Dave Elitch: “Making Your Body Disappear”, Incorporating Alexander Technique, New Additions to His Online Course | Working Drummer Podcast

Key Takeaways

  • Dave Elitch periodically updates his online course to reflect what he learned – similar to a book being revised
    • He is giving everything immediately; the course cuts to the core of what you need to know as a working drummer and you only pay once
  • Posture is important (slouching is bad for health, and social well-being), but it’s a specific symptom of the overall misuse of your entire body
    • “We should be looking at the elements of universality and the constellation of truth and applying that to the instrument.”Dave Elitch
  • Ideally, you want to have both proper usage and play everything that you want to play
  • Most of the time, the way we use our bodies is habitual and it feels right, but when we switch to natural use, it feels really strange – that is the mind*uck of the Alexander technique
  • Alexander came up with a lot of original ideas like end-gaining, normal vs natural use, and the primary control
    • Essentially, what it all comes down to is going back to being a toddler (e.g. they squat with perfect form, lead with their head, etc.)
    • Toddlers haven’t yet felt the consequences of living in modern-day society  
  • Modern society is like a force that condenses our bodies, both metaphorically and literally
    • As soon as we start going to school we sit at cramped desks, then we get a day job, and we sit in chairs that are too soft
  • How is meditation supposed to work?
    • Checking in with yourself when you are opening the door, doing the dishes, etc. 
    • Realizing there is no difference between sitting down to meditate in a dark room and living your life – it should be the same thing
  • When you go through the experience of physical awareness, it’s easy to let it take over your life, especially if you are neurotic or competitive
    • Strike the balance between having more awareness and not getting caught up in it every minute of every day
    • When you play, record, or do any expressive art, don’t worry about any of this stuff
  • When someone is gifted, they can have horrible use, zero technical knowledge, but they still do it
    • They are who they are despite their use not because of it

Key Books Mentioned

Intro

  • “At the end of the day, I only want to help these guys/gals sit up straight so they don’t blow up their back.”Dave Elitch
    • Dave Elitch (T: @DaveElitch and IG: @daveelitch) is one of the premier drum instructors and players in the world (Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, The Mars Volta, M83, 1975, Antemasque, Killer Be Killed, etc.)
    • He developed a reputation as the technique/body mechanic specialist and has helped many of the industry’s top players and educators
    • Check out Dave’s website & online course
  • Dave joins Matthew Crouse and Zack Albetta of the podcast Working Drummer to talk about the newest additions to his online course, the mind*uck of the Alexander technique, how to be mindful without being obsessive, and more

What Does It Mean to Have a ”Living, Breathing” Instructional Course?

  • Dave periodically updates the course to reflect what he learned – similar to a book being revised
    • Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor
      • The book blew his mind, he knew he had to fix certain things in the course
      • You should breathe from the diaphragm and through the nose, not through your shoulder or mouth
  • Once you purchase “Getting Out of Your Own Way”, you get the current course and all future iterations
    • The subscription-based model (e.g. Patreon) works well for the owner of the website, but Dave is too busy to share weekly content and charge people every month
    • He is giving everything immediately; the course cuts to the core of what you need to know as a working drummer and you only pay once

“The Posture Guy”

  • No one properly addressed posture in the history of the drumset
    • Dave became known as “the posture guy” but posture is just one piece of the puzzle
    • Posture is important (slouching is bad for health, and social well-being), but it’s a specific symptom of the overall misuse of your entire body
    • When you fix your posture, you gain more awareness about everything else that is not working properly
    • E.g. how’s your breathing, where do you hold tension?
  • Tension is the biggest enemy of drums and any instrument for that matter
    • Try to dance while you are playing – move your body to the beat
    • This is not something you think about doing when you are tense and in a stressful situation
  • When you have a good experience, reflect on what made it like that
    • What did you eat, how did you move, was there any tension?
    • Becoming scared and stiff makes everything worse
  • Matthew has been dealing with damaged nerve tissue in the left arm
    • One of the reasons he got better was due to applying some of the ideas from Dave’s course (they are not only for drummers)

Everything Is Backwards (Macro-Level Approaches in Drumming)

  • Throughout the history of drums, everything was looked at from the perspective of drums and that is why it’s backward
    • “We should be looking at the elements of universality and the constellation of truth and applying that to the instrument.”Dave Elitch
    • Zoom out and look at the big picture; how do you walk, sleep, breathe, sit, and steer that towards the drums
  • Ideally, you want to have both proper usage and play everything that you want to play
    • Sometimes, when you have a proper use, you won’t be able to play things you used to play (your vocabulary won’t catch up because it was based on end-gaining)
  • End gaining – Alexander technique term, where you are so focused on the end goal of whatever it is you are trying to achieve (e.g. speaking, standing up, lifting weights, playing drums) that you end up misusing your body to achieve that goal 
    • When you are end-gaining, your body slips out of proper use
    • Think about how your body acts when you try to lift weights that are too heavy; you might do a few repetitions, but your form will be poor and you risk an injury

