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Teaching Manuals: A Resource for Body Mapping Educators

Section One: Introduction To Body Mapping


Please individualize your course regarding your own language, movement activities, and research. You may choose to begin your course with Section Two, as the content is easier to grasp than in Section One.

Throughout the teaching manuals, text boxes highlight information that may be instrument specific, or may help clarify a concept. The trainee can decide when this information is appropriate for their audience.

Students may see a big difference in their movement from the very beginning if this choice is made. However, students will still need to become aware of their kinesthetic sense, understand the location of the receptors, and have a basic understanding of inclusive awareness.

Refer to Section Two Supplement for Barbara’s comments on the difference between imagining and perceiving our bodies.


Why Musicians Need Body Mapping

  • Music serves and enriches our lives socially and personally.

  • Body Mapping makes it easier to create compelling and artistically satisfying musical performances.

  • Body Mapping has the potential to save musical careers.

  • Learning accurate information about the body in movement is the most efficient way to teach any musical skill.

  • Injury is at epidemic levels among student and professional musicians. This may lead to mental health issues that arise from being in chronic pain.

  • Body Mapping offers a framework for integrated movement to improve music making and alleviate pain and injury.


Moshe Feldenkrais - “When you know what you are doing, you can do what you want.”


Learning Objectives for Section One

  • Movement will be trained as movement, not abstractly or by inference, as it so often is now. Movement will be trained by correcting and perfecting students’ body maps, because that is the most efficient, effective way to do it.

  • All the relevant senses will be trained, not just hearing. Vision will be trained. The tactile sense will be trained. Kinesthesia will be trained.

  • Attention will be systematically trained rather than left to chance or mis-trained. Students will be directly taught how to form the effective gestalt we call inclusive awareness: both inner and outer experience in a single, fluid gestalt.


Learning Outcomes for Section One

Teacher Goals

  • Demonstrates sensory awareness and inclusive awareness

  • Clearly articulates the concepts of movement, senses, awareness, and attention

  • Communicates what a body map is, what Body Mapping is

  • Models whole body integrated movement and inclusive awareness

  • Develops a body of knowledge that includes the historical context of somatic education

  • Communicates ABME’s vision of music education on a secure somatic foundation

Participant Goals

  • Understands movement as the core of all music making

  • Understands that music making need never be injury producing

  • Learns that they have a body map and that they can learn the process of Body Mapping

  • Develops a vision of what music training will be like when music is on a secure somatic foundation

  • Understands a somatic approach to music making can help musicians overcome physical limitations

  • Understands basic concepts of sensory awareness

  • Understands the concept of inclusive awareness

  • Understands how inclusive awareness will coordinate movement and sensory awareness to organize around a musical intention

Preface to Slide Presentation

Body Mapping Educators are first and foremost musicians. Bodies love to organize around musical intention. The more understanding we have about the body in movement, the easier it is to organize a whole body around a musical intention.

“Music is an art of sound in time, expressing ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony and color.”

This definition may be used to help assess and prioritize what aspect of our students’ performance needs to be addressed first. For example, when teaching a young child to play his first piece like Twinkle, Twinkle on the violin, he is instructed to step into the highest note of the first phrase, even as he is learning to play with a straight bow and place his fingers on the correct pitches. In this way, he will learn how to organize his whole body around a simple musical intention from his first lessons.

We are music educators, not healthcare providers. Please refer any musician in pain to a medical professional.

These teaching manuals are meant to address a need in the music world for an anatomical context for musical performance. We pride ourselves on the ability to relay complex scientific concepts in a manner that is understood and practical for musicians. We must acknowledge that a one-day presentation cannot thoroughly explain the complex organization of the human body in movement, nor can it account for the many individual differences in body types and personalities represented in a typical audience. Because of this, these teaching manuals will constantly be under revision to best incorporate new research and new methods for embodying this material. We encourage all ABME Educators to continue researching, experimenting and sharing best practices.

See Section 1 Supplement, page 1, for more information about the importance of consulting medical professionals.


