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I have a habit of visibly chewing my tongue when concentrating on a difficult section of music, and I make some rather strange faces as a result.

It's something I've known about for years but not done anything about, but something I really need to sort out for playing live, because it looks pretty weird.

What can I do to break this habit?

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4  
Take up smoking while playing :P –  Shevliaskovic Mar 25 at 12:09
    
What instrument do you play? What kind of groups do you perform with? –  Wheat Williams Mar 25 at 12:36
    
I play Guitar and Piano, I play open mic and in a few different styles –  Alexander Troup Mar 25 at 12:37
    
Start singing too. :P But ye practice makes perfect. –  Ivan Ivković Mar 25 at 17:01

1 Answer 1

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Set up a mirror and watch yourself while you play. Set up an iPhone or video camera and make videos of your rehearsals and performances, and then watch them carefully. This should cure you of the habit, because you will be aware of what your audience sees when you perform.

I have known orchestra players who have embarassing facial tics and expressions and care nothing about them. I suppose they can get away with it because they are in a large orchestra and often in an orchestra pit, and the audience does not see them or take notice of them individually.

However, I think that in the current era when people in the audience of every performance shoot their own camera phone video and put it on YouTube, musicians ought to be much more aware of what the audience sees of them. Exaggerated facial tics and expressions simply distract the listeners and detract from the music.

Perhaps you should also read about and learn to practice some of the principles of the Alexander technique, which musicians use to change their entire posture and the way that they carry their body when they perform, in the name of removing stress from the body, freeing the body up to perform at its best, and preventing muscle and joint pain from bad posture. You don't have to study the technique formally or in great detail. Once you become aware of how you use your whole body, regardless of what instrument you play, you realize that any unneeded physical stress you put on any part of your body affects your performance. Learning to put all that in balance will probably make you a more effective musician.

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+1 especially for the "remove stress" part. The more relaxed and 'under control' you can allow yourself to feel, the less effort (and potential damage) you'll need to produce the music. Or heck, use the old "imagine the audience is naked" meme to help relax :-) –  Carl Witthoft Mar 25 at 13:21

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