Experiences And Thoughts Of A Horn Player With Focal Dystonia

The following is a scanned image forwarded to me by a French Horn teacher.

One of his students was suffering Musician’s Focal Dystonia symptoms and without any external guidance, came up with the thoughts and musings about her condition that you see in the image below.

horn player thoughts musicians focal dystonia

Horn player with Focal Dystonia: some thoughts

For the purposes of readability, I have transcribed some of her texts below:

I am at a point in my level of playing where it is no longer a matter of “good” and “bad”. It is a matter of effective/efficient vs. ineffective/inefficient. My brain has found ways to compensate physically for inefficient tensions placed in my playing both consciously and subconsciously. This creates an ineffective performance – musical ideas/lines are not translated to the audience.

To reverse this cycle of failure out of a desire to be “good”, I need to refocus my energy. I need to find another outlet for my frustrations, stresses and insecurities. I am going to try more yoga and more physical exercises (running etc) to release tensions.

There is no way to fully get rid of the outside stresses in my life – they will always be there. However I can find other ways to redirect them, which will hopefully re-wire my brain so that these stresses are no longer projected through my playing.

How can the horn be used to project a person’s personality/musicality when it only knows stress?


The brain has turned horn playing into a coping method for outside stresses. The horn will only project what I put into it. If I play carrying a heavy load, I will not be able to project a clear, focused sound. Subconsciously I am my own worst enemy. Inability to be able to perform to my desire creates more tension, which only impedes my playing. It creates this spiral that sucks me in.

Playing my horn used to make me happy. I need to rediscover that sensation. I no longer want to project fear and stress. I no longer want to be written off as a “solid” or “decent” or “hard working” player. I want to be great.

Does any of this sound familiar? Feel free to add your comments below.

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