Image 1.1 : Music Training on a Secure Somatic Foundation

These slides and text serve as examples. You may use them or feel free to create your own slides and find your own words to convey the information.

This section offers a vision of music training based on a secure somatic foundation. Current music training may not include accurate information about the body in movement.


Image 1.2 : Somatics: Movement Studies; Mind Body Work; Body Work


Movement Studies, Mind Body Work, Body Work: these are meant to stand as synonyms, or definitions, of somatics. Somatics is a relatively new field of study.

Embodiment — a subjective, felt sense of the body as an integrated whole- has historically been left out of western thought and music education. As mindfulness and embodiment become more understood, this omission is being corrected on many fronts.

It is important to acknowledge the great pioneers in the field: F.M. Alexander, Moshé Feldenkrais, Mabel Todd, Irmgard Bartenieff, and for this course, Bill and Barbara Conable. It’s also important to acknowledge current research about the brain and movement, fascia and biotensegrity, that further confirms the work of these pioneers.


Image 1.3 : Somatics: Body

Somatics is the study of the body in movement. This slide indicates the root of the word, soma, in its meaning, body.


Image 1.4 : Why Somatics?


Just say, “Why Somatics for musicians?” or “Why do musicians need Somatics?”


Image 1.5 : Somatics: Prevents Injury; Promotes Facility


“Why do musicians need Somatics?” is the question. “Because the relevant information from the field of Somatics prevents injury in musicians and promotes facility,” is the answer.

Often musicians come to the field of somatics reluctantly, having tried everything else, because they are injured, or they fear being injured, or their students are injured. It’s a bonus for the hard work they do in retraining that, almost without exception, they go to a whole new level technically by virtue of the same information that saves them from injury. Members of ABME hope and believe that the next generation of musicians will study this information primarily because it promotes facility. They will have learned that they play better when their movement is good.

The vision of music on a firm somatic foundation is sufficient to prevent most pain and injury in musicians and to eliminate most limitation in musical expression. This vision is worth spelling out in detail in our courses, and if students understand the potential in all this, they usually do the work necessary to embody it.


Image 1.6 : Musicians Move: Hours-Days-Years-Decades


One of the most important points of this hour is: MUSICIANS MOVE FOR A LIVING.

One way to teach this is to say : MUSICIANS blank FOR A LIVING.

Ask the students to fill in the blank. It could be a long time before you get a movement word. This is never true of dancers and athletes. They give you movement words straight away. Show your students video footage of musicians whose movement you admire. Ask them to comprehend that they are seeing movement of a highly refined and complex sort just as rapid and demanding, requiring as much training and skill as dancers or athletes. Point out the YEARS and DECADES part of the image, reminding the students that athletes and dancers expect to retire in their mid thirties, and musicians expect to play/sing into old age.

Musicians who are injured or limited must make a huge category shift in their thinking and come to put themselves squarely in the MOVER category. It is the failure of that self conception that accounts for their being injured in the first place.

And this is as true for singers as it is for instrumentalists. Singers, too, move for a living. Singing is movement: one singing technique differs from another because the requisite movement is different one from another.

Once musicians acknowledge they are movers, then it becomes equally important for them to understand how healthy and efficient movements will improve musical ease, accuracy and expressiveness, as well as help musicians avoid pain and injury.


Image 1.7 : How Will We Know?


This slide is purely transitional. Transitional slides will help you shape your presentation.

“How will we know when music training is on a secure somatic foundation?”


Image 1.8 : Pain (Crossed Out)


We will know when music training is on a secure somatic foundation because no musician will play in pain. Many now do (66% in a 2017 study), some heavily medicated, some self-medicated.


Wu, S. J. (2007). Occupational risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders in musicians: A systematic review. Medical Problems of Performing Artists,22(2), 43. The reported prevalence of playing-related musculoskeletal disorders in musicians ranges from 39 to 87%.


Image 1.9 : Injury (Crossed Out)


We will know when music training is on a secure somatic foundation because no musician will be injured by playing a musical instrument. Point out that the range and severity of injury from playing is astounding.

