Pilot educational project
We set up our project to provide students with the equipment, lessons, and support structures they needed to carry out changes in their chin rests and shoulder rests with a goal to improve their playing technique and comfort. Changing the equipment was not sufficient, we felt, without addressing habits of muscle tension caused by years of playing with ill-fitting equipment. We also wished to break the usual pattern of isolation that the musician faces when confronted with physical difficulties. Following a full year of preparation, the educational project itself spanned one school year.
A research team of two Alexander Technique teachers and a violin equipment technician supported the students throughout the project. The violin and viola faculty of the Conservatory gave their support.
We gathered and catalogued a large collection of store-bought chin rests and shoulder rests at the conservatory; we collected additional materials for further construction and adjustment of equipment. The violin equipment technician designed and constructed the Chin Rest Testing Kit.
Students received frequent fittings to adjust chin rest and shoulder rest throughout process of re-education.
Re-training cramped playing and movement habits
Weekly lessons in the Alexander Technique provided students with the feedback necessary to improve self-awareness and allow them to unlearn cramped playinghabits, improve coordination, and develop a wider repertoire of movement in their playing.
Weekly group meetings stimulated interchange of information and decreased isolation.
Recording what happened
We gathered a wide range of information in the forms of video and audio recordings, interviews, photos, and notes.
*The Alexander Technique has been in the curriculum of music conservatories world-wide for many years. For a general description of the Alexander Technique see the websites mentioned on the “links” page.