Jaw Clenching

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
gthom

Jaw Clenching

Post by gthom » Thu Oct 30, 2008 6:16 pm

Here's something I wonder if anybody else struggles with (I didn't see it on a quick search) - jaw clenching. It's something I do when I'm concentrated on something (especially involving fine motor skills) or while I'm falling asleep. I've really noticed it with guitar, particularly while focusing on tricky or fast sections. I know how important it is to keep the body relaxed and not fight against myself while playing, but so far the jaw clench has been the most difficult to get past.

I have TMJ and my dentist recently gave me a bite guard to wear at night. I'm considering wearing it while I practice, but would rather eliminate the clenching altogether while playing so as to stay as physically relaxed as possible. Anybody else ever have this issue and have any tips? Thanks!

ksjazzguitar

Re: Jaw Clenching

Post by ksjazzguitar » Sat Nov 01, 2008 4:01 pm

Hi,

I don't suffer from TMJ, but I used to clench my jaw, neck, etc. while playing.

I just spent some time playing simple things and concentrating on my relaxation. If I started to tense up, I just slowed down and relaxed some more. I focused on my breathing. Gradually I could do it with more complicated pieces. Now the only issue is, in difficult passages, a little tension in my right pinky and my left toes. I'm working on those now.

Good luck,
Kevin

LFP

Re: Jaw Clenching

Post by LFP » Sat Nov 01, 2008 10:57 pm

gthom wrote: I know how important it is to keep the body relaxed and not fight against myself while playing, but so far the jaw clench has been the most difficult to get past. Anybody else ever have this issue and have any tips? Thanks!
gthom try this: with your jaws slightly apart slowly lower your jaw. Now release the jaw and sense it's rising. As it rises feel when another group of muscles takes over the raising of your jaw to the point of jaw contact. So in effect seek that point where you change muscles over between the lowing and the move to contact positions. Experiment and slowly be able to easily find that neutral position. That position where you use involuntary muscles to support your jaw. When you can identify that position easily and locate it quickly, mentally associate it with all your playing. Go through pieces in your mind imagining yourself playing but with your jaw in that neutral position. Soon that jaw position will become the automatic position for your jaw at all times when playing.

Spending a lot of time eliminating tension of all sorts helps all musicians. Use your jaw pressure as a measure of tension removed.

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Scott_Kritzer
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Location: Beaverton, Oregon USA

Re: Jaw Clenching

Post by Scott_Kritzer » Thu Nov 06, 2008 7:29 pm

Here's another good technique. While you're playing breath through slightly open lips. There are a couple of benefits. First, it's hard to stay clenched with the lips open, although it can be done, secondly you tend to focus more on your breathing which relaxes your body and playing and thirdly it's a great technique for reducing breathing noise (through the nose), when recording.

More on the second point - in my Performance workshops we had one student who wiggled his jaw. When he focused on the breathing not only did his jaw stop working overtime but his playing was amazingly better! Record yourself, at least a short passage with a clenched and relaxed jaw. Listen to the difference.

Also to better cure the habit video tape yourself doing both, you'll get a better mental picture of what you want.
Classical Guitarist Scott Kritzer
www.scottkritzer.com

gthom

Re: Jaw Clenching

Post by gthom » Fri Nov 07, 2008 5:14 pm

Thanks, everyone! I guess it could be a blessing in disguise if it forces me to concentrate on relaxing my breathing and the rest of my body while playing.

dewalt99

Re: Jaw Clenching

Post by dewalt99 » Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:29 am

Hi,

I just came across your post and I had the same problem that you have. I actually got this idea from a golf magazine. (Yes my wrists are taking a beating :mrgreen: ) The article talked about undue stress when playing golf and how a big part of a proper swing is to relax and I think the same applies to the CG. The article talked about holding a cookie between your teeth and swinging the golf club without breaking the cookie. That would be a good indicator of your tension when swinging. I suppose it probably doesn't bode well to drool as you're playing the guitar, but it may be feasible alternative to jaw clenching. It was a relatively quick fix for me, but when I do notice I am clenching my, I grab the cookies again. If I'm stressed I stay away from the butter cookies and go with the low sodium crackers :P

fidicial

Re: Jaw Clenching

Post by fidicial » Sat Mar 28, 2009 11:18 am

I am a beginner and I tried to have a relax posture as much as possible. Everytime I notice that I am tense, I readjust my position to assure that I am not stressing that point. I guess you train yourself to clench your jaw everytime you come to a passage that seems difficult. I think you should practice more on those difficult passages because you are not comfortable with it. So, you clench your jaw everytime you come to it because you are nervous of making a mistake. :reflechir:

franks59
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Location: Columbia, MD

Re: Jaw Clenching

Post by franks59 » Sat Mar 28, 2009 12:08 pm

I apparently clench too although I never noticed it. I don't have TMJ. My teeth are pretty worn and I gave in to my dentist and now wear a night guard.

