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How To Relax While Playing

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Natmain, Dec 12, 2012.

  1. Natmain


    Apr 18, 2010
    I have found that I have a problem with being really tense while playing a concerto or a difficult passage. This leads to me messing up or feeling discomfort while playing. Does anyone have any tips of tricks to relaxing while playing?
  2. Remember to breathe.
  3. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Yes, breathe deeply. adjust it to the length of full notes.
    As an exercice, try to play without your thumb on the back of the neck. It helps to realize that very little pressure is needed to produce a note.
    Turn the amp very loud and pluck lightly.
  4. irbassist


    Jun 17, 2009
    I've always thought this was a funny way to put it.
  5. irbassist


    Jun 17, 2009
    I've always thought this was a funny way to put it.
  6. Thing is, if you unconsciously hold your breath, you will breathe eventually, but you tense up while doing it. So 'remember to breathe' is a good way to learn the trick.
  7. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    My old teacher would poke me in the shoulder and yell, "RELAX! or I'll kill you!" (but in a well-intensioned and kind manner :eyebrow: )
  8. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    The trick is to make it "not difficult". Practice the parts that are giving you the most difficulty, work out of tempo to make decisions about fingering, shifting, bow movement. Start slowly with the nome, and pay particular attention to your breathing, where you might be holding tension. when you find that, keep "playing" but let go of the music, just keep the general direction and rhythm going and regulate your breathing and work on releasing the tension.
    If you have the fingering, shifts and bow well under hand, then the mental anxiety about its "difficulty" will dissipate.
  9. jag872002


    Jun 16, 2009
    Breathe, Breathe in the air.
  10. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    This is basically what I learned to do. It really isn't much more than starting from relaxed and noticing when you are starting to tense up. Do it again slower and quieter while focus on relaxation. The passage (or whatever you're working on) is no longer your primary focus for a bit.
  11. Hi, I've lifted this from an old post (see blacksheep 05-03-2008). It calms me down and encourages breathing naturally, not "swimming under water".

    I believe there was a violin teacher, the Abbe Son File, a long time ago. My version of what he advocated is as follows –

    In the normal bow hold place, (with no technique) hold the bow stick right out on your fingertips (don’t hang your fingers over the stick onto the frog). With slack relaxed fingers, wrist, arm and shoulder hang the bow down lightly onto a string (say D or A) and draw it as slowly as you can sideways, just making a faint sound that is even. There can be a little bit of “Morse Code” at first until you get used to this. Breathe normally (I used to hold my breathe then gasp like I’d been swimming under water!!). With a little bit of practice you can make one bow stroke last 45 seconds or more (there was a violinint who claimed 2 1/2 minutes per bow?).

    Do this for several up and down bows on different strings before dropping back into your normal bow hold. You’ll find that you can’t bow as slowly or softly but you can be very relaxed as you draw a smooth endless-quality sound with long bows.

    I do this to relax before starting my practice. It sort of “tunes me in.” I also use it to have “slow bow races” with my young students – the longest time wins !!

    Perhaps look too at my comments in the recent BOW ARM WEIGHT (goodgig)


  12. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    Yeah David, I love slow bows by the bridge (the slower the better). The string tension about an inch up from the bridge is so high it means the only way to draw the bow there and produce a sound is by not pressing at all and being totally relaxed. If the player comes to a point where the bow/tone stops (hiccup) it means they've tensed and pressed down on the string. And on bow changes for this (and for any other legato stuff) it's all about lightening up big time when getting close to the tip or frog. It's also amazing, nce the player gets the hang of it, what a huge sound can be made with long slow bows by the bridge and how little effort it takes to get that huge sound.

    +1 to what Ed and John said. Slowing down and playing softly allows the player to check in on what the issues are, isolate them and take each issue and practice something that helps solve it.
  13. I try to play things very quietly, putting as little effort as I can, and ignoring the musical expressions. Suddenly everything is easier, and I go from there adding the volume, dynamics and musicality.
  14. tappingtrance

    tappingtrance Cooke Harvey Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2005
    George Vance always suggested, "play the difficult passage like you don't care " and for what it is worth it takes all the tension away and allows you to apply your best to the passage.
    Maritzabel Monge likes this.
  15. kreider204


    Nov 29, 2008
    WI, USA
    But don't be afraid to care ...

    (Sorry, had to go there.)
  16. ILIA


    Jan 27, 2006
    He also suggested Correli strings.
  17. Cervasa..... Mucho cervasa !!!!!!
  18. Adam Attard

    Adam Attard

    Feb 9, 2009
    +1, señor.
    (Es cerveza)
  19. mjt0229


    Aug 8, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    I recently discovered that I was clenching my jaw while concentrating on hard many things at once - even during etudes. The problem was that I was focusing on intonation, tone, my bow arm, and keeping my left hand quiet. It's a lot to think about even for slow passages or simple etudes.

    The solution I came up with was based on an exercise I sometimes do when I'm practicing running and sprinting. I started practicing passages with my jaw loose and my mouth open. It looks (even more) ridiculous, but it does help. I don't often have to resort to this tactic, but whenever I catch myself clenching my teeth, I stop what I'm doing and begin the "open mouth" drill.

    A thing to watch out for is shifting tension around, too. You don't want to relax your jaw (say) and put that tension directly into your shoulders or your grip.
  20. jdepriest


    Sep 20, 2005
    Waynesburg, Pa