7 Ways for Improving the Quality of Your Sound by Thinking (Only!)

As for musicians the sound is a great responsibility and we aim our efforts at getting the best sound quality we can achieve at a certain moment under certain circumstances. The instrument and accoustics play a great role of course. Nevertheless a great deal the performer himself/herself has in his/her hands and one can improve the sound a lot by thinking alone. In this artikel I'll show you how.


What Does It Really Mean to Improve the Sound Quality by Thinking Alone?

It means to not focus solemnly on the physical aspects when it comes down to sound production. It also means to get better results with less physical effort. We are aiming for a sound that is freely resonating, full and rich, freed from restricitons of any kind and that has a sense of flow, direction or stream.  In the Alexander Technique it is the thinking that supports the doing.


1. Thinking of Your Backspace

When playing an instrument or when singing we tend to focus forward and downwards where our instrument is or sometimes even forward and inwards. By thinking of your backspace you will open up your awareness, thereby amazingly open up your sound.

Try this: Play or sing a passage in your habitual way.

Next step: Play or sing the same passage while being aware of the space behind you.

Can you hear the difference?


2. Thinking of the Space Around and Above You

Now try this: Play or sing your passage while turning your attention downwards and inwards.

Next: Play the same passage while being aware of the space around you and above you.

Hear how much fuller (space around) and lighter (space above) the sound gets?


3. Thinking Up

This one is a variation on the previous.

First: Play or sing a passage turning your attention downwards and playing towards the ground.

Next: Direct your playing upwards and keep thinking up all along.

Obvious right?

Extra benefit: This has an immediate effect on the listener, who will feel uplifted by your being 'up' and producing an 'up' sound.


4. Letting the Sound Come to You

I love this one.

Do this first: Play or sing some passage while thinking that the sound is coming out of your instrument.

Now this: Play or sing the passage and imagine that the sound is coming towards you from all sides. Let yourself be surrounded and supported by sound.

This really adds volume to your presence and to your sound.


5. Thinking in Opposites

This can be fun to play around with. It may require some practise since it is kind of brain challenging thinking of doing something when in fact doing something totally opposite. I'll give you some suggestions,

  • Instead of thinking that you produce the sound, think that the sound is producing you. This may sound odd and unreasonable but nevertheless give it a try.  As a result the sound will be much more fluid.
  • When playing or singing very high, think instead that you play low. When playing or singing very high the sound may loose it's fundament and get thin and contracted. When thinking the opposite, that it is low instead of high, the sound may regain it's fundament, ease and fullness. Note: This may not adapt to key instruments.
  • Instead of playing your instrument in front of you, think that you play it behind you. We are conditioned to play in a certain way. By thinking of playing in a mirrored way behind you, the whole front part of your body can open up and there will be less pressure down on your instrument. This results in a freer, more unconstrained sound.

6. Whom Are You Playing For?

First: Imagine that you play or sing for a small flower, standing 50cm in front of you on the ground.

Next: Imagine playing or singing for someone walking outside at the street.

This one makes sure you reach and literally touch the addressed item/person etc. with your sound.


7. Observing Oneself

First: Play or sing a passage.

Then: Play or sing that same passage and imagine that you observe yourself from a distance. Imagine yourself sitting or standing and listen and look at yourself. Another variation would be to imagine that while playing the passage that you are sitting/standing and playing it somewhere else like at the other side of the room, or outside in the garden etc. and looking at yourself.

I find that the result is less interference within oneself, more calmness, 'leaving oneself alone', which is immediately reflected in the sound quality.


These changes in the way we think work like miracle. You can save yourself many hours of practising by consciously directing your thoughts. You might need some pre-experience with the Alexander Technique to experience the full benefit or come along for a lesson to let me guide you in this process. 


I am curious about your findings and I am happy to hear about your experience with these experimental ideas! Please write them to me at anna@alexandering.at if you feel like.

Anna Schweizer, Cello und Alexander Technik.  Wien, Baden

Anna Schweizer

Alexander Technik Lehrerin und Cellistin

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