A 2012 study gives the rate of musicians’ pain and injury at 84%.


Image 1.10 : Limitation (Crossed Out)


Sometimes a musician feels their musical technique or expression is limited, and they are unable to successfully overcome these limitations in the practice room. Despite repeated efforts to overcome faulty techniques, the musician feels they are hitting a proverbial brick wall, and begins to experience self doubt and shame.

We will know when music training is on a secure somatic foundation when no musician is limited because he or she does not understand how the body works in movement. Most limitation in musicians comes from misunderstanding how the body works in movement.


Image 1.11 : Senses, Movement and Attention


This slide indicates the shape of everything that is to follow in this hour. It is an outline of three essential areas required to put music training on a secure somatic foundation:

  • Movement will be trained as movement, not abstractly or by inference, as it so often now is.

  • All the relevant senses will be trained, not just hearing. Vision will be trained. The tactile sense will be

    trained. Kinesthesia will be trained.

  • Attention will be systematically trained rather than left to chance or mis-trained. Students will be directly

    taught how to form the effective gestalt we call inclusive awareness: both inner and outer experience in a single, fluid gestalt.


These changes are so important that the entire remainder of this section will be devoted to exploring them, one after the other: Training Movement; Training the Senses, Training Attention.


Image 1.12 : Training Movement


How music making will change when we train movement with intention, based on accurate information.


Image 1.13 : The Integrity of Any Movement


Students may not fully understand this statement in the moment, but by the end of the course they will very well understand what it means.

Defining the body map:


A body map is the self-representation in the brain of structure, function and size.

The body map is a term used by scientists to mean our neuronal self representation. Scientists also use the terms body scheme, body image, and internal representation.

The term “map” is not a metaphor. These are literally maps.

According to Dr. Richard Nichols, Association for Body Mapping Education Science Advisor:

“The body map is most likely based in several interconnected motor and sensory areas of the cerebral cortex that are capable of learning and adaptation. This map represents both the anatomy and function of the musculoskeletal system, as well as the physical characteristics of the environment, such as a musical instrument. This map is updated and maintained by sensory feedback based on actual motor experience as we learn skilled movements and the ability to work with external objects.”


Image 1.14a : The Cerebral Cortex of the Brain


Image 1.14b : Penfield Diagram


Wilder Penfield’s Diagram


This outdated image presents an early understanding of the lay-out of the corresponding body parts that neuronal areas represent in the primary motor cortex. Make sure your students understand that many areas of the cortex interface with each other in order to produce music (see image 1.14a).

Refer to the Section 1 Supplement for further commentary from Barbara regarding the cortical maps.

Please notice that as Body Mapping Educators we use lowercase when we are writing about the body map, and uppercase when we are writing about Body Mapping.

Defining Body Mapping:


Body Mapping is the conscious correcting and refining of the body map in order to find graceful and coordinated movement. Body Mapping is a foundation for technique. It is not technique itself. The method was developed by Bill Conable and Barbara Conable for correcting one’s body map.

Ways to Map/Remap

  • Inquiry and self-inquiry to learn about a faulty map that may be creating movement that injures or limits (“What is a tongue like? Where are my lungs?”)

  • Studying anatomical images and models (“How does what I see here differ from what I expect to see? Does anything here surprise me?”)

  • Drawing or tracing anatomical images

  • Palpating (explore by means of touch)

  • Using kinesthetic sense (sense of movement)

  • Using mirrors and video (“Am I tightening my neck as I initiate sound?”)

  • Observing musicians who model excellent movement

  • Apply insights from the Alexander Technique, the Feldenkrais Method™, Anatomy Trains™ and other somatic disciplines

“The Biological Basis of the Body Map”


Image 1.15 : Body Map Adequate and Accurate, Movement Good.


