Alexander Technique, Body Mapping & Posture

Baadjou, Vera A.E., Marjon D.F. van Eijsden-Besseling, Ans L.W. Samana-Polak, Rob J.E.M. Smeets, and Valėria Lima Passos. “Energy Expenditure in Brass and Woodwind Instrumentalists: The Effect of Body Posture.” Medical Problems of Performing Artists 26 (December 2011): 218-23.

Musicians chosen for this study were brass and woodwinds who had experienced musculoskeletal associated with playing their instrument and had been treated by a postural exercise therapist in the last year, working to optimize their posture and movement patterns. With the goal of determining whether posture effects energy expenditure, the doctors monitored metabolic rate, diet, body posture, and energy use. Body posture influences fatigue and musculoskeletal complaints in musicians. More energy was expended when utilizing good posture.

Bindel, Jennifer. “The Collaborative Pianist and Body Mapping: A Guide to Healthy
Body Use for Pianists and Their Musical Partners.” PhD diss., Arizona State
University, 2013.

Bindel addresses Repetitive Stress Injuries and the use of body mapping to remedy the problem. In addition to a large section on the basics of body mapping, four sections are devoted to oboists: holding the instrument, embouchure, articulation and making reeds. Information primarily extracted from Caplan’s “Oboemotions.”

Blatt, Ruth. “Preventing Overuse Injuries in Oboists.” The Double Reed 13, no. 2 (1990): 61-66.

Blatt writes “prevention is better than cure” in an attempt to help younger generations of oboe players avoid the pain of overuse syndrome. She shares her personal experience as a professional, her management techniques for pain, and the improvement found through Alexander Technique. She applies proper body use in posture alignment, finger placement, and reed making.

Bondourant, Nancy. “Movement, Music & the Alexander Technique.” The Double Reed 15, no. 2 (1992): 59-61.

Bondourant shares her personal experience in self-discovery and improvement in musicianship, mental focus and physical ability through her application of Alexander Technique. She discusses the psycho-physical relationship in the body, sharing how the improvement of her body’s alignment subsequently improved her mental acuity.

Cabantous, Marie Christine. “La posture physiologique du hautboïste (Physiological Posture of the Oboe Player).” Médecine des Arts 59 (2007): 31-39.

Cabantous maintains that the most important instrument of an oboist is their body. Bad posture can hinder oboists playing long term, sometimes even make it impossible. Multiple preventative measures that are relatively simple are provided: standing position, sitting position, shoulder, wrist and hand position, and lastly breathing and embouchure.

Caplan, Stephen. Oboemotions. Chicago: GIA Publications Inc, 2009.

Caplan has created a valuable resource for all oboists by bridging the gap between musicianship and body awareness. He uses diagrams, photos, anatomy and its applications, exercises and case studies to aid a reader’s understanding. Of particular interest for health and injury prevention are the chapters on body mapping, balance, fingers and hands, thumb rests and neck straps, breathing, and body use during reed making.

Caplan, Stephen. The Breathing Book. Flagstaff, Arizona: Mountain Peak Music, 2014.

*See Breathing page for annotation.

Caplan, Stephen.  “Know Pain? –Retrain.” The Double Reed 28, no. 4 (2005): 102-104.

Muscle fatigue pain and damaging injury pain are distinguished in this article by Caplan. He elaborates on the need to retrain body alignment to avoid injury through body mapping and why it is advantageous specifically for double reed players.

Conable, Barbara. What Every Musician Needs to Know about the Body: The Practical Application of Body Mapping to Making Music. Portland, Oregon: Andover Press,
2000.

A simplified, user-friendly manual on body mapping. It is ideal for music educators of young students. Filled with anatomic diagrams, definitions, humor and cartoon-like visual aids.

Conable, Barbara, and William Conable. How to Learn the Alexander Technique: A Manual for Students. 3rd ed. Columbus, Ohio: Andover Press, 1995.

A teaching guide for Alexander Technique and techniques for its application. Includes many pictures of the musculoskeletal structure. While there is a brief section for instrumentalists, the double reed portion leaves the oboe specific application of Alexander Technique to teachers.

Copeland, Shawn L. “Applied Anatomy in the Studio: Body Mapping and Clarinet
Pedagogy.” DMA diss., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 2007.

Copeland has written for clarinetists but his dissertation is highly applicable to oboists as well. He discusses the use of the spine in supporting the body when sitting and standing, body mapping the use of a clarinetists’ arms and hands, and the movement of breathing. Includes a large number of anatomical diagrams.

Dawson, WJ. “Ask the Doctor: Is Posture Really That Important?” The Double Reed 33, no. 4 (2010): 149-50.

Dawson addresses the importance of posture for double reed musicians. He defines characteristics and benefits of good posture. Exercises for improved body awareness are provided. Includes a brief mention of possible injuries resulting from poor posture over an extended period of time.

De Alcantara, Pedro. Indirect Procedures: A Musician’s Guide to the Alexander Technique.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

De Alcantara applies Alexander Technique to musicianship based on the belief that the mind and body are directly connected. He includes theories of postural behavior with emphasis on letting go of unnecessary tension, case histories of injured musicians and their successes with Alexander Technique, and exercises and recommended tools for improvement.

Dennis, Ronald John. “Musical Performance and Respiratory Function in Wind
Instrumentalists: Effects of the Alexander Technique of Musculoskeletal
Education.” PhD diss., Columbia University, 1987.

