Often when we hear a soulful musical performance we can’t imagine that the “wonderful music” had to be practiced technically.
Even though we are “feeling it” as listeners, much more than “feelings” had to go in to it.
Master musicians look at music from all angles, musical and technical.
Master musicians love it all…music and technique. They go together.
There is a time for practicing “music” – where you focus on melody, groove, flow, performance and what many of us refer to as “feeling.” Here we look at “the big picture.”
Think of a basketball game…the pressure is on, and you are running up & down the court with 9 other players. Think “flow.”
Then there is a time and place for practicing “technique”, where you narrow your focus onto a small aspect of playing and exclude all else in order to improve just that one thing (i.e. the tone of one finger plucking a string).
Think of practicing relaxed jump shots from various points on the basketball court, paying attention to your arms, grip, and follow through. Think “focus.”
Every day I “clean up” my technique but I also “get into a musical flow” to keep things healthy and balanced.
Here is an overall “PROS & CONS” list.
4 lists follow. Read over these and try to “feel” where you are at and what you need to achieve balance:
- “PROS” of Practicing (Playing) Music
- “CONS” of Practicing ONLY music (i.e. ignoring technique)
- “PROS” of Practicing Technique
- “CONS” of Practicing ONLY technique (i.e. ignoring music)
The “PROS” describe the benefits. The “CONS” describe what can happen when there is a lack of balance.
“PROS” of Practicing (Playing) Music:
- You develop an overall sense of “musical cohesiveness”
- You awaken the “muse” within
- You experience a musical “flow”
- It’s a “coming together” of forces within you
- Groove and melody and present moment awareness come together
- You achieve an altered, “high” mental / spiritual state
- You use your intuition & subconscious mind
- You “become” the music
- You feel joy in your heart center and solar plexus
“CONS” of Practicing ONLY music (i.e. ignoring technique)
(I have had periods of only touring, gigging and playing arrangements with no regard to “technique” – here’s my experience…)
- It’s possible to repeat mistakes – thereby strengthening them
- Frustration can creep in unnoticed, resulting in tension
- You are in “playback / output” mode and aren’t allowing “vulnerability / input” mode – and yes there is a benefit in it (hence the wisdom of the saying…”the meek shall inherit the earth”)
- You could unknowingly develop bad habits
- You end up more exhausted than you should – because you have not “taken an inventory”
- You never “clean up” mistakes
“PROS” of Practicing Technique:
The goal – minimum effort, maximum music.
- You allow yourself the mental space to “run diagnostics” on
on your technique (i.e. are my shoulders relaxed? Why is that finger curling up? etc)
- You can discover new levels of relaxation & efficiency
- You can improve your tone
- You allow “mistake” time
- You can find easier fingerings rather than forcing something that’s not working
- You find higher levels of comfort
“CONS” of Practicing ONLY technique (i.e. ignoring music)
(I have had periods playing jazz where I focused on more scales than actual music…here is my first hand experience)
- You can feel “disconnected” from music
- Your head feels separate from your body & soul
- You don’t feel the joy of music
- If you are obsessive, and lose body awareness (because you are too far in your head) you can wear out or injure a muscle or tendon
- You don’t have ideas springing from your “musical” soul – only from your intellect / hands
- You feel extremely satisfied intellectually, but the heart is not connected
- People don’t feel what you are doing – i.e. your subconscious “communication” is inactive
(Practicing technique should be slow, cool, relaxed and with present moment awareness.
Not repetitive, mind somewhere else, numb, and spiritually “checked out.”)
Familiarize yourself with what “good technique” is. If you are not sure, snag a couple
of classical guitar lessons. (I plan to continually add video lessons as well…)
For example…learn where your shoulders should sit, which joints of the hand should move or stay still, what your wrists should look / feel like, with what type of touch you should play, etc. (the list goes on)
Good technique is not “guns ablazing, fast, flashy” as most of us first believe.
Good technique means you can play without hurting yourself, get a good tone and use minimum effort, and play good sounding music. It doesn’t seem fancy..but it is a feeling of “solidity” and order.
I have a running “program” in the background while I play – always watching hand position and monitoring relaxation, groove & tone.
My General Suggestion:
We are all different and each of us needs a custom practice routine.
This is a general guide that may or may not fit for you – but it works for many….
Practice some technique every day, slow, cool and deliberate – with a groove though. Don’t overdo anything.
Following that, dive in to your music. You will feel loose & playing will feel easy. The technical training / warmup will help – invisibly.
Once you are in your music – stay there, as it involves such a different mental state. You can come back to technique tomorrow.
Please comment below!