Anyone who studies Alexander Technique learns that decisions are powerful. Decisions that we make determine how we see the world. They also determine what we think we can and can’t do.
As a young musician, I learned bass clef quite a number of years after I became proficient with treble clef. Even after decades of playing, bass clef still doesn’t feel as comfortable as treble clef to play.
When I am gigging with Pink Noise Recorder Quartet, I frequently play the contrabass recorder, which obviously requires me to read bass clef. I do it a lot, and I do it well (even if I do say so myself!).
I don’t own a nice bass recorder, so tend not to play bass parts; those with really classy instruments take those parts. But every so often I borrow someone else’s bass and play, reading from the bass clef. And for the longest time I would struggle a bit and make mistakes, believing that because I don’t have much experience playing the bass recorder (and by extension, the bass clef) I will struggle to read the notes.
And then one rehearsal I suddenly realised… The way I read bass clef easily to play contrabass recorder? It’s the same bass clef that I play with difficulty when I play bass.
It’s the same clef. And the same notes. With the same fingering.
I changed my decision about bass clef being hard. Suddenly my bass playing improved substantially.
I am aware that I probably sound very silly. But that’s the nature of so many self-limiting decisions. How often do we make a choice about how we’re going to act or behave and then realise down the line that our choice is illogical or a bit silly?
FM Alexander knew the power of a decision. In 1923 he wrote:
A teaching experience of over twenty-five years in a psycho-physical sphere has given me a very real knowledge of the psycho-physical difficulties which stand in the way of many adults who need re-education and co-ordination, and, as the result of this experience, I have no hesitation in stating that the pupil’s fixed ideas and conceptions are the cause of the major part of his difficulties.
I know from my own experience both as a student and teacher of the Alexander Technique that FM is quite right! So my question to you is this: what little decision or belief are you holding onto that keeps you from performing the way you want?
 FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, IRDEAT 1997, p.294.
Photograph of Pink Noise Recorder Quartet members by Matthew Mackerras.