Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
lanten77
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Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Post by lanten77 » Sat Jun 14, 2014 12:10 am

Hi all,

Does anyone have any good tips for elimination or reducing tension in my jaw, or more specifically, my tongue. I find, especially when needing to concentrate more, that I tighten and press my tongue on the bottom / back of my mouth. It's kind of like where it goes momentarily when swallowing, but it stays there for long periods of time. (I am not clenching my teeth).

The result is that the muscles under my jaw become sore and fatigued. Even after I stop playing for the day, they are still pretty sore later that day and the next day.

I suppose the method to reduce the tension (in jaw area, or anywhere) involves being aware of it, but when concentrating on a difficult passage or reading something challenging, I just don't seem to be able to stay aware of it and at the same time concentrate on what I'm doing.

I've tried some different things but with little success.

Thanks!

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Michael.N.
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Re: Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Jun 14, 2014 10:12 am

That seems pretty extreme.
Have you tried singing the tune at the same time as playing? Glenn Gould style. Even if it's more of a quiet hum it might be enough to help.
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Praeludium
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Re: Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Post by Praeludium » Sun Jun 15, 2014 7:14 pm

Hello,

I think some work without the guitar would be useful there. The goal is to teach the body to be relaxed in depth, so that you simply do not tense up even when you play difficult passages.

The basic idea is to tense when you inhale and then release when exhale. Visualize that you breathe in the area concerned. It's your breathing that cause the muscles to activate or not.

- First you can try to isolate the muscles concerned only. Inhale/tense up the whole area, then release, trying to keep only the tongue and the jaw tensed. While still holding the tension, continue this for a few cycle and then release everything.
- Tensing, with different intensities (from 10 % to as much as you can), and then releasing this muscle group only is also useful.
- Inhale, tense the concerned muscles, hold your breathe, and while you hold your breath try to gain more awareness of your body. Then release/exhale.
- You can also simply try to move your jaw/your tongue while breathing (when you inhale as well as when you exhale) and see what happens.
- An exercise that I was given or releasing the tension in my throat/tongue was basically to open my mouth as wide open as I could, to stick my tongue out as far as I could, and to stay like that, stretching and becoming conscious of my muscles. I also had to move rotate my head inward and backward, as if the neck was a pole and my skull a sphere.

This kind of thing can be used from pretty much everything that is related to tension. You can do it without (lying on the floor) and then with your instrument. I already knew it thanks to my former physiotherapist but I went more in depth with the Russian martial art I practice (as a beginner) to work on relaxation, mobility, free breathing, and keeping all these qualities under pressure (which is really useful for a musician ^^), which is called Systema. Of course there are many other approaches that work on the same thing, but you can find interesting things to work on alone and without danger (and without having to study the combat aspect of the thing) in the internet. I think this channel can be a good starting point, many videos are directly related to tension issues. This is only one school of Systema, though.

Hope this helps.
Cette dernière trahison m'a été également reprochée. Ce que je trouve à répondre, c'est:"merde aux conventions!"

- Ligeti

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lagartija
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Re: Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Post by lagartija » Mon Jun 16, 2014 12:51 am

Besides the breathing exercises suggested above , perhaps what you need is a way of alerting yourself the moment the tension causes you to tighten up.
Try the following:
Since you say that you press your tongue to the bottom back of your mouth, start to play with your tongue held lightly and relaxed between your lips. Relax the root of your tongue and feel the sensation of it being flat and broad in your mouth. In other words, don't press it so far forward that you change your relaxed jaw position because that is simply replacing one tension with another. When you start to play and feel the tongue slip from its place between your lips, stop and look at what caused it. Was it just before a big shift? Then slowly and carefully play that section a few times with your tongue on station. Right now, you have trained the tension into certain parts of your pieces. Most likely you will have to retrain yourself to play those sections with great awareness and care. The tongue position is just a way to alert you and help you find the sections that need retraining.
It may be that you have built this tension into sections of every piece you play because you were playing faster than you could with total control.
As Larry McDonald says, "Practice makes permanent." One must take care to keep things like this from becoming permanent. The first step is realizing there is a problem. The second step is becoming aware of the conditions when it happens so you can correct it. Many of us struggle with things like this, so you are not alone!
When the sun shines, bask.
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Classical Guitar forever!