The Mind*uck of the Alexander Technique

  • Most of the time, the way we use our bodies is habitual and it feels right
    • When we switch to natural use, it feels really strange – that is the mind*uck of the Alexander technique
  • The Alexander technique was invented by Frederick Matthias Alexander
    • It’s a type of alternative therapy that identifies and overcomes habitual limitations in movement and thinking
    • Alexander came up with a lot of original ideas like end-gaining, normal vs natural use, and the primary control
  • Essentially, what it all comes down to is going back to being a toddler
    • When you watch a 3-year-old pick something up; they squat with perfect form, without thinking about it
    • They also lead with their head when they move
    • Toddlers haven’t yet felt the consequences of living in modern-day society  
  • Modern society is like a force that condenses our bodies, both metaphorically and literally
    • As soon as we start going to school we sit at cramped desks, then we get a day job, and we sit in chairs that are too soft
    • “Everything we do living in modern-day society turns our natural use into this habitual use which is unnatural.” Dave Elitch
    • People spend more time sitting than they did 10 years ago, and when they sit, they collapse into themselves instead of hinging at the hips
  • The work comes down to being as aware of yourself and plugged in into yourself, and present and sensitive as possible
    • However, just because you know what you are doing, or have been doing doesn’t mean you are going to automatically stop doing it
    • The crux of this work: awareness about these things, and putting in the time to turn your habitual use into a more natural use (months or years sometimes)
  • How is Dave capable of noticing:
    • We are all capable of feeling the tension in each other, but it’s largely unconscious
    • “If you walk into a room, and you are holding tension, a lot of people will go ‘ugh, that guys vibe is weird’; that’s what vibe means, it’s vibration.”Dave Elitch
    • We communicate mostly non verbally, and Dave is just more conscious of that than the average person (he is unusually sensitive)
    • Whatever Dave is trying to portray, he has multiple analogies to make “a lightbulb go off”
    • “Teaching is really just about finding the perfect analogy for a specific person.”Dave Elitch

How to Be Mindful Without Being Obsessive

  • How to stop overthinking meditation?
  • How is meditation supposed to work?
    • Checking in with yourself when you are e.g. opening the door, doing the dishes, etc. 
    • Realizing there is no difference between sitting down to meditate in a dark room and living your life – it should be the same thing
    • This is how you let go and let the body heal itself
  • Your body has a natural propensity to heal itself, but you have to get out of your own way which is easier said than done
    • When you go through the experience of physical awareness, it’s easy to let it take over your life, especially if you are neurotic or competitive
    • E.g. Playing music – you forget to enjoy playing music because you are so focused on moving correctly
  • Strike the balance between having more awareness and not getting caught up in it every minute of every day
    • When you play, record, or do any expressive art, don’t worry about any of this stuff
    • Dave would rather have you slumped over, with a tight jaw & wrists, but actually present at the moment than thinking about technique, how you are sitting, etc.
    • That completely defeats the purpose of technique; the technique is just a tool
  • The technique is something you think about in the practice room, not on stage
    • Advice from legendary jazz drummer Elvin Jones: when you are performing, there are no “I” thoughts
    • Your old habitual behavior patterns are going to repeat over and over again, but don’t worry about it, correct it and move on
  • The same goes for practicing meditation
    • When your mind starts to wander, don’t beat yourself up, it’s normal

“Making Your Body Disappear”

  • When we healthily use our body, it essentially “disappears”
    • The same is true for meditation; you work hard on letting go of the “monkey mind”
    • If you can get so present, you can make your body disappear while you are sitting
    • That is what you strive for, you work on this in the same way as you work on meditation
  • You think about the use and technique in the practice room, and do your best when you play the music
    • Check yourself every once in a while
    • Rehearse at 100%, perform at 75%, do the best you can – Dave paraphrasing one of his teachers
    • “That’s all we can do, it’s about putting as much conscious effort and focus deliberate work as you can so you end up physiological disappearing.”Dave Elitch
  • How to stop thinking about your body when it’s hurting?
    • New tools become enough of a habit so they slowly become integrated
    • The goal is to stop thinking about how your body is doing what it is doing
    • Put that in place so your flow mind can work the machinery; you have an idea and it happens

Whipping Cream in Espresso (Nutrition Tips)

  • Dave’s bodyworker Diana suggested intermittent fasting
    • He would get lightheaded when he worked out without eating
    • She suggested using a couple of tablespoons of whipping cream in espresso
    • The fat gives you the energy to work out but you are not breaking your fast
  • It will eventually train your body to use fat as fuel
    • It’s a little tweak that made tremendous changes to his life

What Does It Mean to Be Gifted?

  • When someone is gifted, they can have horrible use, zero technical knowledge, but they still do it
    • They are who they are despite their use not because of it
  • As long as they don’t want to be a teacher, it doesn’t matter at all
    • The problem occurs when they start teaching
    • They never had to break something down for themselves because they are gifted

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