EAR PLUGS – for proprioception and the big picture
Proprioception is the sense that allows you to know what your body is doing in space. It’s a fine tuning that your nervous system does using receptors on the inside of the body. It’s a sense we take for granted, but without proprioception, you would have to track with sight or sound or other senses, what your body parts are doing. Proprioception allows us to look at the screen while your fingers are typing, find your mouth when eating, walk down stairs while talking to a friend, drive a car while watching the road, or to play the bass without watching your left hand!
Athletes have this excellent body awareness. Their minds are free to focus on more immediate tasks – like playing music instead of looking at what needs to move next. Musicians need this excellent body awareness as well. Disciplines like yoga, tai chi and other martial arts help you develop this sense of mind/body unity. Mindfulness practices also increase this immediacy of physical awareness.
The blindfold is an excellent way to develop this inner seeing of the body mechanisms. How do ear plugs help?
Without hearing, you have to depend on this bodily sense of proprioception to tell you if you are doing the right thing. When I first encountered this, I went home, put in the ear plugs and started to play. Of course, I can still hear, but not every agonizing detail! I could relax more. I could focus on how my body was playing – the sensation of it. I could think about the music.
Now, consider Gary Karr’s view of what he terms proprioceptivity. He makes the case that if you remove the ability to hear, by ear plugs or by turning the sound off on an electric upright, your whole body can become your “ear”. I mentioned elsewhere that one should hold the bow gently in order to feel the stick vibrating on the finger tips. Eventually, you can feel your whole body vibrating. Can you sense the difference in pitch?
Hector Tirado can demonstrate this. He turns off both hearing aids, and stands on a wooden platform to amplify the vibrations to his body and performs.
It’s worth a try. Especially before a big concert.