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