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  • Writer's pictureNat natbrookesmusic@gmail.com

5. Wellbeing for Accordionists: Physiology part 2 - An alternative approach

This is part 5 of my series of blog posts about physical well being for accordionists.


Whilst I think that the weights on the Vitruvian clothes horse analogy (whilst not beautiful) illustrates the point well, I don’t think that it’s a particularly useful image to have in your head as you're playing. It’s key to keep as loose as possible, so thinking of a rigid, metaphorical clothes horse being constantly under strain doesn’t encourage the right vibe. Here is a softer metaphor to promote relaxed playing.


Go with the Flow

In various spiritual disciplines there is discussion of energy flowing through the body and 'sending your breath' to different limbs or muscle groups. If you picture the accordion pulling down on your shoulders and your left arm and then imagine the energy flowing from your core through your torso to those areas, what patterns does it trace?


At first, you might imagine a tree. A thick trunk standing vertically along the spine and then branching off to those areas but that feels too angular to me. I think it’s best, at least in this context, to think of energy curving around your body, flowing like water; like a river meandering around a gentle bend (cue the horns of the Coronation Street theme music).


Bing AI image creator. A question mark made up of hundreds of strands of light, each glowing brightly with a different colour. It looks eye catching against the dark background.

I think it's still best to imagine this from behind for now. I picture a large question mark shape, starting at the hips and then weaving to the right before heading back to the left over the shoulders. This shape is reminiscent of the sagging clothes horse made from earlier, but it differs in one key respect; the clothes airer disregards your customary centre of gravity. Whilst not always the case, our bodies have evolved to be good at supporting us. Even if accordion playing runs in your family for generations, since the invention of the instrument, mother nature hasn't spared a thought for the Accordionists out there, evolution just doesn’t work that fast! We have to work with the bodies that we've got. If this alternative approach is to be useful, we must picture the energy in a way that depicts our bodies so we need to consider our core strength,  muscle groups and skeletal structures.


Energy through the body 


Imagine that the energy flowing through your body stems from a central point situated roughly inline with your belly button. This energy node represents your core muscles, much of the work to keep you upright starts from here. Next we need to think of our other muscle groups, and instead of imagining autonomous clusters of distinct muscles, it’s best to think of bundles of overlapping bungee cords, each starting slightly offset from the last, that have organically grown out from this central point. When imagining the energy flowing through our bodies the energy will find it easy to move along the bungee cords but hard to move perpendicularly across the bungee cords, so the energy will be more inclined to move in the direction that the bungee cord is being stretched.


Bing AI image creator. Two children play on a see-saw. Iridescent butterflies fly around them. The see saw itself appears to be L shaped, it pivots on a cone, with a precarious column of neon lights above. Atop the column is a roof covered in more neon lights and from the roof hang bowls that one child is adding weights to.

Lastly this model needs to take into account our bones and overall skeleton, so think of the joints between each vertebrae (segment of the spine) as being see-saw points, where the central column is strong, but each see saw can be tilted from side to side, and the entire structure can eventually become distorted or topple. So rather than streaming through the strong bones, the energy flows around, giving strength to the bungee cords instead.




This alternative model to the Vitruvian Clothes airer is a useful facsimile of the way we actually use our bodies whilst without getting bogged down on the individual muscles (I might include a boggy blog in the future… you have been warned…).


It’s a bit of a riddle…


Returning again to the source point that the energy flows from, considering the ways that the energy behaves as I've described above, let’s reintroduce these energy flows. As I've already mentioned, let's think of the energy flowing in a single question mark shape across the back, like an artistic, bougie, minimalist version of the riddler. The Question mark branches out away from the spine to the right, pulling all of those see-saws down to keep the spine aligned as the accordion pulls the left down. Once the energy gets to the shoulder, it begins to form the top of the question mark, arching over the neck and then rippling down the left arm.


Let's fill that question mark with glowing light in a colour you find soothing. (I'm picturing purple but that might be because I was just thinking about the riddler…) Now, instead of letting the question mark rest on your skin, take a small, metaphorical step backwards, so that the energy sinks beneath the surface.


This is helpful…


Here's the useful bit: every muscle that the energy question mark touches is engaged and working. If you're sitting whilst playing, your muscles are keeping your torso aligned. If you're standing whilst playing, your muscles are keeping everything aligned and your centre of gravity is raised, so many of the muscle groups involved will have to work harder.


After you've warmed up ready to play (here's my warm ups for Accordionists), before you pick up your accordion, take a moment to imagine the bright, glowing energy that will flow through you whilst you play and briefly consider all of those places that the energy will flow through, just noting how they feel. If they feel stiff, rigid or numb then you should spend time earning them up so that they can do their jobs properly without doing damage. When you play, consider whether those muscles are loose or tight. Do they feel engaged or fatigued? Do they need to be rested? 


Don't overdo it

You don't need to be playing for that long for those muscles to begin to get lazy or start flagging, so be really conscious of your posture and playing position whilst you play and take frequent short breaks.


Take lots of breaks and don’t ask too much of your body


Bing AI image creator. A man playing the accordion, with blue and orange lights and musical notes spewing out of his instrument.. He looks like he has one foot on an invisible wedge monitor like a rock star.


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