Pace Sturdevant changed how I look at technique many years ago, when I was one of the members of l'Orchestre de la Francophonie Canadienne. I can't remember the exact wording, but basically he said that it is important to distinguish between technique and speed. Technique is a method, or tool, that you use to do something - make a certain tone, to adjust the pitch of a note, to get between two notes smoothly, etc. Speed is how quickly you can put the techniques together.
I think this is important! We usually think of somebody with "good technique" as being able to play fast passages quickly and cleanly. This is an important part of good technique, but someone with what I would call good technique is a person who has total control over all aspects of the instrument - the technique of making every note come out reliably, in tune, at any dynamic, for example. The technique of how to breathe in quickly and quietly. The technique of how to best align your body when you stand or sit. These are all techniques that are critical to how well you can control your instrument!
Become curious about your technique. What areas of your technique are lacking? With some creative exploration, can you figure out techniques to eliminate any roadblocks to uninhibited expression through your instrument?
I never thought I would be one to have my own blog, but I have really enjoyed blog posts from so many other great musicians (such as Bulletproof Musician, Jeff Nelsen, Mikeybassoon, and more) so I thought I should try my hand at this. For the very few of you that will read this, I hope you enjoy and get something out of it!
I have been thinking a lot lately about Tabuteau's famous (and wonderfully quirky) quote "If you think beautiful, you play beautiful." I keep coming back to this because it is so simple, and so true. Thinking about this has led me to go back to what to me is one of the best sources of how to approach music and music-making, i.e. how to think about it, and that is David McGill's book Sound in Motion.
I have read Sound In Motion many times over the years - I find it to be therapeutic The greatest teachers, the ones who leave a truly lasting legacy on both their students and the musical world at large, are the ones who are able to use words in the most concise and meaningful way possible. These pedagogues have figured out how to pack an immeasurable amount of meaning into just one sentence. Every time I go back to this book, almost every sentence is so jam-packed with meaning, but is so simple, that it blow my mind.
I am going to paraphrase some of the most memorable lines I have been thinking about lately:
"The dolce tone is closest to zero"
...and "the sound that carries the best is the amplification of a dolce tone"
"The basic tone must be dark, to which we add light and vibrancy"
"Perhaps the best parallel in the natural world to this idea of 'up' and 'down' is Newton's Third Law of Motion - for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."
"The more energy with which you play your 'up', the more emphatically you can play your 'down'"
There are so many others, of course, throughout the book. If you haven't read it, make sure to go get a copy!! It is a very small investment that will pay dividends for years to come.
If you do own the book, I pose a challenge to you. Every week, take just one chapter. Read the chapter, take notes, and for that week take the time to really apply what he's talking about. Take a full week, so that you won't just try it and forget about it - give it the time to properly sink in.
That's it for now - thanks for reading!