The Effect of Lessons in the Alexander Technique on Music Performance in High and Low Stress Situations

Psychology of Music, Vol. 23, No. 2, 129-141 (1995)
Valentine E, Fitzgerald D, Gorton T, Hudson J,  Symonds 


This study showed that music students who took 15 one-to-one Alexander Technique lessons had improved musical and technical quality of performance compared with control students who didn't have any lessons, when assessed in a classroom situation. The performance was assessed by independent experts.  Less variation in heart rate and reduced anxiety were also seen in the students who had lessons. The students were also assessed in a live performance situation but here only the variation in heart rate was significantly lower in the students who had received Alexander lessons compared with the control students. The authors speculated that more than 15 lessons may be needed to see any significant effect on musicians when in high-stress, performance situations.


Twenty-five music students taking classes in performance were randomly assigned either to an experimental group who received a course of 15 lessons in the Alexander technique, or to a control.

 A variety of measures were taken on four occasions: in both high and low stress situations before and after treatment. 

The experimental group showed improvement relative to the control on the following measures: overall music and technical quality as judged by independent experts blind to subjects' condition assignment, heart rate variance, self-rated anxiety and positive attitude to performance. 

However, with the exception of heart rate variance, these effects were restricted to performance in the low stress class situations. 

There were no significant effects on height, peak flow or misuse as judged on the basis of videorecordings of behaviour by independent experts in the Alexander technique.


Playing an Instrument

In lessons I discovered very quickly the benefits to my persistent back pain following a nasty whiplash. I had heard that the Alexander technique can improve discomfort and pain greatly by retraining one's posture, but from the first lesson I discovered that there was also a lot of mental training that has been of huge benefit in the way I have viewed life since.

Graham Smith

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