When the body map is both adequate and accurate, movement is good. Stress “adequate,” because there are musicians with basically accurate body maps that are nonetheless not sufficiently refined or detailed. Singers need a highly refined and detailed map of the larynx. Violinists won’t need that, but they need a highly refined and detailed map of their fingers, wrist, and forearm. Let the students know that their maps do not need to be conscious to be accurate and adequate. The great natural musicians have adequate and accurate body maps that are often completely unconscious.



As Licensed Body Mapping Educators, one of our jobs is to teach musicians how to translate what they are hearing in the studio into language that works for their bodies based on accurate body maps. Musicians have an immediate neurophysiological response to language and often natural musicians don’t have the vocabulary to accurately describe what they do. When a teacher or conductor asks for something specific, pause and inquire of yourself “WHY” they are asking for what they are asking for rather than to just launch into “trying” it. Ask: “What is the intended result?” Self inquiry is necessary for the translation process.


Image 1.16 : Body Map A Little Off, Movement a Little Off


There are occupations that will tolerate movement that is a little off. It won’t make any significant difference in performance and it won’t result in injury, but musicians are often injured and limited by a body map that is a little off in a crucial place. Tonguing problems often result from small function errors in the musician’s body map of the tongue.


Image 1.17 : Body Map Cloudcoocooland, Movement Awkward and Injury Producing.


This course alerts musicians to the most common mismappings that lead to so much misery. Musicians will also learn to identify the signs of these mismappings in order to resolve them.


Teaching Tips:

It is vital that accurate mappings are communicated as accurate and mismappings are not misconstrued to be what we are advocating.

As teachers, it is also important to use judgment when identifying mismappings in a group setting to avoid causing embarrassment to professionals.


Image 1.18 : Body Map: Structure; Function; Size.


The body map contains at least these features: What they’re like (structure); what they do (function); how big they are (size).


Image 1.19 : Spine: Structure; Function; Size.

Sample of what to use if you have time to have your students draw or describe:


Accessing your map:


Each of us has in his or her own brain, quite literally, a map of our spines. What would you draw if you were asked to draw your spine as seen from the front, the back, and from each side. Can you get in your visual imagination a clear picture of what you would draw?



What would you say about your spine? What would you say is its structure, in other words, what’s it like? What would you say about its function: what does a spine do, after all? What would say about its size?


Correcting Your Map

Now compare what you have drawn or described with the truth you see in anatomical images and models, or feel through palpation.


Image 1.20a : Spine: What is it Like?

Image 1.20b : Spine: Three Views

  • The spine is segmented

  • There are intervertebral disks to cushion the vertebrae

  • The spine has curves (cervical, thoracic, lumbar)

  • The spine meets other structures, skull, ribs and sacrum The spine has a space for the spinal cord and

    nerve bundles


Sample Questions

“Did you draw/describe a segmented spine? Or, was your drawing broomstick-like, with no segmentation, as so many are? Did you draw/describe disks to cushion the vertebrae?”


“Did you draw/describe a spine with curves, as in the image, forward in the cervical spine (in the neck area), back in the thoracic area (where ribs attach), forward again in the lumbar spine (lying between the floating ribs above and the sacrum below)? Or, did you draw or describe a straight spine without curves, as many people do?”

“Did you draw or describe a spine that meets other structures, head, ribs, sacrum, or was your spine free floating and unrelated to other structures, as many people will draw it?”

“Did your spine have a space for the spinal cord (and for nerve bundles coming in to communicate with the spinal cord), or was the spinal cord unrelated to the bony spine in your drawing or description?”


Image 1.21 : Spine: What Does it Do?


  • The spine is weight-bearing

  • The spine is weight-delivering

  • The spine houses a portion of the nervous system

  • The spine moves: bends and spirals

  • The spine gathers and lengthens

The spine includes vertebrae and connective tissue, as well as musculature and fascia connecting the vertebrae to each other. Therefore the spine doesn’t function in isolation — our whole system is load distributing. See text boxes at the beginning of Section Two for further explanation.

