5 Tips to Help You Practice When You Feel Down

If you’re human, then you know what it’s like to have a “down” day. Here are 5 tips to help you get over the hump when you’re dragging along and it’s really hard to get yourself to practice!

Here’s a brief summary of what I talk about at length in the video:

  1. LISTEN to yourself, and ASK yourself what you really want.
    – Honor your feelings. Respect your mood. STOP pushing yourself around, and stop “should-ing” yourself!
    – Use my “3 Magic Phrases” to let yourself off the hook.
    – Go deep and ask yourself “Do I really WANT to practice right now? What Do I really want? What will practicing get me that I really want?”
    – If you discover that you absolutely don’t want to practice right now, then don’t! But respect your freedom to make that decision for yourself, and don’t fall into the guilt trap afterwards. Decide to take care of yourself with whatever you decide to do instead.
  2. Let it be short!
    Sometimes, the hardest part of practicing is getting started. I find it much easier to start if I think, “If I do only 5 minutes of practicing, that’s OK – it’s better than nothing – and I’m going to do 5 minutes of really MINDFUL practicing so I get something good out of it.”
    Think QUALITY over quantity!!
  3. Start from silence and center yourself.
    Give yourself a few minutes to sit quietly release some of your negative thoughts, and free your body of some unnecessary tension.
    – Journaling for a few minutes to get negative thoughts out of your mind can be very helpful if you’re feeling very upset about something. WRITE it out!
    – Visualize things you LOVE. What do you feel good about in your life? Do you have a good memory that helps you get in touch with a positive feeling? Start a gratitude list, and FEEL the gratitude melt you.
    – DO THE CYCLE, an Alexander Technique etude that takes only 2 minutes but is pretty much guaranteed to help you feel a little better, and more relaxed. Learn it here: http://bit.ly/JRFthecycle
  4. Redefine Practicing! 
    Do you have a habitual way of thinking about practicing? Maybe it’s time to redefine it. Are you including practicing your mind-body coordination in your idea of practice? If you’re not, it’s about time! You can get SO MUCH done without your instrument if you know how!
  5. Experiment and think about having a bit of FUN!
    How would you treat a child who’s down and doesn’t feel like practicing? Would you force her to practice, or would you get creative and find a way to get her interested?  Treat yourself with kindness. Is there a way you can entice your inner child to get curious about your instrument? Is there something NEW about it that you can discover? Touch it… feel it… wonder… I list a bunch of ways you can practice in the video above. Get creative and make it DIFFERENT today!

EXTRA TIP: Get support from your friends!
The Mind-Body Practice Tribe is my FREE facebook group, and it’s always available to you – come join us! We’re a group of very POSITIVE music-lovers who have a way with supporting and encouraging one another, so if you feel down, hop on over and someone will be sure to help lift your spirits! 🙂
JOIN HERE: http://bit.ly/practicetribe

Of course, there are so many other ways you can approach practicing when you’re down. But remember that it’s OK to skip a day! Very often, giving yourself a break to REST is going to do you and your playing much more good than forcing yourself to do something against your will.

I hope you found this helpful, and watch the video to get the fuller version of each tip! Maybe you find JOY in your practicing soon!

Love,
Jennifer

p.s. Know any musicians who could benefit from a little practice mood-lift? Please share this with them! And let me know what you think!


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Do You RUSH?! The Surprising Cause and Cure!

If you’re human and a musician, I bet you’re guilty of rushing – at least once in awhile!

The question: WHY do you rush? What is the CAUSE?

My answer to you: your music rushes because YOU rush. YOU – your whole mind-body-Self – are the cause. Why? Because you’re good at rushing through LIFE, even when you’re not making music. Your brain is a virtual rushing expert because you practice this often, throughout the day, every day.

We modern humans rush to get up in the morning. Rush to eat. Rush to work. Rush to communicate. Rush to finish projects. Rush to shop. Rush to get home. Rush to make time to do other things. Rush to get places…. You get the idea!

Want to cure your habit of rushing the music?
Cure your habit of rushing through life!


Alexander discovered that his #1 problem that caused all of his performance difficulties was something he called “end-gaining”.
End-gaining is when you pay more attention to the RESULT than the PROCESS (what he called the “means-whereby”) for achieving your goal (“end”).

When you’re end-gaining and rushing, you aren’t paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment. You’re likely projecting into the future, either too eager to get somewhere or afraid of something coming up. Or maybe you’re just plain over-excited and caught up in what you’re doing instead of how you’re BEING. Your internal sense of timing gets thrown OFF because you’re over-focusing on what’s outside of you and not really paying attention to what’s going on INSIDE of you RIGHT NOW.

