Group 3

Unlock your full musical potential with this tailored course, designed for players seeking to release tension at the instrument. After countless hours of playing, it's not uncommon to develop unproductive habits of tension and stiffness. But it's never too late to change. By shifting our focus from the instrument to our bodies and surroundings, we can rediscover the joy and freedom of playing with ease.

Check out Dragos' Course on tonebase 

Dragos Ilie - Mind and Body Mapping: Understanding Your Hands and Arms

Details

  • Course Period: February 13 - February 24th
  • Sign-Up:  starts on February 8, 11 am PT!
  • Group Session: February 20th, 10 am PT

Assignments

Here is a playlist with the first two assignments! A third one will be added next week!

Exercise 1: Bringing our arms around the guitar, with specific focus on leading with the pinky. Whenever we move our arms, we lead (whether we are aware of it or not) with a specific finger (call that the initiator of the movement in the arm). There are two general camps, the leading with thumb and leading with pinky camp. If you want to check that in more depth, you can watch the course I taught on Body Mapping on Tonebase. For today, I want us to imagine our pinkies as if they were the initiators of the movement.

**Demonstration of what I do - focusing my awareness on pinky, moving the entire arm up/down, in circles, with focus on the pinky (for some it helps if you imagine the pinky grew an inch longer). Drawing a line from pinky all the way to the shoulder blade.

***Applying over the guitar. We now bring our pinky-oriented arms to the guitar. **Doing it a couple of times. You may notice as you do that, the chest and upper back also free up. Why is that so? We have just integrated our whole arms into playing: collar bone, shoulder blade, upper and lower arm bones.

Exercise 2: Inclusive Awareness. I learned this from my mentor Jennifer Johnson. This exercise should help you gain a wider sense of awareness which is both helpful in releasing tension as well as connecting with the room, and the audience. When we tense, we collapse. We shorten, narrowing our vision and movement.

**Demonstrate at the instrument. Sometimes to get out of that habit, the easiest thing to do is to allow the surrounding space to be part of your awareness. This exercise has 3 levels:

  • Start this exercise by playing anything. A scale, a passage. As you do, pick an object that’s in your visual field. You can keep that in your peripheral and still be able to pay attention to the task of playing the scale. The object itself can be vague: let the color or the loose shape of it be in your awarness.
  • 2nd level, pick an object on the right side as well. This one is particularly important for us guitarists since we tend to “twist” to the left to see the fretboard.
  • 3rd level. pick as many objects as you want. Let the whole room become part of your experience. This is extremely important for a performer. It may feel scary at first, but this
  • way you will be able to deliver the sound to your audience. Now you are playing for them.

Third Assignment

Exercise 3:

Breathing out on the scale. This is an exercise to apply during your own playing. I found it very useful with improving hard spots. Often when we have difficult passages, we tense up which results in a holding of our breath too. The most common pattern is the one where we inhale (up), without releasing. This exercise helps you undo this pattern. We’ll use the a C Major scale just because it is the easiest form exercise, but you can do this over any passage. Take a big inhale, then play the 1st octave. Preferably you want to save enough air to perform the shift as well, that is the spot where we tend to tighten up our breath the most. Practice back and forth till you get the hang of it.

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  • I saw his discussion on Tonebase several months ago. "Repetition is the mother of  study" I will again enjoy his deliverance with great appreciation of the knowledge he possess. 

    Like 1
      • Dragos I
      • Dragos_I
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      peter hancock Thank you Peter, I hope you will find these useful to your practice. 

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    • Dragos I Thanks again for the exercises. I find them very helpful and will include them in practice. Again thanks

      Like
  • Interesting exercises - happy to try them!

    Like 1
      • Dragos I
      • Dragos_I
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Mervi Tirkkonen Let me know how it goes!

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    • Dragos I When thinking that "pinkies first" I even feel my hands are a bit warmer, and the sitting position really is more straight (upwards and middle part/torso is not that much twisted) Feels better when starting the practice session. But-but, it still is so easy to forget .... so: must remind me to stop and ask me, I should correct the position and feeling, not rely on that it is enough to remember that in the first few notes ;) 

       

      The second exercise: It reminds me of the "listening to the room" -idea. I have little sung the old gregorian chants and the idea there is more to listen - how the acoustics/ ecco in that room sings than sing myself (or produce a sound). Or say it this way: To have a conversation with the space.  So if I call the sound that comes to me from a certain corner/wall an object, it is almost the same exercise. But - how hard it still is for me to really be aware of only two physical/visual objects at the same time! Needs to do this exercise more... But, for sure, I believe this is a good exercise in helping to get the feeling of handling and holding the situation of performances, too. As a performer to be the one, who can rely on: I am the one who is in charge, I command (both my own body, the musical instrument and also the audience) 

      Like
    • don
    • don.2
    • 1 yr ago
    • Reported - view

    Thanks for sharing this. Looks very interesting! Will definitely incorporate it. 

    Like 1
      • Dragos I
      • Dragos_I
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      don Feel free to share with us what you discovered while practicing these! 

      Like 1
      • don
      • don.2
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Dragos I  Hi Dragos, I’ve tried both. For the first exercise, it felt to me like when I did Tai Chi when I was younger, by focusing the intention on certain parts of your body different body parts gets activated. I never thought it can be used for this too.  Certaintly felt more relax and more room between guitar and my body. 

       

      I’ve tried the second excerise,  not sure if Im focussing not the corner too much but I find it harder to play. I’ll try a softer approach by noticing than looking in the corner when I practice again tomorrow. Thanks!

