young man playing piano with ease“Three qualities are essential in a professional musician… the first is good health and the other two are the same.”
Mark Hambourg, pianist
The Musician’s Way, p. 241

Whether we make music as professionals, students or amateurs, we strive to create transcendent experiences for our listeners and ourselves.

Sometimes, though, our passion for music causes us to pay less attention to our wellbeing than we should.

But, as Mark Hambourg implies, if we neglect self-care to the point that we become unwell, then our music making will suffer and possibly come to a halt.

Health Promotion for Musicians

The Musician’s Way supplies far-reaching guidelines for musicians to avoid music-related injuries and promote healthy living.

In this post, I zero in on a common cause of injury among instrumentalists and singers: excessive physical tension.

Too much tension is pernicious because, among other things, it can provoke repetitive strain injuries and limit technical facility.

By comparison, when we minimize tension and cultivate mental and physical ease, we decrease stress on our bodies and free ourselves to create our best music.

The following six habits promote strain-free music making – all of them are expanded on in Chapter 13 of The Musician’s Way.

6 Ways for Musicians to Minimize Tension

1. Employ balanced postures

Pages 250-257 of The Musician’s Way provide guidelines for balanced sitting and standing; numerous photos illustrate the principles.

2. Get a good fit between you and your instrument

Match your instrument to your size, and position it for utmost advantage. Also exploit ergonomic aids or instrument modifications to accommodate special needs. Consider wedge seat cushions, too, which promote optimal sitting.

3. Play with your wrists in their midranges of motion

Misaligned wrists can strain delicate tendons, whereas well-aligned joints allow for fluency of movement. The photos on pages 264-267 of The Musician’s Way contrast musicians using aligned and misaligned wrists.The Musician's Way book cover

4. Reduce mental and physical effort

Choose suitable material, learn it thoroughly, and never exert excess force. If you ever find yourself forcing through a passage, stop, solve any technical problems, and seek help from a teacher for difficulties you can’t resolve on your own.

5. Use agile breathing habits

Whether you’re a singer or an instrumentalist, ensure that you understand how to coordinate your breathing – maybe ask a teacher to evaluate your habits. Efficient respiration entails the coordination of numerous muscles, and clumsy breathing contributes to tension and misuse.

6. Sign up for lessons in movement awareness

The Alexander technique and the Feldenkrais method are two approaches espoused by musicians worldwide. Resources to locate teachers and access free online materials are posted on the Wellness Page at

“When we minimize tension and cultivate mental and physical ease, we decrease stress on our bodies and free ourselves to create our best music.”

Related posts
5 Causes of Musicians’ Injuries
12 Habits of Healthy Musicians
Dialing Down the Effort Meter
Playing with Ease

© 2018 Gerald Klickstein
Guidelines adapted from page 244 of The Musician’s Way