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Thread: Muscle Relaxation

  1. #1
    Registered User Mateo150's Avatar
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    Muscle Relaxation

    I practice alot, never really had lessons, a couple, but didn't like them. Have had informal lessons with guys I know. But I've had formal piano lessons for 3 years. I know some of the in's and out's of "good practice". Still unsure If what I do is right or not, I keep on having a nagging suspision that I'm reinforcing bad habits. I'm too poor to afford lessons so I can't go that route. I try to play everything as relaxed as possible. But how relaxed is relaxed? I guage relaxation during play on the "dead arm" trick, you know in piano when the teacher says let your arms fall dead to your sides, hold up your arm and remove all concious control of it, and it'll fall like a lead weight. Its kinda a cool feeling. But when I play guitar, I can't match this relaxation, I mean just lifting my arm up to the strings adds tension in my shoulder. I can make this tension go away by resting my arm on the guitar through my thumb ( I like to hang my thumb over the top). And when I don't hang my thumb, lets say I'm practicing a scale and have to strech, theres tension in the shoulder, not in the wrist of fingers. Not that much, but a lot compared to the feeling when my arms hanging limp at my side. I've been working on this for a while, and most of the time I'm relatively relaxed as long as what I'm playing is physically in my capacity, but there's a threshold of this relaxed state. It's probably impossible to play as relaxed as when my arm's floating dead, but exactly whats the threshold. Seems no matter how much I concentrate on this, the amount of tension in my shoulder is constant. Its not noticible unless I focus on it, but Its bothering me a bit. One thing I've been doing more of is to rest my left hand elbow on my left thigh, this takes all the tension off. Anyway, hopefully people know what I'm talking about here, basically, I want my shoulders to be as relaxed as they are when my arms are limp. But I can't even do this without a guitar in my hand, as soon as I mime my guitar playing position, tension is there. How do I get rid of this?
    They call them fingers, but I never see them fing.

  2. #2
    Weak Fingers MattW's Avatar
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    It's impossible to have 100% relaxation when playing guitar, at the very least to keep your arm in the raised position some muscles have to be providing some force to counter-act gravity. They key is to have only the muscles required being used and no others.

    If you put one hand on the opposite shoulder and lift your arm upwards (in a forwards arc) you will feel the muscle contract, this is because that motion (and resitance to the opposite motion) requires that muscle. You won't be able to stop get around that unless you happen to have an anti-gravity machine or something.

    Are you having any problems with aching muscles or joints?
    Last edited by MattW; 03-08-2005 at 07:47 PM.

  3. #3
    Registered User Mateo150's Avatar
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    Well I read the article "discover your discomfort" by Jamey Andreas in the Practice section. Yes its all fine and dandy, but he doesn't really explain the threshold of relaxation nor exactly how to overcome this. I, personally, usually play slower and focus on trying to reach the "dead arm" state while playing, since this was what my piano teacher had told me to do. Its not really discomfort, but its not completely relaxed. Is there a simple guage or exercise to know how one's arms should feel when playing guitar? The dead arm method on piano is good since if you want a lot of volume, let your arm go dead and fall on the keys, less dead for less volume... etc. And it works well for piano since you go down on the keys and your holding your "dead arm" up with the keys themselves. But this method doesn't translate to guitar due to the shape of the instrument and how its played and so on. Is there a similar measure around for guitar?

    I don't have aching pains, sometimes my back hurts after playing for a while cuz I tend to close my eyes and play and focus on relaxing, which as a symptom makes me slouch a bit. Its kinda like when I go into "sloth" mode for too long.
    They call them fingers, but I never see them fing.

