June 19, 2014


We all know that we should close our hands when we’re playing.  Teachers make up funny names to help students learn and remember (clam hands, puppy paws, etc.).  We exhort our students to “Close!  Close!  Close!” 

And many of you know that the point is to allow your hands (and forearms) to relax, to let those muscles rest, ever so briefly.  That musicians are athletes of the small muscles.

But in the midst of learning something new, we are focused (or possibly stressed), trying to learn the tune, or to master the hard bit, or to get the timing just right.  We are focused on the notes, the passage, the phrase.  And what we’re not focused on…is our hands!  What can you do?  Here are three things to incorporate into your practice to improve your ability to relax while playing:

  1. When you are learning new things is it important to occasionally open your focus – knowing the notes won’t help if they sound terrible, strained or tinny.   
  2. Pay attention to what you are doing.  Just as you need to remember to breathe, remember to check your hands – how is your technique?    
  3. Slow down!  There is no race to learning – you will get the tune, learn the notes, master the passage – so quit trying to compete with everyone else – there is no race!

Enjoy – playing is enjoyable so don’t stress yourself out – just relax…and play

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