Sample Questions


Did your spine as you drew it or described it have a weight-bearing function? Does the spine bear the weight of the head? Does the lumbar spine bear the weight of the head, thorax, and arms? Weight-bearing is experienced in the body as the support any given lower structure supplies to the structure above it. Weight-bearing is felt as an upward force and is sometimes called the “normal force.”

Does it have a weight-delivering function? Weight-delivery is experienced in the human body as the release of any given structure over the structure directly below. It is felt as a downward force and it is the subjective sensation of gravity. There are musicians who have the spine mapped as bearing weight but not as delivering weight, into the pelvis, so that it can then be delivered into the floor through the legs. These musicians always exhibit a muscular holding up because they do not map their spines as delivering weight, merely as bearing it.

Did your spine clearly have the function of housing a portion of the nervous system? Was there a space for protecting the spinal cord and a space for nerves coming in to meet it? If not, this is as serious a mapping error as not mapping the skull as containing and protecting the brain.

Did your spine as you drew it or described it have a movement function? Did it bend in all directions and spiral?

Did you describe a spine that gathers and lengthens? The lengthening and gathering of the spine may be due to a change in the curves of the spine.


Image 1.22 : Spinal Mobility

Spinal lengthening and gathering image from David Nesmith’s Breathing Video, more images can be found here:

Teaching Tips

Here are some definitions for weight-bearing and weight-delivery:

Weight-delivery: experienced as gravity acting on structures delivering down.
Weight-bearing: experienced as normal force- structures supporting upwards — Newton’s equal and opposite law.

Put the gathering and lengthening of the spine anywhere it suits you best in the courses you teach. You may introduce it here to lay a foundation to build on later.

The most effective way to teach the gathering and lengthening of the spine is to clearly demonstrate it.

The spinal movement of gathering and lengthening is a concept that can be very confusing to students. It is crucial that we monitor students very carefully when they are learning this concept so that gathering is NOT confused with the downward pull of the skull/spine relationship.

Refer to Section 1 Supplement for more on Gathering and Lengthening.


Image 1.23 : Spine: How Big is It?

Many people when asked to indicate with their hands how big around the spine is will use their thumb and index finger to make a circle about as big around as a US dime (19mm), quarter (24mm) or a half dollar (30mm). They are radically mismapped with regard to size, a mismapping every bit as serious as any mismapping of structure or function. There will always be muscular holding because the brain conceives no other resource for uprightness than that tiny spine they imagine.

Teaching Tips


Spinal models show this beautifully. Talk about the length of the whole spine as well as width, depth and circumference of individual vertebrae.

The mapping error with regard to size may have to do with the size of the entire body. Someone conceiving of themselves as small may contract a medium-sized body to justify the internal representation. The use of a mirror will usually help in this case.


Image 1.24 : Training Senses

This slide moves us away from Training Movement and leads eventually to Training Attention.


Image 1.25 : Senses

Here are the senses musicians use when they practice and perform.


Image 1.26 : Senses: Visual, Auditory, Tactile, Kinesthetic, Vestibular, Gustatory, Olfactory

Here are the scientific names. Traditionally only five senses have been taught but a main purpose of this course is to introduce more senses relevant to performing musicians. When senses aren’t named, they aren’t trained.


Notice that on the slides the senses have been grouped into sets — above are seeing, hearing, touch, movement, balance; and below are tasting and smelling. Notice the senses are grouped that way because the top five are important for performance and the bottom two are not.


Image 1.27 : Receptors: Eyes, Ears, Skin, Muscle and Connective Tissue at Joints, Tongue, Nasal Areas


It’s useful to map the location of the receptors for these senses.

Students can be counted on to know that they see with their eyes and hear with their ears. Students also need to learn that muscles and connective tissue have two functions: moving bone around and providing information. This is vital information, information as important for the quality of performance as that coming from the ears and eyes.

Teaching Tips

The tactile sense has receptors in the skin of the body and mucous membranes that line the nose and mouth.

Musicians frequently bundle the tactile and kinesthetic senses together as one sense. They will benefit from differentiating their tactile and kinesthetic senses. There are, for instance, pianists so focused on the feel of the keys that they do not perceive their moving with any clarity at all. If asked to make the movements of playing a few inches above the keys, they will initially say they feel nothing at all, or the feeling of moving is dim or ghostly.