lanten77
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Re: Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Post by lanten77 » Mon Jun 16, 2014 3:55 am

Thank you all very much for the excellent suggestions. I have thought of similar things, but unlike the dedication I put into practice of the guitar, I haven't put a consistent focus / practice on methods of reducing the tension. Awarness and Practice and are the keys (no pun intended). I will more consciously and deliberately put these suggestions to regular practice and I think they will help a lot.

natenajar

Re: Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Post by natenajar » Fri Jul 04, 2014 6:32 pm

Slow down until you are relaxed. Then gradually increase the tempo

dbeau

Re: Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Post by dbeau » Fri Jul 04, 2014 7:31 pm

As part of relaxing while playing advice, because my jaw/mouth tensed visibly, a teacher told me to leave my mouth slightly open, i.e. but not visibly gaping :D

Izaac

Re: Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Post by Izaac » Mon Jul 07, 2014 7:11 am

natenajar wrote:Slow down until you are relaxed. Then gradually increase the tempo
I have to second this notion. When I would tell my students to "slow down", they could never quite comprehend the maniacal degree to which I meant slow down.

I'm curious to know what kind of routine you have as far as exercises go, how often you warm up, and how long you spend doing these kinds of movements on the guitar. I recommend doing what I call "long tone" warm ups. Horn players do these kinds of exercises to increase their power, control, stamina, and improve their tone, however there are many added benefits to this kind of practicing that are often not recognized by teachers and students. Specifically for the guitar, I define long tone practicing as any exercise or movement where:

1. The tonal attack is a gradual squeeze in the right hand where you give up control over the release of the string. In other words you squeeze the string in such a way that you don't know when it's going to release. This can be done both with rest strokes and free strokes.

2. Then you listen to the tone that you produced and simply just be aware of the tension in your body and your breathing patterns without consciously trying to change anything, and just listen.

3. You don't consciously move any muscle in your body until the note has completely decayed.

4. Then you procede to prepare (plant) your finger for the next stroke.

Step 4 will blend into step 1 and it is essentially a cycle. If you do this properly, say with just a p,i,m,a,m,i pattern in the right hand, it should take you approximately 5 minutes to get through one cycle. This is absolutely agonizing to most people who are not used to it, and that's why so few people do it. However, if you start to work this into your sessions for approximately 30 minutes a day, everyday, you will reap tremendous benefits from it. It is very much like meditating, and what you will find is that your body becomes incredibly efficient and many technical problems/tension/etc work themselves out without you consciously "doing" anything.

This principal can also be applied to sight reading ANY score.

The more practiced you get at this exercise, the quicker you will be able to get to the "zen place".

So it may be excruciatingly frustrating at first, but as you get better at it you won't need as much.

There are numerous good strategies out there for resolving tension, and I have spent a great deal of energy researching and practicing different techniques with clients over the years, including people dealing with debilitating injuries, focal dystonia, and other "neurological" dysfunctions, but in my experience this is the most powerful "self-help" tool that one can implement to become a more effortless performer and resolve all structural problems. The only problem with it is that most people don't have the patience.

Whatever you end up doing, keep us posted on your progress. And also let me know if you'd like me to clarify anything.

