Finding the Lightness – Alexander Technique for Pianists

Finding the Lightness – Alexander Technique for Pianists

 

How does a baby move? Naturally and fluidly, with little thought about the “how” involved and an innate desire to find balance. It is that earliest ease of movement that most adults have forgotten – and that Robert Bedford seeks to restore, specifically in musicians. “I was always fascinated by the movements of animals and babies and of well-coordinated people in general, as well as movements exhibited by outstanding performers,” says Bedford, a Juilliard graduate, and the longest tenured professor of piano at West Chester University

He is one of the few performing artists worldwide who is also certified as an Alexander Technique Teacher. That combination of skills means Bedford is trained to help musicians reach a new technical level, even reach peak performance and help others discover a new, lighter way of moving, by “letting awareness come to the level of sensation” as F.M. Alexander explained.

Alexander’s research in the field of human technology is documented in his 1932 book, ‘The Use of the Self’ which explains the Alexander Technique. His work focuses on “improving coordination through a better understanding of how the head/neck/torso relationship functions optimally in adults, as it does when we are very young,” says Bedford.

 

“As a young professor of piano at West Chester University, my early teaching naturally reflected my conservatory training, which was basically an effort to free stiffness in the wrists and arms of my students.” That eventually brought Bedford into contact with the Alexander Technique.

Alexander’s work focuses on improving coordination through highly efficient movements of the entire body. lt is not strength training, though it does improve strength; it is not stretching per se, though it does increase one’s awareness of lengthening and opening the body. “The Alexander Technique aims to restore natural coordination, reawakens a person’s natural kinesthetic sense, and activates the involuntary anti-gravity response [balance],” says Bedford, which brings us back to the image of a baby discovering how his limbs can support and propel him?

According to Bedford, “natural hydraulics” is the systemic system that allows us to bring ourselves from sitting to standing and back again – movements seen at their purest in the first acts of a toddler seeking to stand on two feet (see ‘Gravity Baby’ on YouTube). Using the Alexander Technique, Bedford can bring to students an understanding of how to “integrate to coordinate” all parts of the body so that such movements become more natural, more efficient, with less stress on joints, and fewer strained muscles. For example, in the process from sitting to standing, Bedford guides the student’s head, neck and torso to focus the student’s attention to a particular area of the body – and where it is in space – to encourage lightness, as he asks the student to match the energy he’s using. The resulting sensation is a more effortless method of standing and sitting.

 

Any questions?  Ask in the Alexander Technique forum

 

Bedford notes that anyone can benefit from the Alexander Technique – not just musicians. Each person has a different experience of movement, and each person who uses the Alexander Technique will come to a different but significant result. A pianist may find her hands are lighter on the keyboard and she no longer tires as easily after many hours of practice. An office worker may find that his neck pain and carpal tunnel syndrome are diminished after several sessions with an Alexander Technique Teacher. A mother may find a new and effortless way to lift her baby.

Bedford enjoys the sense of discovery students have during their sessions and says there is often a lot of laughter.

“l created my own particular style of teaching the Alexander Technique to musicians as well as to the general public. l teach it a bit differently to each student, always adhering to basic principles, although each student will ultimately develop his or her own unique process. Some Alexander Technique [music] students tell of almost overnight freeing up of the whole playing mechanism. Others express skepticism at first but are willing to experiment, often seeing the Technique as gentle and non-threatening.”

 

Robert BedfordDr Robert Bedford, critically acclaimed pianist and professor of piano at West Chester University has appeared widely in solo recitals throughout the United States. A Juilliard graduate, he was a gold medalist in the lnternational Recording Competition for Pianists. Many of his former students are members of university faculties throughout the country. He has released a DVD for teachers and students featuring Alexander Technique routines applied to both practice and performance, and will discuss his techniques for pianists – both musicians and their teachers – at the Alexander Technique International 2015 Conference, October 17-21, 2015

Email: rbedford@wcupa.edu
Website: bedford-alexander-prof.com
WCU Faculty Profile

 


What do you think? Are you interested in the Alexander Technique, or maybe you’ve already had lessons? We want to hear from you! Post your thoughts in the Alexander Technique forum

 

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