Good posture is the first thing we musicians learn. You may have started playing music so long ago that you have forgotten your very first music lessons, or possibly you remember your teacher’s first words to you: “Now sit up straight…”
The very first technical element in playing any instrument or in singing is good posture. And although there are specific technical requirements for the various instruments, the basic tenets of posture are identical to the ones our mothers tried to teach us, beginning with that first commandment of good posture – sit or stand up straight.
As we become more proficient and able musicians, we often forget to check ourselves on these basic principles. So let’s do a quick review of the checkpoints of posture for musicians.
Making music is a whole body exercise, so your technique isn’t just in your fingers; it’s in your core muscles as well. When you do a posture check (which I recommend you do regularly), start from your core. Your abdominal muscles help hold your body erect so that you can breathe better and sit or stand more comfortably. Keep your core muscles in shape and let them do the work of supporting your body.
Your feet should be flat on the floor, or resting on your pedals or footstool if your instrument requires that.
Check your spine from the base upward. Feel your head and neck in alignment with your lower spine. Relax and lower your shoulders so your head feels tall on your neck. If you raise your arms to hold or play your instrument, keep your shoulders in that same relaxed position; don’t hunch to reach around your instrument.
Once you are feeling straight and aligned, playing should feel easy!
I like this easy way to remember to STOP and check my posture. Beyond just reminding me to sit up straight, it keeps me on the alert for the four biggest enemies of good posture.
S. Sit straight; don’t sag. When I’m tired, I have a tendency to droop which doesn’t help my music or my mood.
T. Tame the tension. Sometimes we hold tension in surprising places. It might be clenching your jaw or your thigh muscles, or curling your toes. Maybe you bite your lips or tongue or stiffen your pinkie. Look for the tension and then let it go.
O. Are you Out of alignment? Are you pushing your head forward or twisting it to see the music? Sitting on one hip? Sitting at an angle to your instrument? This is about more than sitting straight; it‘s about your postural relationship to your instrument.
P. Pain. If you are experiencing any pain or chronic discomfort while you play or after you stop, you need to investigate the cause and seek help to remedy the situation. Don’t wait until it gets worse. Address the issue immediately.
One helpful trick is to have a large mirror in your practice space so you can check your posture during your practice. The ultimate posture diagnostic tool? Make a video of your practice and watch it. You will find out more than you wanted to know, I am certain!