Skeleton in the Cupboard

Visitors to my music room sometimes look alarmed when they find themselves face to face with a human skeleton standing in the corner…”Am I to be the next victim?” you can see them wondering!

They needn’t worry; the skeleton merely stands there as a constant reminder to me about that essential element of playing an instrument well, or of doing just about anything well come to that: good posture.

There is an intrinsic beauty in the way the bones of a skeleton hang from the spine in a delicate pattern like veins in a leaf. The spine, with its slight curve at the bottom, is the central lynch pin and it supports all the intricate network of interlocking bones in perfect balance so that they can work together like the inner workings of a clock. Being able to picture this and to understand the workings of the bone structure, particularly how the head should sit in relation to the spine, has really helped me to keep backache at bay and to optimise my clarinet playing.

Gravity is a constant force trying to pull you down towards the earth, inclining you to bend over and hunch shoulders but if I imagine my spine as a load bearing structure supported by the legs and stretching to infinity in defiance of gravity, I find my body can work with the clarinet in equilibrium, the spine, not the arms, bearing the weight of the instrument and the chest cavity opening up to allow the sound to resonate.

Musician and instrument should work together to create sound. It is beautiful when eventually the instrument seems to become part of the person playing, an extra limb almost. When human body and instrument are perfectly balanced like this, then the musician can communicate as naturally as a bird sings.