More thoughts about the core
I find it fascinating that musicians so rarely talk about the importance of the core performance of music. Singers along with woodwind and brass players, have to be aware of the core in terms of using the abdominal muscles effectively for support and breathing, but string players and pianists appear to think it’s of no particular relevance. And yet I am continually discovering how essential it is for so many reasons.
When pianists learn how to use the core, their sound immediately improves. Pianists who are not very tall and don’t have big hands will often struggle to create a big, rich fortissimo and yet when they learn to put their attention just below their tummy button, and let their arms and fingers be an extension of that, the huge, resonant sound that they’re looking for will materialise. They don’t need to even engage the core muscles, they just need put their focus there, and that seems to do the trick.
String players have a tendency to reach up on tip toes when they play standing which is the opposite of what they need. When they put focus on their core, think more about grounding their feet and lower body, the upper body frees up enabling their playing to free up as well.
Have a look at this photo that I took on a holiday in India some years ago. These women use their bodies so differently from us in the West. Their spines are straight, their physical focus is lower down which enables them to have a wonderfully free upper body. Making sure we have our body in alignment in this way as musicians can make a massive difference to our playing and our sound.
How actors choose to move away from the core to find a character
I’ve been watching a few of the many Agatha Christie Poirot films recently, with David Suchet as Poirot. I’m not particularly interested in the whodunnit side, but I love watching David Suchet act. He’s a method actor so the moment he is in costume, he is in character. I encourage musicians to do similar when they prepare for a performance, to start listening to the music they’re about to perform and feel the character and mood.
I saw this 1-minute video recently about how David Suchet finds Poirot’s voice. It is a wonderful example of how he consciously moves away from his normal rich, resonant speaking voice (accessed through the core and a free lower body) to create the ‘head’ voice that he uses for the famous Agatha Christie character.