The kinesthetic sense and vestibular sense are often bundled as well. The kinesthetic sense is related to movement and position, whereas the vestibular sense is more specifically related to how our inner ear informs us about our body’s overall balance.. The vestibule is the central part of the ear’s bony labyrinth, and is situated medially to the eardrum (tympanic cavity), behind the cochlea, and in front of the semicircular canals.

2 Minute Neuroscience Video on the Vestibular System


Image 1.28 : Kinesthesia: Kinema--Movement; Esthesia--Perception

This is a slide like the earlier somatics slide, showing the roots of the word. Even today in Greek kinema (kin-eh-mah’) means to move. When we go to the cinema, they go to the kinema, the moving picture. In Greek esthesia means to perceive. Think of anesthesia, to perceive nothing. Kinesthesia, to perceive movement.


Image 1.29 : Kinesthesia: Position; Movement; Size

But not just movement. With our kinesthesia we also perceive our position in space, that is, the relationship of bone to bone, and our size. We can tell kinesthetically how big we are.

You may ask your students to put their hands over their heads where they can’t see them and then notice that, though their hand is in a different position from the others in the room, they can describe their own and tell how it differs from the others. Ask them to wiggle their fingers and notice how much information about that moving is available to them; when they start, when they stop, how rapid the movement is, how free or how bound, what is happening in the palm, whether the wrist is moving, whether the arm feels light or heavy, and so forth. You may ask them to realize that if their little finger grew four inches (10cm) they would feel it from the inside. They wouldn’t have to look at it to know that it had grown.

Point out that they have just used their kinesthetic sense, first to discern position, then to discern movement, then to discern size. They have also demonstrated that they have a kinesthetic imagination. They can clearly imagine what a little finger four inches (10cm) longer would feel like. It’s by using imagination in all four sensory modes that musicians are able to do mental practice and mental warming up when circumstances require it.

When the students have brought their hands back into their laps, you can point out to them that they probably concentrated on their hand when they had it in the air, losing most or all of their sense of legs, backs, etc. Point out that though they did that, they needn’t have. Ask them to find that hand right now as it lies in their lap, but then to put it clearly in the context of the whole arm and the whole body. Tell them it is this part-within-the-whole perception that they will need to use as musicians.

Teaching Tips

The terms “proprioception” and “kinesthesia” both refer broadly to the sense of movement and posture. We can talk about the subtle differences, but they are so tightly interwoven (both share a couple of receptor types) that they should be considered as slightly different aspects of the same sense.

See supplement for Dr. Nichols description of Proprioception and Kinesthesia


Image 1.30 : Training Position, Movement, Size

You will want to use this slide to point out that it is the business of a music teacher to train the perception of position, movement, and size in his or her students.

Any teacher not training kinesthetic perception of the movement of playing is not doing the whole job and is leaving students vulnerable to tension and injury and is also failing to secure for them the sensory feedback that will allow them to go on improving in their playing.


Image 1.31 : Training: Where and How

It is the business of a music teacher to train not only where the student should move (up bow, down bow, for instance) but also HOW. With freedom. From a place of balance. Without an interfering drag on the body. With appropriate effort.


Image 1.32 : Training: Sensitivity; Discrimination (Discernment); Responsiveness

A teacher must train all three: sensitivity, discernment, and responsiveness. One or two won’t do.


Image 1.33 : Senses: Auditory Sensitivity-Kinesthetic Sensitivity

An analogy is being established between auditory and kinesthetic senses. This analogy provides the key so many people need to open the door to their understanding of kinesthesia. You are wanting to use something they already understand (how to hear) to give them the key to something they may not yet understand (how to sense kinesthetically). Just as students must bring themselves back in tune every time they hear that they are sharp, so must they bring themselves back to balance when they feel they have lost balance and therefore tightened their backs.

