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Benefits to musicians

Alleviation of playing pain and discomfort
Participants found that this new approach reduced the pain and discomfort of playing. Long-term pain in head, neck, right and left shoulder and back diminished or disappeared during the research, as did discomfort resulting from playing for years in awkward positions. Several musicians admitted that, because of chronic or recurrent problems in the past, they had often thought that there was “something wrong with them” physically, or that they “weren’t talented enough.” When specific barriers to playing their instruments were removed, they found that they could play without pain or awkwardness and their opinions of themselves improved along with their playing.

Improved playing technique
Improved playing technique was recorded on video and audio tapes, and reported by the students and their teachers. In most cases improvement in sound production was immediate, attributable to a decrease in neck and shoulder muscle tension combined with added skeletal resonance due to the positioning of the instrument on the collar bone. Freer bowing movements resulted when the position of the instrument came into line with the joints of the bow arm and hand, allowing shorter players to reach the tip of the bow easily, and tall players to have more room to bow at the frog. As a result, many bowing techniques (for example legato bowing, spiccato, sautillé, martelé, etc.) showed marked improvement. Greater speed and accuracy in left hand technique often resulted from decompression of the left shoulder area through balancing of the support of the instrument between collar bone, left hand, chin rest, and shoulder rest (now placed on the collar bone and not on the top of the shoulder joint). Interestingly, musicians reported that the increased role of the left hand in supporting the violin improved their fingering technique instead of detracting from it as some of them had anticipated. They put this down to an increased sensitivity in the fingers and hand brought about by its more active role in playing.

Improved balance and spatial perception
Students found that lessons in the Alexander Technique were essential to retrain cramped playing and moving habits in order to prevent “rejection” of new equipment by the body. Adjusting the equipment to suit the body and playing style, together with weekly Alexander Technique lessons, helped remove long-standing barriers to good coordination. The position of the violin in relation to the hands and arms of the player was also carefully adjusted.

Released from constant downward asymmetrical pressure of the head on the chin rest, the neck recovered from long-standing habits of contraction, and the head came in better balance on the spine. Spatial perception and basic balance improved, contributing to improvement in playing accuracy and agility. Released from the distraction of persistent muscle tension, students reported they could listen and concentrate better.

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