Dennis provided 20 Alexander Technique lessons over a four month span for a small group of musicians to determine its effectiveness for musicians. He monitored posture and movement when playing and at rest, breath control and respiratory function and overall performance.

Fedele, Andrea Newhouse. “The Alexander Technique: A Basis for Oboe Playing and Teaching.” PhD diss., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2003.

With a focus on its theories and practices, Fedele researched perceptions and applications of Alexander Technique for oboists. She conducted a survey of oboists to source what percentage experience pain or discomfort as a result of playing their instrument. Included is a history of Alexander and his teachings. Also of interest are transcripts of interviews held with professionals who have had experience with Alexander Technique.

Fedele, Andrea. “The Alexander Technique and Oboists, Part I: What the Alexander Technique Is and How It Is Relevant to Oboists.” The Double Reed 29, no. 4 (2006): 95-98.

Fedele outlines the basic principles of Alexander Technique and its application for oboists. She includes information regarding the need for ideal posture and how it benefits musicians in injury prevention by learning to focus on body awareness and habits. It includes definitions of standard Alexander Technique terminology.

Fedele, Andrea. “The Alexander Technique and Oboists, Part II: Applications.” The Double Reed 30, no. 2 (2007): 71-79.

This second portion of Fedele’s article on Alexander Technique for oboists delves into deeper detail on the applications of correct body mechanics and its benefits focusing on muscle tension, coordination, alignment and breath control. She includes testimonials of the effectiveness of Alexander Technique methods by many prominent oboe professionals and an extensive bibliography of related resources.

Goossens, Leon, and Edwin Roxburgh. Oboe. Yehudi Menuhin Music Guides. New York, Schirmer Books, 1977.

Pps. 58-62 discuss posture and proper thumb technique to avoid tension including drawings of proper arm and finger positions. On pp. 52, Goosens touches on the importance of not playing on reeds which are too difficult, they will be the early end of a musician’s career.

Grindea, Carola, ed. Tensions in the Performance of Music. London: Kahn & Averill, 1978.

A symposium collection of articles, most contributors from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. While the articles written are for strings, conductors, composers, vocalists, actors, pianists and those interested in Alexander Technique, much of the content is directly applicable for oboists interested in easing body tension. Included is much focus on coordinated body control, the arms, shoulders, wrists, fingers, breathing, and jaw and facial tension as well as the need to release mental and emotional tension.

Harer, John B., and Sharon Munden. The Alexander Technique Resource Book: Reference
Guide
. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2009

Harer and Munden have collected resources to create this large bibliography of published books and articles. Ideal for a student or teacher looking to further educate themselves on Alexander Technique. Includes a section on the purpose and benefits of Alexander Technique. Chapter 2 is most pertinent, titled: Resources for the Performing Arts, especially Dance, Music, and Theater.

Kennicott, Phillip. “The Best Seats in the House?” Symphony 45 (March-April 1994): 28-31, 42.

A unique look at the chairs used by orchestral musician and their effect on back pain. Dr. Richard Norris expounds on the functionality of the spine and the danger of muscle spasms in relation to standard institutional chairs which place the thighs parallel to the floor or sloping upward to the knees. The goal is to have the torso directly over the hip bones to take the strain off the lower back. Musicians who move more tend to suffer less pain.

Kleinman, Judith, and Peter Buckoke. The Alexander Technique for Musicians. London:
Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2013.

A user-friendly book with many helpful photos for musicians researching better posture and tools for releasing tension. Includes an explanation of Alexander Technique, its’ functionality, purpose and tools to utilize it in daily practice. Especially helpful are the analysis questions for developing self-awareness.

Knaub, Maribeth Jill Hartwig. “Body Mapping: An Instructional Strategy for Teaching
the Alexander Technique to Music Students.” PhD diss., University of Pittsburgh,
1999.

Knaub communicates the origins and applications of body mapping and with a focus on the difference in perception and application between men and women. Major topics are conditions, learning strategies, body mapping discoveries, Alexander’s discoveries, and the consequences of learning the information in musical and non-musical settings.

Leclair, Jacqueline. Oboe Secrets: 75 Performance Strategies for the Advanced Oboist and English Horn Player. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press Inc., 2013.

Leclair addresses a large variety of topics for oboists. ‘Secret 68: Avoiding Injury’ focuses on proper body use when holding an English horn, allowing the spine and torso to bear most of an instrument’s weight and avoiding leaning forward. Pps. 69-79 are filled with tips on health through body awareness, releasing tension, yoga, and alexander technique.

Schaeferdiek, Marc. Foundations of Oboe Playing: Practical Tips for Improving Performance. Warngau, Accolade Musikverlag, 2009.

Schaeferdiek shares tips on how to improve oboe playing technique. Of particular interest is pp. 7 where he recommends maintaining good physical fitness with the theory that the better you feel physically, the easier and better you will be able to play your instrument. Pps, 8-15 address posture with helpful imagery and photos. The section on breathing, pps. 16-27, includes tips on conscious exhalation, with good posture being essential, as well as avoidance of tension and cramping in the diaphragm.

Sprenkle, Robert, and David Ledet. The Art of Oboe Playing. Evanston, Illinois: Summy-Birchard Company, 1961.

A standard publication for oboists. Sprenkle explains ideal finger and hand positioning pps. 17-19 and correct breath support and posture on pps. 12-14.