When you’re in the middle of a musical phrase, worrying about the next note, or afraid of that difficult shift coming up later, or focusing on nailing that hard fast passage coming up, then you aren’t giving the current note it’s due, and you’re more likely to fall into the rushing trap.

So what’s the cure?

  1. Start observing yourself rushing during the day, away from your instrument.
  2. Notice how your body tenses up when you’re rushing.
  3. Learn how to discern between relative tension and relative ease in your body.
  4. Practice the Cycle 2x/day. The Cycle is an Alexander Technique etude by Mio Morales that takes 2 minutes. You can learn it here: THE CYCLE VIDEO
  5. Include the Metronome-Cycle as part of your practice routine, separately from your instrument.
  6. LATER, once you’ve already been practicing the Cycle for awhile, add practicing with the metronome to your music. This will be SO MUCH more effective once you’re including the concept of Ease into your use of the metronome.

Here’s a simple version of the Metronome-Cycle:

Set your metronome to a slow speed. Try it in a triple meter.

  1. Count out loud on the first beat. (“1″… “2”…  up to “25”…)
  2. Notice and name a place of relative ease in your body on the second beat
  3. Take a moment to rest on the third beatCount this way up to 25, more or less, as desired

I challenge you to do the Cycle 2x/day, and the Metronome-Cycle 1x/day EVERY DAY for 30 DAYS, and I can pretty much guarantee that your rushing habit will be very significantly improved or even gone by the end of the month!  (Feel free to experiment and create your own version – but make it EASY!)

If you take me up on the challenge, let me know how it goes!!

Love,
Jennifer


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Magic for Musicians: the Alexander Technique! 3 STEPS

In today’s LIVE facebook video, I introduced the Alexander Technique, a mind-body tool that helps you get out of your own way and do whatever you want to do with more ease. AT has transformed my life and my music-making in ways that are truly magical!

I’ve been practicing AT since 2003, and the violin since age 4, so I’ve had more than a bit of time to explore and develop my skills with both. There’s always more to learn in both areas, though, and combining them has been a perfect way to bring more ease and joy into my life! In the video, I speak a bit about my background and how I’ve come to enjoy sharing what I know through teaching and performing.

I also share 3 STEPS for bringing magic into your practicing! They are…

  1. GET CURIOUS!
  2. LEARN YOUR FIRST ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE ETUDE
  3. DEVELOP A CONSISTENT DAILY PRACTICE

Join my group, the Mind-Body Practice Tribe, to help you develop these steps in a great community of like-hearted musicians on a similar journey to yours!
There’s a free gift waiting for you there! “The 7 Keys to Make Your Music Sing!”

Enjoy, and HAPPY PRACTICING!
Love,
Jennifer


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Interview: My Life, Violin Struggles, and Alexander Technique

I was recently interviewed by Jasmine Reese II for her blog at Fiddlershop.com! @FiddlerShop.com blog. Check it out guys! #FiddlerShop #MusicisforEveryone #Interview

Here’s the link to read it:  CLICK HERE TO READ THE INTERVIEW

Enjoy!!! 🙂 

Alexander Technique teacher Cincinnati

 

You can read about this amazing woman who travels around the world on her bicycle with her violin and her dog here:

CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT JASMINE

 

My Performance Anxiety Exposed! (And How I Dissolved It)

Last Monday, I presented my first LIVE facebook broadcast to the public on my new facebook page, and it turned into a really enjoyable performance experience (please “LIKE” my page – thanks!!).

I was nervous at first, especially because I’d only decided the night before to go through with it. Thankfully, I’ve learned that I need to pounce on ideas that come to me with an intuition that they need to be acted on, so I just bit the bullet and showed up! (I always remember the title of the book, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway!” in cases like this!)

When I considered possible topics to speak about, it became obvious that I needed to talk about performance anxiety, because that was going to be presenting itself loud and clear to me during the broadcast.

I decided to use the opportunity to show people what it’s like to be a performer going into a performance with anxiety, and talk about how I use the Alexander Technique to let myself flow through the nerves to the other side.

I hadn’t planned anything further than that, but one thing led to another and I surprised myself be talking about performance, music, life, and the Alexander Technique for more than an hour!

As I spoke about practicing the Technique, I was actually paying attention to practicing it… so that my nervousness diminished more and more as I spoke (watch the video to see how I did it by paying attention to my feelings).

By the end, I was feeling completely comfortable and the performance anxiety had completely dissolved. The experience reminded me why I love to perform, because – even though I couldn’t see my viewers – their supportive presence and interest was palpable, and there was a very strong, positive energy exchange. The more I shared my experience, the more I felt people respond. It was very inspiring and I felt great afterwards, ready to commit to doing this for you every week!

