Practice Tip of the Week:
3 Ways to Improve Your Playing by Staying Comfortable

The physical positions used to play our instruments
can be unnatural and occasionally uncomfortable.
Because of this, it’s important to:

• Remain as comfortable as possible while you’re playing

• Make your playing stress-free so you’re not
over-exerting yourself or damaging your muscles

Every instrument has its physical challenges, and many
of the motions we make playing instruments are repetitive.
These repetitive motions of small muscle groups are like
lifting tiny weights over and over again.

This means you need to be comfortable while you’re playing.
Otherwise, your muscles won’t have the stamina needed to
get through a performance.

Try these 3 ideas:

1. Focus on Your Posture
If you stand while you play, make sure your legs feel loose
and your knees are not locked. Balance your weight over both
feet and be aware if you are always putting your weight on
just your heels or the balls of your feet.

If you sit while playing, use a comfortable chair or stool.
Be sure the height of your chair is adjusted to be comfortable
for you. You may need to use a pad to help with your posture
or to support your back.

All of these steps will help you reach every note you need to
play and stop you from tensing up just when you need an extra
effort from your muscles.

2. Bend Your Joints Naturally
Your shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fingers all need to be used
naturally for your playing to be tension-free. If you find yourself
unable to play something, check all four of these joint areas for
tension. Don’t let any of these joints get locked into a position that
will immobilize you.

Your fingers and the gripping muscles in your hands are areas of
special concern. If your knuckles collapse while you’re playing,
or if you’re gripping too hard with your hand(s), you will slow down
your playing. This means it will be impossible to learn any fast notes.
Pay special attention to your hands when you’re trying to learn something
really fast or difficult.

3. Pay Attention to Your Breathing
Even if you’re not a wind player, your breathing has a huge
effect on your sound and your ability to play well. Many
musicians stop breathing or begin taking shallow breaths right
when they encounter a difficult section.

Cutting off oxygen to your brain and muscles will not make
the music easier to play! Make sure you take full breaths and
position your torso to make breathing as easy as possible.

Do Whatever It Takes
These are just a few of the many areas of focus for remaining
comfortable when you play. But, basically, you need to do
whatever it takes to feel good physically as you go through the
intricate steps needed to play your instrument accurately and precisely.

Respect what you ask your muscles to go through as you practice
or perform. Every time you play, you are forming habits and
building muscle memory. It’s best to form habits that are good
for your body over time.

To Your Musical Success!