For this last part of Questions and Answers, we will touch on which are some common physical problems that musicians and harpists experience; why we have not spoken at length about arms and hands, and a brief return to the core, or centre.
CelticHarpBlog: Here is the second part with answers to the questions about instrumental technique. A question comes up quite regularly about the exercises to practice. Are there any exercices we should do before, during and after a practice session?
CelticHarpBlog: Hi Lise. At the beginning of this article series, we invited readers to send us any questions they had relevant to a physiotherapist's perspective on instrumental technique. Among the questions we got, many were very specific to certain physical aspects of the posture whereas your articles so far talk mainly of general aspects. What is the idea behind this approach?
Lise Enochsson: The shoulder joints and their function are a fascinating and complex topic, deserving much more elaboration than we can go into in this article series. For the purposes of this series, I will suggest a handful of exercises focused on stabilising of the shoulder blades. Stabilising the scapula provides the foundation for controlled movements of the arm, and also ensures better joint mechanics betwen the scapula, humerus (upper arm bone) and muscles involved.
Lise Enochsson: In my past three articles in this series on Instrumental Technique, we've covered breathing, posture, balance and symmetry. Starting with these three building blocks is essential before moving on to more instrument-specific exercises. And mind you, even if you choose to not do any other exercise (such as working on your back and shoulders - forthcoming), deepening your practise of free breathing and aligned posture together with being utterly familiar with your balance will benefit you greatly.
Lise Enochsson: Let's dive in. Find your comfortable, free breathing. Check your posture while standing. Now, it's time to explore the limits of your balance, what happens when our balance is challenged, and also try to stimulate symmetry. Being out of balance will otherwise steal valuable energy and create strain. Being out of symmetry - as we often are while playing certain instruments including the harp - doesn't necessarily create the same strain, if our foundation is stable. But we should know what asymmetry feels like compared to symmetry.
Lise Enochsson: Two weeks ago at the Nordic Harp Meeting a group gathered for a workshop on "physiotherapy for harpists", a pretty ambitious workshop title from the arrangers, but which was actually a condensed and hands-on (feet-on!) version of the plan for this article series.
In the previous article (Instrumental technique 1: breathe), we've become aware of our breathing and explored ways in which we can free it up. Next, we can become more aware of our habitual posture and try some small adjustments. If you really get into feeling how you normally carry yourself, you may find some surprising tendencies.
The questions following the posts New school year! and Instrumental technique have shown numerous and often similar physical issues that harp players have to face during their life. In the next few weeks, Lise Enochsson will publish a general synthesis portioned into a few posts, each one answering specific points. For those of you who will be present at the Nordic Harp Meeting, she will give a workshop on physiotherapy for harp players.
In the previous post "Musicians: do we need technique?", we have seen how professional and amateur musicians can develop their instrumental technique in the daily life. This technique is essential to us for the reason that if it carries us it can also stop us even before putting our fingers on the strings. Whatever repertoire, whatever instrument, we all have to develop this technique and even more as soon as we try to reach a higher level.