Guest Author: Dave Monette; Dave creates musical instruments in Portland, Oregon, and assists clients in “tuning the real instrument” through Zero Balancing for musicians.*
Zero Balancing for Musicians Tunes the Real Instrument!
As a custom musical instrument maker, I have devoted the last 35 years to helping musicians makemore music with less effort. I find Zero Balancing is an ideal bodywork system for helping my clients clarify and expand their creative voice.
In this short post, I’ll review some of the specifics on how I integrate Zero Balancing into my work with clients. Zero Balancing for musicians not only makes my job as an instrument maker easier, it helps the people I work with bring more music and joy into the world.
Resonance and Intimacy in Musical Performance
The ultimate job of a musical instrument maker is to design and build equipment that enhances resonance, and improves the connection between the musicians and their audience… even (and especially!) when their audience is just themselves.
Compared with the challenges of revolutionizing brass instrument design, the most challenging aspect of my job is even more esoteric. It involves exploring new ways to help players release their habitual muscular/emotional compensations and patterns of holding – patterns that can prevent them from enjoying the advantages an improved instrument provides.
Zero Balancing for musicians helps release old patterns of constriction and holding. It allows expansion into a more intimate and complete connection to themselves, their equipment and their audiences.
The Real Source of Sound in Music Making
I often hear people refer to the “sound of an instrument.” But if you hold an acoustic instrument up to your ear, you hear nothing. Instruments do not have sounds, players do! The musicians themselves are the real instrument. Zero Balancing for musicians quickly and consistently makes any player more resonant. So what exactly does this mean, and why is it important?
The more resonant the player, the more they move, breath and play from and with their entire being. They are more in-tune with themselves. With more resonance, more of the full spectrum of who they are and what they have experienced in life can be communicated to others. This makes for a more vibrant, engaging and meaningful musical experience for both the performer and the audience.
Zero Balancing for Musicians: Releasing Physical Patterns of Holding
Musicians often hold excess tension in their bodies, especially in their hips, shoulders, head and ribs. Just look at most any musician’s shoulders. Most will have one shoulder held higher and more compressed inward towards their midline. As a result, their breathing will be more constrained and labored.
The more tension a musician holds anywhere in the body, the higher and more off center their “pitch center” (my term for body resonance) will be. The higher the pitch center, the less fundamental and fewer harmonically related overtones will be present in their sound. This “tight and bright” approach to playing produces a bright, narrow and strident sound that lacks vitality and projection.
After my clients receive a Zero Balancing session, their ribs, scapulae, shoulders and other joints all move with more freedom and ease. The breath becomes more effortless, flowing all the way up to the top of the lungs and beyond. The result is that rather than constricting on inhale, starting around the mid-chest, Zero Balancing for musicians allows the free flow of breath to its full capacity.
With improved alignment and freedom in the torso, the pitch center of the player’s body can drop down closer to center. The player’s natural sound will fill out with more resonance. By definition, more resonance means more in-tune. Projection, consistency through the dynamic range and register, and endurance are all enhanced with less effort. All this allows musicians a more intimate connection with their audience.
More Subtle Considerations: Body Energy and Zero Balancing for Musicians
Because Zero Balancing is so comprehensive, it engages more than just our physical bodies. It brings new levels of expansion and integration through all of our bodies, subtle and gross, energetic and structural.
The grounded expansion that Zero Balancing practitioners know so well can activate both the higher and lower (subtle and physical) creative centers. This immediately helps musicians access more creative energy and inspiration. At the same time, it also helps energize, integrate and sustain them physically, helping them manifest their music out into the world for others to enjoy.
Peak Performance Experiences, and the Musician’s Presence in the Room
When someone describes how they feel after a Zero Balancing session, the person often mentions feeling taller and more expanded than usual. Players I work with commonly describe getting off the Zero Balancing table feeling elevated and larger than their physical body.
When you ask most musicians – even amateur players – about the most memorable performance experience they have ever had as a musician, they all usually describe the experience more or less the same way. They say they don’t know how it happened, but they felt expanded to the point of filling the entire room with their presence. Often they describe being at the back of the room, watching themselves on stage as they play. Or, they say they felt they were everywhere in the room all at once, and merged with the audience. In Yoga terms, this is the experience of Samadhi.
These peak performance Samadhi experiences are common with the most accomplished musicians I work on with Zero Balancing. These are the people whom you can feel when they enter a room, even with your back turned towards the door when they enter. Their presence is so large and their projection has so much depth and clarity, you feel them from a distance without even being able to see them. And you feel their sound as much or more than you hear it.
The most successful communicators are often experts at multi-dimensional presence and projection. This is something I teach in my “Energetics of Performance” sessions with clients. The first introduction to this with new clients is often through a Zero Balancing session.
Zero Balancing for Musicians: Accessing Performance Samadhi
Zero Balancing for musicians begins with setting the frame, or intention, for the session. Following a typical session frame, we take just a moment for a reference check on how the client is perceiving his/her presence in the room. Does he/she feel smaller, about the same size, or larger than the physical body? After the Zero Balancing, we repeat the reference check. Laughter is not uncommon as the client describes his/her new, expanded presence and field.
What a testament to the brilliance of Zero Balancing! In just one session, Zero Balancing for musicians releases and opens more space in the client’s physical body. This allows clients to come into more of themselves multidimensionally – physically and energetically. They start to realize that they have the ability to regularly experience an expansion in awareness and enhanced freedom of expression – performance Samadhi – that other musicians sometimes describe as once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
In closing, I’d like to thank Elizabeth Zenger, Ph.D., L.Ac., resident Zero Balancing faculty in Portland, Oregon, for asking me to contribute here to her blog. I look forward to taking my final Zero Balancing class, needed for national certification through the Zero Balancing Health Association, with her in December!
*More About Dave Monette and the Energetics of Performance
Dave Monette works with a team of nine employees at his Portland, Oregon shop, making state-of-the-art custom brass instruments for an international clientele. He started teaching Kundalini Yoga and meditation in the 1980’s, and has given yoga and performance clinics for musicians on four continents. With over 800 hours of training in the last three years in Craniosacral Therapy, Zero Balancing, anatomy and the teachings of Moshe Feldenkrais, he enjoys assisting his clients in identifying and releasing old patterns of misalignment and muscular holding which inhibit performance.
Dave has been the subject of feature articles in the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, Industrial Design Magazine, and has been featured in two national PBS television specials.
For more information on Dave Monette’s “Energetics of Performance” work with musicians, visit: www.davemonette.com. To learn more about the custom instruments he and his staff of artisans produce, visit: www.monette.net