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who showed up to watch on such short notice! Those of you who weren’t there, you can watch the replay and watch me LIVE every Monday at 9:00am Eastern, from now on!

Here’s the replay of my first LIVE broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUOofzsORbU&t=25s


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Musical Skill Improves by Itself – with Alexander Technique Practice

It never ceases to amaze me how my musical skill can improve by itself – even after a month away from the violin – simply because of time spent improving my mind-body connection with the Alexander Technique.

I think I’ve touched my modern violin for about 5-10 minutes during the last 6 weeks, after performing on the baroque violin with the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra at the end of September. (I haven’t touched the baroque violin since then, either.)

AT is amazing. I’m going to start practicing the modern violin again daily now, and I’m really curious to see what’s possible when I actually apply the Technique directly to improve my music-making again!

p.s. A couple of friends have commented on my serious expression and lack of a smile in this video. I’m ok with that… I wasn’t in a great mood. But I was determined to do good work anyway – so I did. I really believe that how we feel in a given moment is not as important as what we are doing with our thinking in carrying out our positive intentions.

However, I do understand how much a smile can add to a performance – even a little bit goes a long way! This, however, wasn’t a performance – it was just a little bit of a practice session I felt like sharing. I hope you enjoy it! 🙂


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The First Step to Healing is Fully Accepting Our Experience Right NOW

Alexander Technique musicians

Going inwards and feeling wrong…

For some weeks now, as the weather has been cooling into autumn, the leaves are changing and nature is going into dormancy, I find myself becoming more and more silent and withdrawn, going into an introspective hibernation mode, and feeling the need to do less and go deeper within to look at my motivations.

I ask myself, “Is this what I really want? What DO I really want?”

I’ve also been feeling more confused, criticized, wrong, and inadequate lately – and I know I’ve been responsible for most of that. After all, like most people, I enjoy being right!

My habit is to try to be different, better, faster, more successful… and in my impatience I want things to be different NOW!

I try to change my attitudes, fix and clarify things, correct mistakes, figure out problems and apply solutions, and generally improve myself and my life.

How exhausting!

Time to remember my epiphany…

I had an epiphany in the kitchen about six years ago, when I suddenly realized that my attempt to rescue my student from experiencing her sadness was completely wrong; my attitude would essentially rob her of her freedom to be herself.

This epiphany changed my life, and the memory of it continues to teach me whenever I let it.

Alexander Technique lessonsIn that magical instant in my kitchen, something told me with crystal clarity that there was nothing to change or improve – before me was simply a whole and complete woman who needed a reminder that she was free to live and choose her own experience.

I felt quite a lot of compassion for her sadness, but my impulse to try to alter her experience and make her happier was not the most helpful response.

Instead, just as I was about to touch her in order to help improve her head-neck coordination, something from deep inside of me suddenly stopped my hands. Something told me, “No! She is free!”

In that instant, I understood that she was free to feel whatever she was feeling, and it was 100% OK. It wasn’t “wrong” or “bad”…and it wasn’t “good”, either…it was just the reality of her experience in that moment.  Who was I to interfere by trying to alter her reality?

Instead, I needed to honor her and her experience exactly as she was. I needed to hold space for her, respecting her need to feel what she was feeling in the moment, even as I could see that her way of thinking was calling her to pull down. I needed to let her go down, and help her see that it was OK – that she wasn’t wrong for feeling sad. Above all, I understood that she needed time and space to fully be herself.

Alexander Technique lessons

 

Thus was born the first of my “3 Magic Phrases”: “I am free.”

Soon after, as I pondered the enormous implications of that event, two more phrases became very important to me and my teaching:

“I don’t have to do anything right now,” and “I have time… and space.”

 

 

 

Just yesterday, it dawned on me that what I’ve been doing to myself lately is exactly what I was about to “do” to my student before I had my epiphany about freedom.

After all, I get sad sometimes just like my student, and I’m an expert at trying to change myself because I don’t feel “good enough”, or because I should feel “different” or be “better”.

I’m also very good at forgetting that trying to force myself out of the reality of my experience in any given moment is ultimately NOT going to get me what I really want – which is the freedom to be fully myself.

