Balancing Anxiety and Intonation

This week marked revelatory moments for some of my students, which as a teacher is completely thrilling!  It’s like seeing the world through another’s eyes; or in this case, ears.  Instance #1 involved me teaching a student to tune a guitar by ear, which is something that I have never done before since I mainly teach piano, saxophone, and clarinet.  I encouraged the student to play all strings together.  It was bad.  That guitar was so out of tune, we agreed.  Next we played the low E string by itself and systematically compared and contrasted the overly high pitch or overly low pitch of each string.  We actually discovered that it was only the high E and B string that were out of tune.  This process sounds utterly simple and quick, but this entire comparison took 30-40 minutes.  A true breakthrough happened around minute 35 where the student realized that loosening and tightening the strings could be compared to anxiety.  When the tension of a string is tighter(anxious) the pitch(anxiety) is higher.  When the tension of the string is looser(more relaxed) the pitch(anxiety) is lower.  This intuitive revelation based on personal reflection and awareness embodies not only the science behind pitch, but of human nature as well.  When our self regulation is to high or low(hyper or depressed) our ability to emotionally function is incapacitated and out of tune just like a guitar.  Just as comparing the pitch of each string was relative in this exercise, so is our relation to everything in our physical and emotional world.  Balance is a repeating theme in music from the orchestra to the sound mix on your favorite record.  We crave balance in every area of life.  Without balance we cannot tap into our most pure and authentic creativity.

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