A Jaw-Dropping Skeletal Revelation

After recording and watching many videos of myself playing in the last month, I noticed one of my tendencies is to begin with my head balanced on top of the spine, carefully considering balance at the A-O joint when turning the head to the left, and then allowing the jaw to drop as a second step. Step three I breathe. Somewhere after I've begun to play, head-spine balance goes out the window until the next long pause where I can regroup.

I set a goal to keep head-spine balance as an ongoing intention while I play, and to consider how I'm using my body as a whole more often.

While looking at my skeleton the other day, I remembered that in actuality, the hanging part of the jaw sits in front of the cervical spine (the top seven vertebrae). My mental picture or body map included a jaw and a spine, including a cervical spine, on which the the head balances, but the relationship between them was either blurred or missing altogether. Looking at the skeleton, I had an a-ha moment about the importance of balance and alignment of the cervical spine (which can't be had without balance of the entire spine, which can't be had without balance from the ground up, and without it, the head cannot be in balance...) and its impact on the jaw. 

I examined the skeleton from all angles, while palpating my own jaw, the base of the skull, and the cervical spine. I also remembered exactly where the jaw joint is, and took note of the angle in which the jaw hangs when viewing the skeleton's profile, and applied this to my own mental picture.

Have a Look:

joleneharjuflute1

Ultimately, compromising the space in front of the cervical spine here compromises the jaw's ability to be free, which compromises free movement of the tongue, affecting the amount of space available for air to move through - in addition to ease all the cervical muscles, including the important sternocleidomastoid, which is connected at the clavicle, affecting arm and rib movement... the list goes on! 

Animated Views

The following two videos give a 3D breakdown of the important anatomy the skeleton does not show.

First, a look at the respiratory anatomy. (Beginning at 2:17, where the animation includes the skeletal system):

Next, a look at the important muscles of the jaw, face and cervical region:

Where you can encourage freedom of movement and space while playing?

Why You Need A Custom Warm-Up Sheet

Most pieces have that one terrifying spot. Can you think of the most difficult spot in a piece you're working on? For me, the third measure of the Firebird excerpt comes to mind. Whenever I go back to practicing that excerpt, I spend a lot of time on that spot. There are many other examples of moments such as this that come up again and again. 

If having an entire piece on your stand makes it tempting to jump around too quickly, take just a few of the difficult bars and add them onto one sheet. 

All the hardest spots on one sheet.

Cut and paste or transcribe the most difficult bars from any number of pieces onto one sheet, and get creative during your warm-up! Approaching only the smallest and most difficult chunk each day will slow down the process of learning and refining them in a way that can turn them into second nature when they appear in context. Consider putting difficult excerpts transposed higher and lower on there, as well. (I'm looking at you, Classical Symphony!) Utilize a variety of extended techniques, altered rhythms, varied dynamics, tempi, and articulations... and so on! 

Here's an example:

Important Tip: Make sure to include the key signature!

Your warm-up sheet can change every week or month, or you may choose to create one using your audition or recital repertoire. Since orchestral excerpts never go away and it's impossible to practice all of them each day, a warm-up sheet (or maybe two or three to rotate between) containing the most difficult spots is a great way to keep those pesky runs or intervals under your fingers!

What's on your custom warm-up sheet? Use #practiceroomrevelations and tag @joleneflute to share!

March Inspiration Calendar

Welcome to March, friends! I am happy to share a new Inspiration Calendar for the new month! 

How to Use It

  • While this is not a practice calendar, there are several actions that are to be implemented directly into your practice session, such as the Practice Intention ideas.
  • There's no need to do every action in the order specified. If you're one to print out calendars like this one, then stop using them after one day if you haven't done everything as listed perfectly, here's permission to use it however you'd like
  • Half the days are intentionally left blank, and you're encouraged to fill them in with actions that are very specific to your own personal sources of inspiration or goals.
  • The first action involves reviewing your goals, and writing them specifically in the space at the top. Here are mine:

Set New Goals

Take a moment to reflect and check-in on goals, experiences, and behaviors, ask: "Am I on track with my overall goals? Are my behaviors reflective of what I wish to accomplish in the short and long-term? What have I observed in myself that I wish to change?

Last Month's Observations

My goals from February involved a re-establishment of optimal breathing and lots of Constructive Rest. (Read all about it on last month's post!) Awareness of rib movement has settled back in as a daily habit, and I'm able to take fuller, more comfortable breaths more often! I also utilized Constructive Rest to clear my mind and release tension before practicing and playing. It hasn't become a daily habit, but we're getting closer!

I realized that while focusing on specific parts, such as the ribs or the feet, I leave others out of the picture. I rarely consider the hip joints, and can even forget to notice the balance of my head on top of the spine.

In addition, I've been uncovering some connections between a lifted soft palate, support, and throat tension that I haven't been able to put into words yet.

Goals

  • Spend time on my body map, specifically re-evaluating my representation of my hip joints and the relationship of the spine and balance of the head.
  • Use video recordings to evaluate movements and habits in a more specific way to better understand how I'm moving as a whole.
  • Spend time experimenting with throat tension, and learn more about the relationship between the soft palate and support.

Calendar

Click the image or click the button below to download your free PDF!

CORRESPONDING LINKS

 

As always, I love seeing your calendars in action! Use the hashtag #practiceroomrevelations and tag @JoleneFlute so I can share in the excitement!

Top Picks: Online Video Resources For Musicians

In honor of last week's Inspiration Calendar activity of researching online video resources, I am rounding up some of my favorite videos and channels for flutists and musicians!

Best Channels To Follow For Master Classes:

1. Musaic - Curated by New World Sympyhony, America’s Orchestral Academy 

Also on YouTube!

2. Carnegie Hall Series Master Classes YouTube Channel

Flute Master Class Playlists

3. The Master Class Media Foundation YouTube Channel

Worth-The-Subscription:

Principal Chairs

I highly recommend the subscription to Principal Chairs if you are preparing for an audition or working in depth with excerpts! There are a wealth of quality, in-depth, full-length video masterclasses covering many excerpts. 

On Performance Anxiety

1. How to Stay Focused During Performance: Carnegie Hall Master Class with Emmanuel Pahud

2. Your body language shapes who you are | Amy Cuddy

3. TEDxBloomington -- Jeff Nelsen -- "Fearless Performance"

4. The Healthy Musician: Dealing with Nerves & Performance Anxiety by Annie Bosler

5. Pre-Audition Meditation for Dancers

The Alexander Technique and Constructive Rest

1. Posture awareness with the Alexander Technique by Carolyn Nicholls

2. Alexander Technique Lie Down by Pyeng Voice Coach

Favorite Channels for Flutists

1. Flutings with Paula By Paula Robison

2. Mimi's Flute Tips by Mimi Stillman

3. NinaFlute - Nina Perlove

4. BevaniFlute - Bevani

5. JustAnotherFlutist - JustanotherFlutist

Inspiring Performances

1. Amy Porter: Poem by Griffes

2. Jasmine Choi: Paganini Caprice No. 24

3. Karl-Heinz Schütz: Mendelssohn Concerto

4. Marianne Gedigian: Liebermann Concerto

5. Alain Marion: Boehm Grande Polonaise

 

What are your favorite videos? Check out my YouTube Channel for more playlists!