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I just had a very interesting practise session, proving that we can always learn more about FD, and our instrumental playing in general.
** Quick note for new people **
I play trumpet professionally, was diagnosed with FD in my embouchure in 2005, started figuring out what was going on after a few years, recovered in 2010, am now playing better than I was before FD.
** Modern technology is an amazing thing **
I decided to video record myself playing some orchestral excerpts today. I put my iPhone on the music stand, so we’re talking close range. I’ve had the phone for about a year now, but never thought to record myself close up to see what I *really* do and how I *really* sound when I play (as opposed to what I *think* I do and how I *think* I sound).
** Breathing, breathing, breathing **
After recording and watching several excerpts, I noticed something interesting. At the beginning of the session I was fresh, and my breathing looked ok. After a little over an hour (which IMO is a lot for practising orchestral trumpet excerpts), I started feeling the first signs of fatigue. And when I did, my breathing changed! I noticed that I was working so much harder than I needed to (physically) when taking top up breaths in the middle of phrases – I was, in effect, doing the opposite of what I tell everyone else to do in coaching sessions! My body use was becoming less efficient the more tired I felt – this is not useful!
** ALLOW, rather than TRY **
When I then consciously *allowed* the air to flow into my lungs in the middle of phrases (rather than *trying hard* to breathe in), I suddenly felt a lot more relaxed physically. This shows me that tension had slowly been creeping in to my playing over the hour, but I wasn’t aware of it. This had probably been going on for years before I actually started feeling the effects of MFD in 2005.
** Breathing and the rest of the body **
What was also very interesting, was that the fingers on my right hand became tense when my breathing became tense in the middle of phrases. When my breathing was free and easy, my hand and fingers also felt *considerably* more relaxed. So, there is definitely a co–relation here between quality of breath, and physical feeling in the body. (Ok, we already knew that, but it’s nice to get a further confirmation!). This is why addressing breathing is important not only for wind and brass players, but drummers, guitarists, and well, all other musicians!
** Mechanics, Mental direction, emotions **
There is a real correlation between these three facets of music making and MFD.
To solve MFD, we can address only the emotions (arguably the most influential of the three facets) such as Fabra does (in my understanding). The thought behind addressing the emotions only is that the body mechanics and mental direction then follow suit, releasing the ‘hand–brake’, and allowing the playing system to work unhindered.
We can address only mental direction, as in Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais. This has an immediate knock–on effect on mechanics and to a lesser extent, the emotions.
We can address only playing mechanics, which in time *may* (thanks to cognitive behavioural processes) help improve efficiency of mental direction and later, replace negative emotions associated with playing the instrument with positive emotions.
However, to me – and let me state very clearly that this is just my opinion based on personal experience and the coaching of some 30 other musicians with FD – it seems as if the best results are achieved when we address these three facets *at the same time*. Back to the video recording now…
** My challenge to you **
As difficult as it might seem, video record yourself playing at close range. Observe. What do you do with your body that might be inefficient? How do you breathe when you play? Can you reduce the level of physical work your body does when you play? Can you *ALLOW* movement to take place, rather than *TRY* to make things happen?
** Conclusion **
Even though I am fully recovered, today’s practise session was a real eye–opener for me. It leads me to believe that FD can be *prevented* – and let’s face it, prevention is so much better than cure!