What is it?
The Alexander Technique is a hands on method to re-educate a person on how to use their body more efficiently and more comfortably. Alexander teachers work with a student to overcome poor habits in relation to posture and balance. Particularly in the way the head, neck, and back are connected hence the mantra:
Let the neck be free so the head can move forwards and upwards and the back can lengthen and widen.
In the late 19th Century, Frederick Matthias Alexander discovered why he was losing his voice when performing Shakespeare recitals. He observed himself during rehearsals and realized that he positioned his head in a way that constricted his larynx causing him to be hoarse in the middle of performance. Surprised that he was unaware of this issue before, he worked to develop the Alexander Technique (AT) to help others fix their mistakes and become more aware of their bodies. Today many professional athletes as well as professional musicians use this method to aid in performing their best.
Practical uses for Musicians
There are many studies that show improvement among musicians playing ability and reduced performance anxiety as a result of partaking in AT sessions. Many colleges offer AT courses particularly for musicians.
In relation to the father of AT, a vocalist can benefit from understanding how to balance the head and avoid hindering their voice (instrument). Although instrumentalists do not solely produce music from their own bodies like a vocalist does, an instrumentalist can still benefit from AT in reducing poor habits that may inhibit performance.
From the Alexander Technique International website, Deborah Adams provides a great article on how AT can benefit pianists. She discusses how it can help pianists become aware of their habits that affect elements of their performance including tone production, rhythm, and even pedaling. Her main point is that AT is a means to recognize our issues and discover for ourselves a way to fix them.