What I really want – for myself and for my students – is to:

  • become more aware of – or awake to – what is actually being experienced, on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.
  • be fully (and I mean FULLY!) accepting of that reality in the moment. In this present moment of awareness, it truly is OK to feel the way we feel, no matter what. No matter how down, depressed, confused, frustrated, hopeless, or painful things feel – THIS IS THE TRUTH of our experience. This is Reality!
  • realize that in fully accepting and embracing the Truth without reservation – for even a split second – we are miraculously transported into pure compassion and unconditional Love. Shedding light on the Truth of the moment (especially when it’s dark and depressing or scary!), without running away from it, trying to change it, fix it, deny it, hide it, pretend it’s something else, or make it shut up or go away – is utterly essential to being ourselves with love and compassion.
  • BEING WITH what is Real within us and others is to cherish and listen to the Essence of who we are. It is to give voice to the soul and its deepest fears, loves, and longings. It is to revere Life in the fullness of its natural and spontaneous expression. Even if we don’t like it one bit!!

Minimizing or skipping that magical moment where we give ourselves the freedom to live our experience deprives us of the juicy nourishment that feeds and sustains us from the depths of our very own hearts.

This is True SELF-LOVE, and it can’t be rushed.

Alexander Technique lessonsTo simply BE with what IS – in both ourselves and our students – without doing anything about what seems wrong, gives us the time and space that is necessary to come into lively relationship with this Reality, with a liberating absence of judgment or criticism.

In this magical moment of FREEDOM, we are given a moment to acknowledge our common humanity, and from the depths, our natural reverence for the Divine suddenly has a chance to burst forth from dormant seed into flower, with new opportunity for our subsequent choices to bear ripe and healing fruits.

This magical moment of FREEDOM to be HUMAN is inescapable. This moment heals us and allows us to move forward into the next moment with more consciousness than before, and THEN we will be more motivated to choose to do what it takes to bring ourselves up into ever-expanding Ease.

This is how we can give ourselves and our students (or friends or lovers or children or parents or teachers or enemies….) the priceless gift of REAL, heart-to-heart communion beyond words.

Our first choice needs to be acceptance of our birthright as humans – the freedom that has been given us to be human as we are.

With the unconditional acceptance of the darkness of our humanity springs the Light of our Consciousness
and Life of the Divine.

That’s good news! Even better news is the fact that this unconditional acceptance happens in a flash as soon as we surrender to the Truth of the moment. We don’t have to be stuck, immobilized in the darkness one moment longer than we wish to!

As soon as we remember our freedom, we experience it. And as soon as we decide to go up, we can choose to change direction.  As soon as we ask ourselves, “Where in me is there a little bit of Ease?” we begin to find it, and that Ease works to open us and lighten us up more and more, from the inside out.

The best way to prolong unpleasant feelings is to forget that all of our experiences belong to the natural human experience; and to try to change our reality by forcing it into something else before it can ripen into a deeper understanding of what it means to be fully human.

Alexander Technique musicians


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A Violinist Plays for a Rodeo!

An account of a novel experience by Erik Johnson-Scherger, Canadian Violinist and Member of the “Musical Practice Community with Jennifer Roig-Francoli” on Facebook. Erik is a first year graduate student at the University of Ottawa.

Alexander Technique violinIn a comments thread from a few posts back, Jennifer Roig-Francoli asked me to share my experience of playing a rodeo this past weekend, so here goes! I’ve been gigging occasionally with a country band for the past year, and this weekend was our second time playing the annual Grand River Rodeo, which is a (rather small I think?) rodeo that takes place in the countryside in southern Ontario, in Canada.

The rodeo was staged in a field next to the local water tower, and there were dozens upon dozens of vehicles – both cars and horse/cattle trailers – parked around the fenced-off rodeo ground. There were many competitors and animals about, and lots of denim and cowboy hats! I had the chance to watch a bit of bull riding before our set began, which was a fascinating spectacle.

Our stage consisted of several plywood sheets laid unevenly across the damp earth, and we had a large canopy and back and side walls of canvas to protect us from the occasional drizzle. The end of the stage was just a few feet from the nearest picnic bench of the outdoor bar (which was very picturesque, featuring home-built saloon stylings and poker chips as drink tokens).

The size of the crowd in the bar area fluctuated as different events came and went in the nearby corral, but the volume of the musicians was quite loud the entire time, to help project to other areas of the rodeo where the speakers weren’t pointed, perhaps.

My band consisted of a two piece this year – myself and the singer/guitarist, Nick. Last year there had been the budget for the full four piece with bass and drums, but this year they perhaps sprang for a more expensive main act.

Nick plays mostly older, “outlaw country” songs, and for two hours I backed him up with rhythmic double stops while he sang and played call-and-response style melodic fills where there was space in his phrases. I improvised one or two choruses each song and occasionally would take the melody. Most of the material I played came from the blues and dominant pentatonic scales, but I managed to squeeze the occasional diminished and whole tone lick in!

