Why is posture important?
Posture is an important element of playing a musical instrument and is so often overlooked. How can you make sure that a hobby or potential career doesn’t cause you physical issues that can stop you in your tracks?
Ensuring that your posture is good is an essential aspect of musical development. There is a great deal more awareness of the issues that poor posture can cause within the workplace or office. Many offices have ergonomic computer equipment, specialist chairs and posters providing information about how to ensure you look after your body properly. Musicians spend so much time practicing and repeating exercises or technical studies that poor posture or use of your body can have the most profound effect on an individual.
The good news is that achieving a good posture, whilst standing or sitting, is a relatively straight forward thing to get right. Lots of people prefer to sit down when they practice and for many this will be the way that they will spend most of their time playing.
Achieving a good posture:
Here is a list of some simple steps to follow that will help you to understand what good posture feels like:
- Remember to work with you your body and not against it.
- Practice this in front of a mirror for the first few times to check what good posture looks like – it will help provide a really good visual reference.
- Sit down toward the front edge of the chair, ensuring that your back does not rest against the back of the chair.
- Aim to keep you feet flat on the floor
- Close your eyes and imagine your body becoming longer.
- Imagine somebody is lengthening your body by gently pulling you upwards by a few hairs on the top of your head.
- Keep you head looking into the horizon and try not to allow your eyeliner to raise as your body becomes taller.
- Allow your shoulders to stay down and relaxed as you breathe gently in and out. Aim to allow your breathing to work in a circular fashion and consider breathing in and out as a continuous action. (By this I mean to avoid thinking of breathing in and breathing out as two distinct actions. Have a look here for more detail about this).
- Check to see the difference in your posture in a mirror. Make sure you are not leaning to one side, forward or backward.
- Make sure that the posture you have maintained is comfortable and that there are no sensations of stretching, pulling or discomfort. These things will always be signs that there is a problem! Always remember to listen to your body.
- When you are feeling comfortable and in a natural position, aim to bring the instrument that you play to you.
The final step is a very important step – bring the instrument to you in the posture that you have achieved and avoid altering the posture you have to fit around the instrument. For more ideas about this, have a look at this previous article here.
What if I’m standing?
If you are standing to play the process is very similar. Always aim to allow your body to become longer and imagine that somebody is pulling you upwards by a few hairs on the top of your head. I always remember my tuba teacher at University, Michael Clack telling me to think of it as falling upwards.
The majority of your body should always be as relaxed as possible when playing an instrument as unnecessary tension can have a real impact on how your body will respond and ultimately the sound that you produce.
What do I need to look out for?
If you are experiencing pain or discomfort whilst practicing or performing the best time to act is as soon as possible. Book a session with your doctor or visit an Alexander Technique specialist and they should be able to help you work through the problems you are experiencing. Specific problems such as an RSI (repetitive strain injury) or muscular tension are well beyond the realms of a blog post, but can be resolved through personal expert guidance and understanding.
It is so important for every musician to learn to take care of themselves whilst playing an instrument because this way potential problems and debilitating issues can be totally avoided. Learn to listen to your own body and allow yourself to focus on the important things, like the music, its meaning and what you want to communicate.