Monday, September 27, 2010

Going with the flow

Technique as defined by Merriam-Webster:

: the manner in which technical details are treated (as by a writer) or basic physical movements are used (as by a dancer)

Therefore musical technique could be simply defined as: the basic physical movements used to play an instrument. As you may have quickly figured out, there is nothing basic about playing a musical instrument. Not well anyway. How do people make it look so easy? People like this:

That's Celso Machado. He is a musical genius. No doubt. Much to be learned from this one. Notice how relaxed he is with the instrument. His movements flow and there's no wasted movement.

We can safely say that Celso Machado is a master of guitar technique. Again nothing basic here. Or is there?

Consider, technique is the basic physical movements to play an instrument and guitar master Celso Machado's technique is to play with flowing moves and minimum waste. So should you.

If you are serious enough about your playing to ever consider your technique and how you might improve explore these tips.

  • Listen to your body
Eventually you are going to need to pay closer attention to your body. It will tell you what you need to do. For years I played with my pinky and ring finger touching the top of the guitar while I was flatpicking. As I tried to build speed (and failed to build speed) I realized that I needed to lift my "anchor" fingers. It felt more natural. This was a bit upsetting. For years I had worked on my technique with the fingers "anchored." Lifting them up felt like it would be faster but I didn't feel as accurate. After trying both methods I decided to leave behind the old technique and adopt the new. At first I took a few steps back but eventually I broke through to new levels of playing and I continue to improve. All because I listened to the signals my body sent me.

Go with what feels natural and flows the best. Experiment and don't be afraid to change things up if it feels right.

  • Practice with grace/ play with grace
If you hope to play with a fluid technique you need to strive to play that way every time you pick up the instrument. Go slow (very important!) and work through moves with your best efforts at making things feel as easy as they can. Any time I start to fuss and fight with a passage I take that as a signal to slow down and try to find a way to make it feel easy. You can't overcome these problems with muscle.

  • Don't worry about speed
Always strive to sound as good as you can. Don't strive to play as fast as you can. Speed gets old anyway. Besides, playing slow can be just as difficult as playing fast. Even more so sometimes. When you hit a dud it really sticks out...

Hope it helps

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