After the performance came a few drunkenly enthusiastic congratulations from bar patrons, a handful of bills, and a burrito from a local food truck.

This gig was also my first time performing on a solid-bodied electric violin, which presented an exciting learning curve.

The solid-body prevents feedback, but the absence of an actual sound technician, the way the previous band had left the PA system set up, and my own inexperience posed some challenges in setting the right monitor mix so I could hear myself. I also found the electric violin – when amplified at concert volume, as opposed to bedroom volume – much more responsive to nuances of bowing and extraneous noise from bow retakes etc., which made me play more carefully.

Despite those challenges, there was an intoxicating feeling of power that came from hearing how loud I was during soundcheck, and I’m really looking forward to practicing more with it and getting a better idea of how to fine tune its sound in concert.

In summary, it was an experience very distant from any of the classical performing and even most of the non-classical performing I’ve done, and a really exciting opportunity to spend time immersed in a culture foreign to me. Plus, it constitutes one of the few times when I can get paid to wear denim on denim (we call it a “Canadian tuxedo” 😜)!


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How Can I Practice When the World is Falling Apart?

The Centered Violinist, The Centered MusicianI still need to practice another 25 minutes today to uphold my commitment to myself.

But I just watched a 20-min. news video/documentary about the Charlottesville riots.

I don’t usually watch the news – or any TV, actually. So I am super-sensitive… and now I am devastated. I am appalled. I am in disbelief. I am absolutely repulsed.

Like everyone in this country, I’ve read and learned about Nazis and WWII and the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. since I was a child, and I’ve seen more movies about these topics than I can count. But what’s happening in this video is not a movie – and it’s not over. It is happening NOW. In our country. HERE. I feel sick.

I will go practice and make music now, because that’s what artists do. But all I can do on my way there is wonder how I will do it.

And then I answer myself:
I will continue on, and practice what I preach, and practice what I’m being taught. I will begin right now, right here. I wonder: what do I notice about myself right now? And I notice just a bit of Ease that I wasn’t aware of a moment ago. And then… I ask myself the question again, and I wonder and I breathe. And again. And then I remember other helpful thoughts, and think those, too.

This is how I practice: just the same as every other time. I wonder about Ease and Peace, and I find it in myself, and I appreciate that in this moment I also find it here in my home. There’s no guarantee that the peace will remain in my home or my country or my surroundings, but I know I can always find it within myself. And that is very comforting.

A member of my Musical Practice Community on facebook, Ray Nichol, responded with this comment: “You will play, you will practice, you will teach because not to do these things of beauty and love and self expression means that they have won. And I for one believe in the yin and yang of the universe. Do not walk timidly to the practice room RUN!!! And play with more passion than ever before.” Thank you, Ray. How right you are!

Alexander Technique, musicians!


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Violinist: “My Pain is Gone!”

Alexander technique violinIn this post, I’d like to share a beautiful story that I’ve received from one of my online students, violinist Anne Brűggemann-Klein. Thank you, Anne! It’s letters such as this one that touch my heart and help spur me on to continue my work, reminding me yet again of the power of the Alexander Technique!

As a “returning” violinist, having taken up violin lessons again in 2004 after a hiatus of 30 years, I have always been on the lookout for communities of adult amateur musicians. I have been a passive member of Jennifer Roig-Francoli’s The Art of Freedom Village for Musicians Facebook group for a number of years, but the focus of Alexander Technique over violin playing did not draw me in.

That changed when Jennifer created the Musical Practice Community Facebook group and started it off with her original 30-Days Practice Challenge in preparation of her performance of Rossini’s “Un mot a Paganini” in the fall of 2016. The Musical Practice Community has challenges for everybody to participate in, guiding weekly questions and the option of giving and receiving feedback to and from peers. I was hooked. And I started to appreciate the power of the Alexander Technique and Jennifer’s Art of Freedom flavour to make everything we do better and easier.

I was originally motivated to seek out private AT lessons to help with pain and limited range of motion in my right shoulder. My teacher in Munich, Barbara Wiebe, did what halyoron injections, ibuprofen medication, 30 hours of physio treatment and much experimenting with online recommendations could not do: My pain is gone and my range of motion is nearly back to normal. Recently, two mentors and a number of friends, unprompted, commented on the improved freedom of my bow arm.

The scope of Alexander Technique is much broader than the physical. Its spiritual, mental and domain-specific implications are most amazing. I got an inkling of that through the online interactions in the Musical Practice Community. My biggest break-through in understanding, however, came from…

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