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 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!
Dragos I thank you so much, now I know that maybe I contract my elbows because I hold my breath, and that may be a big change for my playing. It happens in shifts and when I try to play fast, I don’t relax, and boom…. So many things to think about when we practice, even the breathing. Apologies, because, as all this is new to me, I didn’t have many questions, the good thing is that I had important answers. Looking forward the practice tomorrow applying this