How many times do we get caught up in what we’re doing and forget that we have knees, feet, a lower back, arches of feet? How easy is it to focus on our fingers, and lips and breath and not feel: the backs of our necks, the ridge underneath your skull, the insides of your elbows and the outsides of your arms, the back sides of your knees, your belly button?
It’s too easy.
As musicians, we LOVE music – it’s not just a love, it’s part of us, it’s who we ARE. And when we express it, it can be so easy to lose all sense of everything else. Have you ever gotten lost while playing, or conducting, or singing, or composing? What happens an hour, 2 hours later? It’s like suddenly, at the back of your mind you feel this little wiggle of “hey, hey, HEY! I’m here…this isn’t right, I hurt, fix it please, I love you but stop, please listen to me….” And we either keep going and choose to willfully ignore said little voice, or we “wake up” and stop doing what we’re doing and say “oh my gosh, wow, my neck is tight” or maybe it isn’t even a thought or realization we just come out of our musical trance and move instinctively: leaning backwards, moving from side to side, cracking knuckles and necks.
The body is an AMAZING thing. It was designed to take care of you (even when you forget) and when we subconsciously feel stiff, we move. It’s our body’s way of re-awakening us to the awareness of the rest of us.
So here’s a thought:
In the throes of your practice/music making/composing sessions, do you play with your knees?
This isn’t a trick question. Are your knees involved? Are you legs involved? What about your butt? Your low back? Feet, arches, calves, etc. etc. etc.?
It sounds silly on one hand and perfect sense on the other…but we’d rather forget it…but hey, you use your entire body to do what you do musically, and if you neglect it…..you’ll stop being able to make music.
Let that sink in for a minute.
If you feel stiff when you stop playing your instrument, and you do this every day, or frequently, and never do anything about it, you are setting yourself up for disaster. It’s like a car that has a check engine light that comes on periodically. It may be a faulty sensor and not much, but if it keeps coming up and you ignore it, what if it’s a bigger problem and your engine seizes and suddenly you’re carless? On your way to a gig? To play with Aretha Franklin? Or the President? Or the recording session you’ve always dreamed of? What if it was your BODY that did the same thing? You get to the dream job and after a sound check, rehearsal and even time on a bus you got to play and suddenly your low back seizes, seemingly out of nowhere.
It’s not out of nowhere friend, there were warning signs all along
As stated before, you use your entire body to play music, therefore, you should treat your entire body with respect, and give it the attention it deserves. Guess what? If your upper body hurts, that problem more than likely will manifest itself in your lower body as well.
What do I look for?
Look for cues: do you tend to notice that one side of your body or one part of your body consistently feels stiff or tight after a session?
Do you notice pain in your knees that wasn’t there before?
Does your low back seem different?
Part of this is increasing body awareness, being aware of your entire body while you play. Staying in tune with your feet, your knees, feeling your belly button all those things. Stay grounded and check in with yourself from time to time.
What do I do?
If you’ve noticed some lower body tightness, you can start by using a foam roller on these areas and finding out what hurts. Whatever is tight is what you need to stretch.