What is Alexander Technique?

Frederick Matthias Alexander was born in Tasmania (a state of Australia) late in the 19th century. He was a professional orator who after losing the use of his voice, and thefore his livelihood, spent several years in intense self-examination until he made a revolutionary discovery.

F.M Alexander with John Dewey - Image used courtesy of Robert Rickover's site - www.alexandertechnique.com
F.M Alexander with John Dewey - Image used courtesy of Robert Rickover's site - www.alexandertechnique.com

His discovery was that proper functioning of the human organism depends on certain key conditions being present in the head and neck relationship. (In evolutionary terms this makes sense becuse vertebrate animals rely on a mobile head to move their main sense organs.)

With those conditions present, good co-ordination ensues, without them, the body and mind are restricted in their capabilities.

This issue is obviously critical to the development of a musician, who relies on reliable and highly developed physical technique and clear mental processes as the basis of his/her art. This section of the book is intended to stimulate an interest in pursuing subject further with a qualified teacher.

While it is possible to apply the technique to oneself, the presence of a trained teacher is essential for most people until the new ways of using the body are thoroughly ingrained. Alexander Teachers are trained in the ways of inculcating positive experiences in the student, and identifying each students' particular requirements.

Another aspect of Alexander's discoveries was the indivisible nature of the mind and the body. That is to say, every moment you alter the state of mind the balances of physical energy in the body alter. Likewise if you change your the use of your body then your mental states are affected.

The implications of this for 'concentration' are enormous and this explains the enthusiasm of educators such as John Dewey for the technique.

Implications for musicians

This also has profound implications for musicians, as the interplay between awareness and action is the bread and butter of their craft. In this book we will try and show how you can apply some of these insights to the performance of music on the guitar.

Look at children under the age of 3 to see good "use" of the body. Look at children under the age of 3 to see good 'use' of the body in the Alexander Technique sense of the word. Their heads are balanced and alert, jaws are relaxed, hands pliant and sensitive.

Their heads are balanced and alert, Jaws are relaxed, Hands pliant and sensitive.

With patience, you should garner some positive playing experiences by working through the material, and as the doors of experience open you will hopefully obtain further guidance from a trained teacher. There is plenty of Alexander related reading material on the internet.