Teaching Tips

Sit up too straight because you think you need to have “good” posture, you experience the postural equivalent of playing sharp. Try it on for size. Sit up too straight and notice the quality of your breathing.

Now slump a bit, as if you were relaxing too much. That is the postural equivalent of playing flat. Take a few breaths while slumping and notice how that feels.

Now find your best whole body balance for the moment and this is the postural equivalent of playing in tune. Take a few breaths and notice that experience.


Image 1.34 : Training Attention

This slide reminds students what music training on a secure somatic foundation will mean: movement systematically trained by the cultivation of an accurate and adequate body map; all the relevant senses trained, not just hearing; and attention systematically trained rather than mis-trained or left to chance, as it so often is.

Awareness vs. Attention

The words “attention” and “awareness” have different meanings for different audiences. To the general population, these words signify related elements of consciousness and are sometimes seen as being synonymous. In other specialized groups, such as psychiatrists, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists or philosophers, the words have different and sometimes conflicting meanings. As teachers, we must consider the effect that words have upon our students. Therefore, ABME chooses to utilize these words for their meanings as they are generally understood by our target audience, musicians. Body Mapping comes out of the Alexander Technique tradition, and as such, uses terms appropriate for that lexicon.

Awareness, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists.”


ABME uses the word “awareness” to signify a broad field of all input that is perceived. Awareness includes information from our senses that informs our nervous system about our environment, both inner and outer, as well as thoughts and emotions. Awareness can be both conscious and unconscious.

Attention, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “the act or state of applying the mind to something,” or “a condition of readiness for such attention involving especially a selective narrowing or focusing of consciousness and receptivity.”


ABME uses “attention” to indicate a focus of the mind upon certain sensory or cognitive input. As stated by Dr. Amishi P. Jha, “Attention biases brain activity. It gives a competitive advantage to the information it selects. Whatever it is you pay attention to will have more neural activity associated with it.” (Jha, 2021, p. 33). When we choose to attend to something, then we are prioritizing the information coming in relevant to the choice.

(Jha, P. (2021). Peak mind: find your focus, own your attention, invest 12 minutes a day. HarperOne.)


Image 1.35 : Inclusive Awareness: Self perceiving; World perceiving.

Inclusive attention is the condition we are looking to cultivate in all musicians. Its cultivation should be a top priority of every music teacher from the very beginning. It is the gestalt that works for making music.

We have three possibilities for awareness: internal, where most or all our attention is on ourselves, external, where most or all our attention is on what’s outside ourselves, and inclusive, in which we are wide awake to information coming from the inside and information coming from the outside through all of our senses. Keep in mind that we are operating within a blend of these possibilities. We are not stuck exclusively in one or the other, rather it’s a spectrum and we can choose how much to include.

Opera singers exhibit internal attention as they constantly monitor their breathing because they must make choices about it. They must include their movements that execute technique and articulation, their gestures, their facial expressions, their emotions, the heat of the lights, the feel of the makeup. They must include the feel of the costume in order not to trip on it. On the external side, the opera singer must be aware of other singers, the orchestra, the conductor, the audience, the space, the set, the rake of the stage, and most importantly, the sound of their own voice as it is shared with the world. Much of this input may remain in peripheral awareness while the singer’s central focus is on expressive intention. The singer may choose to shift focus as needed to attend to breathing, the conductor or other elements.


Image 1.36 : Inclusive Awareness

This is a photo of Gil and Orli Shaham. You don’t need to use this picture. Here are musicians with a high quality of inclusive awareness, which you can identify because there is an absence of strain. The violinist is giving focused attention to his bow as he finishes the phrase, and his pianist is in his peripheral awareness. She’s paying attention to him visually and to the keys tactilely and kinesthetically. He’s wide awake to the information coming to him from his body-tactilely, kinesthetically, and emotionally. Both musicians are using inclusive awareness that is integrated- every piece of information is in relationship to every other piece.


Image 1.37 : Conscious, Aware, Self-perceiving, Mindful, Attentive

These concentric circles represent how you can layer your awareness and shift your attention depending on the musical demands of the moment.

