June 2008

Technique Anyone?

June 4, 2008 11:42

I am constantly amazed at the knowledge and depth that many of our V.com family has about the technical, scientific, and physical functions of playing the violin. My hat is off to you! Try as I might, much of that information never seems to solidify in my brain as a useful tool to pull out when needed. But then, I would have no excuse to spend the time I do here on V.com…

I have always been adamant, sometimes to the point of being obnoxious, that technical ability does not equal musical ability. Although I have always dutifully practiced my technique, it was never very high on my priority list. In my mind, it was always about “making music.” If I could “feel” and connect with it enough then there would be music. But lately I have been forced to re-evaluate my view on the value of technique.

A few lessons ago, while struggling through a difficult passage, I mentioned to my teacher that I didn’t “feel” like I was playing Mozart yet. He just looked at me and made the most incredibly profound statement, “Just play the music.” I was speechless, and stared at him like he’d sprouted horns. But he has yet to lead me wrong, so I determined to give his advice a try, despite my own convictions.

My experiment began, and for the past two weeks I have not once tried to “feel” Mozart. Instead I delved into posture, shifting, dynamics, light fingers, slow practice, intonation, and worked to discover the new and novel concept of a consistent tempo. I discovered that my left elbow could rotate a lot farther than I ever thought possible, muscles I didn’t even know existed loudly protested the cruel and unusual treatment, and to this moment my feet still hurt from all the standing. I have logged more hours practicing over the past two weeks than…well, I won’t go there. But the question was still out there – would all this technical practice really make a difference.

I showed up for my lesson last night, determined to play the same way I had been practicing – technically. I launched into my concerto trusting that all my practice would allow me to clear my mind and play, and it did. Granted, on page three the “pencil” metronome still came out to accompany me on my journey through the dreaded arpeggios’. Okay, so my consistent tempo still needs some work. But I finished and waited for the verdict.

My teacher just grinned, nodded and didn’t say a word, but his point was made: “Just Play the Music.”

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