  4. #4
    Aspiring Virtuoso
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    i am completly relaxed when i reach high speed on guitar or drums (or any speed for that matter - you should always be in a complete state of relaxation regardless of speed or whatever you are doing on your instrument). the relaxed state i am in is similar to the same state i am in when watching t.v, taking a bath etc. if you are having trouble staying relaxed then play at a tempo you are comfortable (relaxed) with, then s-l-o-w-l-y increase the tempo. always value relaxtion over anything else.

    i actually aim for drumming speed AS A RELAXATION! . I find it to be more relaxing to play at high tempo on the drums than any other supposed 'relaxing' activity.

    i'm not taking the piss. i'll post audio in a week (need mic).

    p.s. i ain't posting toccata till later next month Mateo150, i want to dedicate a FULL thread to it . A full thread needs the full piece

    and remember, as tiger bill says.....stay loose!

  5. #5
    Registered User Mateo150's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arpetude
    i am completly relaxed when i reach high speed on guitar or drums (or any speed for that matter - you should always be in a complete state of relaxation regardless of speed or whatever you are doing on your instrument). the relaxed state i am in is similar to the same state i am in when watching t.v, taking a bath etc. if you are having trouble staying relaxed then play at a tempo you are comfortable (relaxed) with, then s-l-o-w-l-y increase the tempo. always value relaxtion over anything else.

    i actually aim for drumming speed AS A RELAXATION! . I find it to be more relaxing to play at high tempo on the drums than any other supposed 'relaxing' activity.

    i'm not taking the piss. i'll post audio in a week (need mic).

    p.s. i ain't posting toccata till later next month Mateo150, i want to dedicate a FULL thread to it . A full thread needs the full piece

    and remember, as tiger bill says.....stay loose!
    I think you misunderstood what I'm talking about. I think its impossible to be completely relaxed, especially on guitar. As soon as you move a muscle, your no longer completely relaxed, as Matt W pointed out. I'm looking for something a bit more substantial, such as the "dead arm" exercise in piano. I hear you say that you can be totally relaxed, but that really doesn't help any. Do you have anything tangible? You can quite easily feel when you let your arm hand dead at your side. Its a bit harder to imagine sitting in a bath while playing.


    P.S. - I'm eagerly awaiting the Bach piece, never heard it on guitar. Wow, I'm impressed, playing that, being 100% relaxed, 16th notes at 180bpm... all after one year of guitar playing. Your a monster of a natural talent.
    Last edited by Mateo150; 03-09-2005 at 01:55 AM.
    They call them fingers, but I never see them fing.

  6. #6
    Aspiring Virtuoso
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mateo150
    I think its impossible to be completely relaxed, especially on guitar.......I'm looking for something a bit more substantial, such as the "dead arm" exercise in piano..........I hear you say that you can be totally relaxed......Its a bit harder to imagine sitting in a bath while playing.
    i dont know about any 'dead arms'. but i remember talking to a drummer (well, he woudn't call himself a drummer in front of me). he said something like 'how am i supposed to play at your speed and remain relaxed' he thought i was taking the piss when i was saying that i was totally relaxed.

    he was drumming at 150 and tensing up where as i was playing 230 and had no 'red face' or 'squinting eyes' like he did at 150.

    he called it the 'iron fist' when he tensed up.

    try to imagine anything you can. sitting in a bath, on holiday, a palm beach?
    i can't give you anything tangible other than COMPLETE relaxation meaning that

    you should develop whatever you do to make it become easy.

    read that line again, it's really important.

    you should never stress to be doing things. you should develop anything so that it feels 'average' or 'easy'. whether strumming a chord or playing paganins fifth caprice yngwie is in the same physical state, he has developed it. thats how he plays a 2 hour yngwie set-list every night for 9 months. its 'normal' to him.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mateo150
    P.S. - I'm eagerly awaiting the Bach piece, never heard it on guitar. Wow, I'm impressed, playing that, being 100% relaxed, 16th notes at 180bpm... all after one year of guitar playing. Your a monster of a natural talent.
    i don't believe in natural talent, i have to work hard to get anywhere in music.

    thanks for the kind words.
    Last edited by Arpetude; 03-09-2005 at 01:04 PM.

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