      Like 1
      • Dragos I
      • Dragos_I
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      don Don,

      When you practice, just become aware of the peripheral corner. It's normal that you might feel distracting at first if you are not used to it, but with practice it should become natural. As I said in the video, it is more about letting the space become part of your experience. As I type this to you, I am noticing the room around the laptop :) 

      Like 1
  • I have become increasingly aware over the past few months that a major cause of my difficulties in playing well in front of an audience, or even a video camera, is the tension that creeps up on me as I play. It causes my sound to deteriorate. It makes my right hand, in particular, become less accurate in its movements, resulting in fluffed or missed notes, even unintentional notes. And it causes me to make more mistakes. Hence I believe that learning to stay more relaxed will be of far greater benefit to my playing than just working for more and more technical facility. I'm hoping that this course will help me on this journey.

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      • don
      • don.2
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Barry Boxall sorry to jump in here,  have you read the blog bulletproof musician by Doctor Noa Kageyama?  There are number of tips and tricks there that might help you. He has a lesson on this on tonebase too. 

      Like 2
      • Dragos I
      • Dragos_I
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Barry Boxall Barry, give yourself some time with these exercises and see how it feels. When it comes to performing, unfortunately it takes a while for such effects to become noticeable, but it is entirely possible. I think the practice of inclusive awareness should also help you with nervousness, which in my case translates into more tension in the right arm (I know, same arm!) when I play for an audience. 

      Like 1
    • don Yes, I've actually done Noa's Bulletproof Musician course . I found that some bits have helped me more than others, and I'm still working on some of the ideas from the course. At the moment it's body tensions that I am particularly working on. Even with playing to a video camera, where I don't actually feel nervous, I still find the tension creeping in. Probably because I'm too focussed on trying to 'get it right', and I don't notice the tension building until it's too late! So I'm thinking that I need to have greater body awareness while I'm playing.

      Like 1
    • Dragos I Thanks, Dragos. I will definitely work on these exercises. I think it's amazing how often professionals like yourself admit to nervousness and tension when performing, yet still manage to play without any noticeable deterioration. I'm just an amateur, so I don't do many performances, except to friends and fellow guitarists, but my aim at present is to accept that nerves are inevitable, but to still be able to play to somewhere close to my potential. Your exercises appear to be a good way of moving forwards with this, so thanks.

      Like
    • Emmanull
    • Emma
    • 1 yr ago
    • Reported - view

    Hello Dragos I  and everybody, I have just listened to the class and it was very clear. I think it can be very important for my playing too. But, how can we be aware that we are practicing with the bigger muscles or involving the bigger picture of the arm and back? It must be an eureka moment that one. My big big objective for this course is to discover that, also have a more relaxed position. I have problems with my left shoulder ( I tense up when I play) and left thumb. . By the way, the old time great players, Segovia, Tarrega , even Bream they were all thumb oriented right? They would have been truly amazed by these later  findings … 

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      • Dragos I
      • Dragos_I
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Emma I believe the bigger picture is realized in the same manner we learn our pieces: it becomes practiced, learned, and memorized /integrated into our system. Familiarizing yourself with your anatomy and mechanical function is a great start, making sure that your own map accurately depicts anatomical realities (see the Body Mapping course). 

      Very interesting point about our old masters! I'll say this: I believe a lot of the thumb orientation nowdays comes from modern habits and objects of daily use. The old masters did not have a blinking device that we hold in our pockets and hands ( in an awkward position mostly).. 

      Like 2
      • Emmanull
      • Emma
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Dragos I thank you! Yes, I watched your course on body mapping too.. and you are right about the phone we use our thumbs all the time … looking forward the zoom class! 

      Like 1
  • I watched the body mapping video and I found the exercises at the end very useful, especially the one where my shoulders end up higher than I was expecting. As a player in my 50s, I have quite a lot of tension accumulated from some bad habits over the years, and Dragos is right: this can lead to injury, which I am dealing with now (luckily it is not too bad, but it has limited the amount of time I can practice without discomfort). My aim here therefore is to try minimize the tension that remains so I can extend my playing days into my 60s and further...!

    Like 1
      • Dragos I
      • Dragos_I
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      Sam Greenblatt Glad to hear you found the exercises useful, hopefully the ones here on the intensive will also help you release more tension. I would be curious to hear your thoughts after a week of practicing these. 

      Like
  • hello dragos
    the second exercise seems to give me breadth and relaxation in both gesture and sound.
    Very interesting

    Like 1
      • Dragos I
      • Dragos_I
      • 1 yr ago
      • Reported - view

      GALAIS Olivier Hi Galais, that's great news. Curious to see how it will influence your practice over this next week. 

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    • martinTeam
    • LIVE
    • martin.3
    • 1 yr ago
    • Reported - view

    Dear Friends,

    I wanted to share with you the link for today's Check-In with Dragos, which you can access at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/89928858415 on Monday, Feb 20, at 10am PST!

    I also share the third exercise here and in the thread!

    Like 1
    • martin Hi! I guess I have - again - counted the timezone wrong... I thought it´ll be on my 9 pm. Namely I am waiting here on the zoom "waiting for the host to start the meeting". But - it already has been one hour ago (that is my 8 pm) - or is it going to be at midnight for me, because on the zoom there is written too: Scheduled: 12 pm.  well - I at least can look at this exercise 3 up here. Thanks for sharing it! 

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    • Mervi Tirkkonen IHi. I'm also puzzled. Waiting for the host to start the meeting. Does anyone know what's happening?

      Like 1
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