For example, the second violinist of a string quartet will need to center her focus (central circle of concentric circles) on her own sound during her solo without ever losing the peripheral awareness of the other quartet members (next concentric circle out from center) or the audience (farthest concentric circle from center). If she does lose the peripheral awareness of her colleagues, she will not be able to seamlessly pass the melody to the cellist. If she does lose peripheral awareness of the audience, she will be startled when the baby in the audience squeals or the person with the cough starts unwrapping the cough candy.


Image 1.38 : Attention, not hyperfocus

Concentration is the ability to focus on the task at hand while ignoring distractions. There is much research proving the value of concentration for successful learning and performance. Hyperfocus, a complete absorption in a task to the point where everything else is ignored, is sometimes confused with concentration. When musicians hyperfocus, they might direct their full attention to their bow hand, or their self-talk (either positive or negative) or the feeling of the keys under their fingers, to the exclusion of everything else. This state of hyperfocus makes it impossible for the musician to access an inclusive awareness that could benefit their musical performance.

ABME advocates for the use of a shifting focus, which is directing your attention to various things that are in your inclusive awareness This is very different from rapid, sequential episodes of exclusionary hyperfocus that Barbara Conable called “scanning” in WEM.

To better understand the difference between shifting focus and hyperfocus, one can make an analogy to a flashlight. Even if you have a very powerful beam, if you bring it up close and hyperfocus on the knee, for instance, you’ll see the knee, but you won’t see anything else. If you want to see the elbow, you have to move the whole beam. By contrast, if you back up and take the whole person into the light, you can see both the knee and the elbow and you can see how they relate to each other and how the knee and the elbow relate to the whole person. Bringing the beam to only the knee is hyperfocusing. Backing up and taking in the whole person allows for a shifting focus that sees the knee in context and allows for an easy shifting of attention to the elbow, should you wish to or need to shift to the elbow. It’s this shifting fluidity of attention we want for musicians.


Your understanding of figure and ground will help you here. If some item of awareness is in the ground, it is very easy for it to become figure at the right time. A conductor, for instance, who has been focused on the altos is nonetheless aware of the tenors, but they just don’t happen to have the focused attention at the moment. But the tenors are about to have the melody and to be singing alone, so it’s appropriate that they now have the conductor’s focused attention. Bringing focus to them will be easy, because they have been in awareness all along out there in the periphery. They just swim into focus when necessary. By contrast, if they have been out of awareness instead of in the ground, it will be mentally effortful to bring them into awareness, and the conductor may lose awareness of the rest of the choir.


This image is a classic example of figure and ground. Do you see two faces or do you see a vase? Once you are aware of both, you can shift between the two.


Image 1.39 : Inclusive Awareness: Self perceiving; World perceiving.

The ideal condition. The condition that is being constantly cultivated in one’s practicing and rehearsing, so that in performance it is easily present.


Image 1.40 : Music Education on a Secure Somatic Foundation

Training movement, training senses and training attention puts music education on a secure somatic foundation.


Questions and Applications

What does somatics mean?

Who were two important contributors to the field of somatics in the 20th century?

Why does a body map have to be accurate and adequate? What does this mean? Describe how you will help students access their own body map of their spines. We map according to structure, function and size. Include activities that address these three components.

How do body maps change, as we grow older? How does this affect a musician in adolescence or young adulthood? Which two senses are frequently bundled in musicians?

What movement activity will you use to help musicians experience their tactile sense at the instrument?


What movement activity will you use to help musicians experience their kinesthetic sense at work?


Name three areas that your kinesthetic sense informs you about.

Name reasons why musicians’ kinesthetic sense is often not very refined.

What is the difference between concentration and inclusive awareness?

What is the difference between scanning and inclusive awareness?

How will you define gestalt?

What would you observe in someone who is hyperfocusing? How will you teach inclusive awareness and shifting focus?

What are some activities to encourage and foster inclusive awareness?

© Association for Body Mapping Education March 2023

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