Friday, September 14, 2012

Oven Mitten Sensory

Today I realized that some more sensory is coming back. Before I had dystonia, grasping onto a note was like a magnet grasping onto a metal bowling ball; and even could adjust the grip if I wanted. But with dystonia, it's like your hand in an oven mitten trying to grasp a bowling ball with no magnetic leeway.

In the past I've talked about how the sensations feel over time as I've regained sensory. At first it felt like I couldn't hold onto a note at all, it was worse than the oven mitten was more like two magnets that repel each other/push away from one another. But fortunately I can say I am past that stage. More hopeful than ever, I'm now at a point where recently I noticed I can bend lower into the note or aim and hit the lower portion of a note. If you're into lip bending (I tell my students it should be renamed Airbending), you'll understand what I'm talking about, or if you understand the concept of finding the center of a note.

Non-dystonia suffer's have control over adjusting their grasp on a note. They can bend it up, bend it down (lip bending) by pushing air/resistance against it and adjusting it. The closest analogy I can think of is something the four hornsmen said which perfectly described it:

Imagine you have a tank of water, the further you try push your air through that water to go deeper, the more resistance you feel, but when you are just skimming the surface of the note their is less resistance, and also equally less resistance once you've bent a note too far and right on the edge of flipping the note. To find the center of the note, you push down into that water deeper, and when you hit the core of the note, it resonates. You can feel this, hear it, and even overtones if listening fills the whole room and usually right on center pitch if you're playing with a strobe tuner. This isn't their word-for-word, so I'll probably have to find the piece of paper that I kept which explains it and put it on here. But this is the best way I can describe it.

For months on end I've only had grip over the top of the note...fluctuating between skimming the surface and grabbing onto the surface momentarily or for a couple seconds. As it's improved over time, the grasp has slowly gotten better...yet, it fluctuates, just as all my dystonia symptoms effect me - it can seem sporadic. However, today I felt I could hit the bottom of the note, and almost to the center, but not quite yet....but very close...and for a longer period of time.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Taking A Stand!

This is how I feel about the lovers outside my practice room...haha!

Wow!!! More progress to post about! It's been a month since I last wrote a blog post though. :-s It would be an understatement to say I've barely had time to tend to my blog lately. But I'm going to make an effort to at least once or twice a month until late Spring rolls around. Things have gotten very busy, but like I've said before, in a great way! I kind of promised myself I wouldn't teach this year because I wanted to focus on my college applications, but....I totally gave in. haha! I love teaching, and was so happy that I was asked to teach again. On top of a full-time job, teaching at school, college applications, trying to find time to hit the gym, and practice ...(and blog/record)...I was also asked to teach a couple more students at a nearby school.

Don't worry, I'll be exhausted, but a very happy exhausted person! :)

I'm going to try to record a video next week to get on here. Just within the last two weeks I've seen yet another long waited significant change!!...and that is.....*drum roll*....

....I'm able to stand up and play!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As you've seen in other posts, I've always heavily relied on playing with the bell on my leg while sitting down throughout this rehabilitation. But within the last 2 weeks while listening to my body (like I said before, it takes just following your gut feeling sometimes)...I felt the need to stand up and play because it seemed like playing on my leg was limiting the mobility of my face (if that makes sense). I just couldn't seem to get the mouthpiece to pivot like my body was asking it to do. I just thought "For some reason I feel if I stand up and play, it might be more comfortable and easier to play. I just need to stand up and see what happens."

...and I did! and it felt miraculous! I can tell there's still some work I need to get done while sitting down; I need to work out my kinks while sitting down before standing up; and even then, I need to test some things back and forth between sitting down and standing up. But otherwise, I have also noticed I'm able to play higher than normal because the shifts and pivots between my mouthpiece and embouchure are synchronized, and the pivots in my lower register where my dystonia effects me were more smooth. I don't know how to explain this....but what I'm talking about isn't AIR. Don't go there! ...yes air helps, but missing the primary point....what I felt in my embouchure and noticed in the mirror is what's important here.

I feel I'm now in the transition area between being able to adjust from playing on my leg to playing off my leg. Usually when sitting and playing with the bell on the leg, it helps with dystonia because the horn is doesn't move around and the angle of playing into the horn doesn't change much, so it's easier to adjust to the horn when having dystonia symptoms for some reason. You adjust to the horn sitting there...

...Whereas, when standing up and playing, the bell rests on right hand only, and your left arm adjusts the angle of the mouthpiece/leadpipe. In other words, the horn adjusts to you; you can adjust your horn to your body more easily. Though, it is this very free-moving mobility that makes dealing with the dystonia symptoms a lot harder to deal with while standing and playing or playing with the bell off the leg; because you need a target that isn't moving, or something you can try to adapt to since the horn definitely can't adapt to your dystonia symptoms right away; your embouchure barely knows how to function if not at all.

Working with dystonia is like trying to navigate a minefield sometimes. It's part of the retraining, I feel like I'm always searching for what works and what sets off the symptoms; in the beginning it was the slightest little movement (or anything I tried) that could set off the spasms and contractions, but now it takes more searching to find them, and some days not so much...I can sense the tension already on my relapse days, but takes 30 minutes to work out the kinks...give me an hour and a half, and I can regain some sense of normalcy in my playing.

Today I also was shocked, because I played my first effortless high Bb. Usually I don't ever venture up into my higher register because it causes way too much built up tension in my face, and then I have to spend another 20 minutes of just low playing patterns to reduce it after playing high for literally half-a-second.

Anywhoo, my embouchure felt really good today. I was standing up and playing, I started working my way up at first to the high F at the top of the staff (which is about as high as I usually get and stop),but then I felt a shift and saw a shift in the mirror.....the horn adjusted to my embouchure (again, I can't stress the importance of this brain-body connection!!! The rewiring is happening!!!) and I immediately felt things come out effortlessly as I went up to my high Bb. It was a feeling I haven't had in a VERY long time. So long, that I had forgotten how much I use to love playing high horn, and how comfortable/easy it use to be for me...without tension, without strain, without lack of endurance, without throbbing pain, without numbness, without instant swelling, without feeling like it would set me back in my retraining.

So I went for the high Bb, working my way up to it, and once I reached it, oh my god, it was so beautiful!!!!!! I almost cried. Sounds cheesy, but I honestly wanted to cry like a baby. I haven't played anything that high and beautiful in what feels like an eternity. I literally sat there and prayed "Thank you God, even if this is the last effortless note I'm ever able to play again. Have mercy on me. Thank you, thank you, thank youuuuuuuu!" I can't explain the feeling! I was so happy despite there being a couple directly in front of my practice room, lying on the floor in the hallway literally making-out and loudly saying sweet-nothings to each other (awkward is an understatement too)....I was happy! I stopped while things felt good in my embouchure and took off to lunch and work.

I had to write about it today, I was very happy!!!!! I believe I'll be able to play again someday. For now though, I'm preoccupied with teaching, applying to schools, working, hitting the gym, and usually practicing in my mute at home everyday (today I was lucky to find time to go to the University to play)! So, I'm sorry that I won't be on here as often, but definitely will try to write 2 blogs a month (3 if lucky!) when I get a chance. Thanks everyone for reading my update!!!!! Will post a video in a week or two! Tootles!!!!! :-)