I discovered by accident that I tend to clench when playing difficult passages. I never noticed it because I felt relaxed. I was doing a video that I was going to post here, but I noticed that whenever I needed to concentrate on a passage, my jaw would go from relaxed to closed. Since I was still learning the piece there were a lot of these passages. I looked like a cow chewing it's cud !

I posted an audio version instead. :lol:

Frank

fidicial

Re: Jaw Clenching

Post by fidicial » Fri Apr 03, 2009 8:54 pm

Hey Frank, :lol:. Wish I could see that one. It is the opposite for me I tend to show no facial expressions at all. Maybe, I am just a robot or something.

GuitaristOrdinate

Re: Jaw Clenching

Post by GuitaristOrdinate » Wed Apr 29, 2009 2:53 am

fidicial wrote:Hey Frank, :lol:. Wish I could see that one. It is the opposite for me I tend to show no facial expressions at all. Maybe, I am just a robot or something.
That's me , when I look in the mirror while practicing I have to think " man doesn't he look mean " . Maybe it's because I take everything so seriously instead of relaxing and just enjoying the music . I just don't know what the answer to this problem is ( if it is a problem ) .

danbidouch
Posts: 75
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Location: Montreal

Re: Jaw Clenching

Post by danbidouch » Sun May 10, 2009 12:15 pm

Have you tried chewing gum while playing?...

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Steve Kutzer
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Re: Jaw Clenching

Post by Steve Kutzer » Sun May 10, 2009 12:59 pm

Both my CG teacher and my wife's piano teacher have advised us to play with a loose jaw. So for sure, you're on to something. I clench my jaw under stress. I believe there's a good deal of research that not only can facial and body expression be induced by mood, but the converse is true. So smile! This is one reason Kanengiser has become my new favorite player - the man looks like he's enjoying himself more than any other player I can think of. He never looks tense.
See my technology (and guitar!) site CIO Dojo

robertboileau

Re: Jaw Clenching

Post by robertboileau » Mon May 11, 2009 12:45 pm

Steve Kutzer wrote: Kanengiser ... - the man looks like he's enjoying himself more than any other player I can think of. He never looks tense.
I cannot agree with this more. He has this down to a science. As a result his playing comes out smooth and natural.

Steve Lin

Re: Jaw Clenching

Post by Steve Lin » Wed May 13, 2009 8:04 am

Cool! I recently learned about this in a master class by Rene Izquierdo. He asked a student to open his jaw slightly and the student found it difficult to be tense. It was funny to watch.

Dewalt:
I like the cookie golf swing thing! I love cooking and I love sharp knives. You mess up your wrists and I'll cut something I kinda need... anyways, a dull knife forces me to force, and I definitely notice the strain on the forearm, shoulder, etc. But with a sharp knife, the thing does the work for you, and the cooking process becomes super relaxed.

RainyDayMan
Posts: 477
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2008 1:23 pm

Re: Jaw Clenching

Post by RainyDayMan » Wed May 13, 2009 9:07 am

Scott_Kritzer wrote:Here's another good technique. While you're playing breath through slightly open lips. There are a couple of benefits. First, it's hard to stay clenched with the lips open, although it can be done, secondly you tend to focus more on your breathing which relaxes your body and playing and thirdly it's a great technique for reducing breathing noise (through the nose), when recording.

More on the second point - in my Performance workshops we had one student who wiggled his jaw. When he focused on the breathing not only did his jaw stop working overtime but his playing was amazingly better! Record yourself, at least a short passage with a clenched and relaxed jaw. Listen to the difference.

Also to better cure the habit video tape yourself doing both, you'll get a better mental picture of what you want.
I clench my jaw too when playing. When I focus on my breathing, the jaw clenching stops but my playing goes to pieces...:)

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