I remarked that mastering the natural horn brought his playing to the next level, he voiced his agreement. When I said, All horns are natural, he smiled with a twinkle in his eyes.  

Arnold Jacobs

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

Most of the musicians who come to me for help have developed severe or complete paralysis of their chops, air, or fingers when they play. There is never any paralysis of body parts when they are not holding or playing an instrument.

When the paralysis is severe, the overwhelming flood of uncomfortable physical feedback from the instrument or their body parts, makes it impossible to consciously focus on the music.
A greater amount of time singing and buzzing must occur away from the instrument.

The most common paralyzing symptom is the inability to execute a starting note. The reason such paralysis that physical feedback (input) is dominate over awareness of sound, which is what motivates the output to produce it. If there is no conscious awareness of the sound, there is nothing for the subconscious mind to respond to in order to create it.

In the absence of a powerful conscious awareness of sound, the subconscious attempts to create sound awareness by feel either at the chops or often with the woodwind players, fingers. The subconscious attempts to convert lips or fingers into ears.

Roger Rocco

FEEL and FAIL are four letter words to a brass (woodwind, string, percussion, singer) player.

SING VOCALLY and BUZZ the mouthpiece externally as many times as necessary until you are able to transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument. When you can maintain concentration on mentally singing each note as you play it, you will transcend the paralyzing influence of the instrument.  

To alleviate first note paralysis, raise musical awareness by executing repetitions of vocal singing and buzzing until the paralysis subsides. Freedom from paralysis will always eventually occur with enough repetitions so persistence and discipline are very important. However, the initial release of paralysis will usually be short lived so the procedure must be repeated for an extended period.

AN EXPECTATION OF SUCCESS CAN ONLY RESULT FROM CREATING A HISTORY OF SUCCESS BASED ON KNOWING HOW TO SUCCEED.

Musicians become paralyzed because they have created a history of failure which also motivates their expectation of failure. We always realize our expectations no matter if they are positive or negative.

Maxwell Maltz (Psycho Cybernetics)

The mechanisms of success and failure are the same.



IF WE HAVE THE WILL AND DISCIPLINE TO RECOVER, THEN WE MUST HAVE A METHODOLOGY BASED ON AWARENESS OF SOUND, TO TAKE THE TIME TO CREATE IT. RECOVERY IS AN ENDLESS PROCESS BECAUSE WE CANNOT ERASE OUR PAST. WE MUST REPLACE OUR PAST FAILURE BY CREATING NEW SUCCESS MOMENT TO MOMENT, EVERY NOTE, EVERY DAY!

SINCE IT REQUIRED CONSIDERABLE TIME FOR THE PARALYSIS OF FOCAL DYSTONIA TO DEVELOP, IT REQUIRES TIME FOR THE PROCESS OF RECOVERY ALLEVIATE IT.

Arnold Jacobs

WE MUST GIVE DOMINANCE TO THE MUSIC, NOT THE MEANS TO PRODUCE IT.

Adolph Herseth

TRANSFER THE SINGING AND BUZZING TO THE INSTRUMENT.

I RECOMMEND PRACTICING ENTIRE SESSIONS ON THE MOUTHPIECE ALONE TO AVOID HAVING PROBLEMS CREEP INTO YOUR PLAYING. 

Roger Rocco

SELF DOUBT IS A SELF INFLICTED WOUND. RECOVERY MUST BE A SELF MOTIVATED PROCESS.

FOCAL DYSTONIA IS NOT A CAREER ENDING CONDITION WITHOUT A POSSIBLE OPPORTUNITY FOR RECOVERY.

FOCAL DYSTONIA IS A TREATABLE CONDITION IF THE MUSICIAN HAS THE WILL AND DISCIPLINE TO INVEST THE EFFORT AND TIME REQUIRED TO RECOVER.

RECOVERY IS AN ENDLESS PROCESS THAT GRADUALLY BECOMES EASIER TO ACHIEVE AND MAINTAIN. 

WE MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO ACCEPT OUR MOMENTS OF FAILURE AND TO CELEBRATE OUR MOMENTS OF SUCCESS.

SING BUZZ PLAY

Epilogue

Our well intentioned music education institutions seek to develop instrumental performance skills quickly by focusing on self analysis, mechanical function, and instruments. A group of educators once argued teaching method to me by stating that technical analysis and instrumental focus is what everyone can understand rather than musical sound. I responded by arguing for the opposite view that the music is perceptive and understandable rather than subconscious mechanical function. We live our lives without any conscious knowledge of the complex mechanics of life support. Yet from birth we are highly sensitive to and aware of sound. Every child recognizes the melody to Happy Birthday without knowing anything technical about music.

I often remind teachers of the question they hear most often from their students. They ask, "How does it go?" We learn language because we are exposed to the sound of words not anatomy and breathing lessons. My success as an instrumental teacher has always been the result of communicating what the music should sound like. My limited technical knowledge of the various instruments I taught was always an advantage not a hindrance. Because of their long term exposure, the students always know more about their instruments but I knew much more about the music.

Today, incredible performance levels that are being achieved by musicians who have little self awareness, mechanical awareness, and don't pay much attention to the instrument in their hands. But they have a vivid and powerful awareness of the music and are completely committed to it.

SET YOUR EMBOUCHURE AND BLOW is a mindless shortcut to nowhere.

Endless focus on instrumental performance does not elicit much music. However, bountiful focus on music leads to limitless instrumental performance. 

The existing antiquated and self perpetuating pedagogy prevents such development and often becomes the poison inducing paralysis. Sadly, I work with such inflicted musicians daily. Recovery is a long and difficult process. Prevention is the best medicine.

I once lamented to one of my students that the war against traditional analytical pedagogy was a frustrating uphill battle that I could not win alone.

He responded, We are soldiers in a small but growing army.

In 2015, we celebrate the 100th birthday of Arnold Jacobs. Without his powerful influence, there would be no music, no blog, no career, and no life.

THE TROOPS THANK YOU AGAIN JAKE! 















 








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