Best,
Izaac

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robin loops
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Re: Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Post by robin loops » Mon Jul 07, 2014 7:41 am

chew gum
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
-James-

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lagartija
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Re: Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Post by lagartija » Mon Jul 07, 2014 11:24 am

3. You don't consciously move any muscle in your body until the note has completely decayed.
Do you mean you don't allow the finger to release after plucking? :? I am conscious of the sensation of the release after plucking, but I'm not sure if you are considering that a "conscious" move or a naturally occurring one. There are many people who would hold their finger in the followthrough position rather than naturally releasing it after the pluck occurs.
Are you timing that release with the moment just before you plant the next finger? Or as the note decays?
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dory
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Re: Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Post by dory » Mon Jul 07, 2014 2:55 pm

My guitar teacher tells me to sing and count. You count while singing the melody of the piece. (Obviously you can't sing in counterpoint so pick a line.) I find when I do this I actually get a dry mouth sometimes, because my mouth tends to stay slightly open. Not only do I think that singingnand counting will make it very hard to hold tension in your mouth and tongue, but your timing will benefit as well.
Dory

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robin loops
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Re: Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Post by robin loops » Mon Jul 07, 2014 5:16 pm

To expand on my chew gum post. If you also have tension in the hands then follow the advice ot play slowly. But if you can play with the hands and body relaxed this may just be a nervous habit (as opposed to a result of tension). You may even find you also do things with your mouth when doing a variety of tasks that require a lot of concentration/focus.

Chewing gum while practicing will make you aware of your mouth movements. Being aware (conscious) of mouth/tongue movement will help avoid making unconscious movements. At first, time your chews with the music in one way or another, at the beginning of a measure or in between phrases (like you would time breaths when singing) to make sure they are slow and consistent. Then gradually work towards not timing them at all. If you find yourself chewing too aggressively, work on chewing more relaxed. Basically the gum gives you a tangible thing that is easy to be aware of to facilitate focus on a subconscious act.

It took me about one week of using gum during practice to break bad habits with tongue and mouth that had plagued me for about two decades.

On a side note: It's also helpful to work on breathing in the same manner that singers do. It will help later when recording to eliminate breathing sounds in the recording. Only as a player we want to take breaths during phrases (as opposed to in between) so that the sound on the guitar masks the breathing. Improving my breathing during play also helped me with unwanted mouth movement/tension/etc.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
-James-

Izaac

Re: Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Post by Izaac » Mon Jul 07, 2014 7:27 pm

lagartija wrote:
3. You don't consciously move any muscle in your body until the note has completely decayed.
Do you mean you don't allow the finger to release after plucking? :? I am conscious of the sensation of the release after plucking, but I'm not sure if you are considering that a "conscious" move or a naturally occurring one. There are many people who would hold their finger in the followthrough position rather than naturally releasing it after the pluck occurs.
Are you timing that release with the moment just before you plant the next finger? Or as the note decays?
Words can be very confusing sometimes. No, definitely allow the finger to release to a neutral position. If you are performing rest-strokes, allow the finger to follow through fully and put pressure on the next string, but then allow it to simply rest gently on the next string. If you are performing free strokes allow your finger to follow through and go into your hand, and then allow it to come back and rest gently in a neutral position.

There are also variations on this exercise with rapid planting of the next finger, but for the one I'm describing right now don't even begin to THINK about planting the next finger until the previous note has decayed, just stay with the note and be fully present for it. Eliminate all anticipation.

Here is another practical guideline:

1. Don't consciously create any unnecesarry tensions in the body.

2. Don't consciously do anything that isn't precisely needed to execute the stroke.

3. Become aware of surface level tension in the body.

4. Gradually become aware of more subconscious micro-tensions in the body.

5. Your body will gradually release these tensions on its own as you get deeper into the meditative state. Your stroke will become deeper and more powerful as well. Your ears will start to hear more because you are really getting inside of each note. Long tones for the classical guitarist.

Izaac

Re: Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Post by Izaac » Mon Jul 07, 2014 7:32 pm

I did a youtube video on this a while back, but have since deleted it (it was long-winded and confusing). I will do a new one soon and post it here.

dory
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Re: Need help for Jaw and Tongue tension

Post by dory » Mon Jul 07, 2014 8:12 pm

I would like to see it.
Dory

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