Technique is a word you hear thrown out pretty much every day when you’re involved in any sort of art, but what does it really mean? The term can have a lot of blurry lines surrounding it.
It honestly used to be a bit easier. Back in the classical days, there was often one “correct” way to do things, and when you were a musician or artist, your whole goal was to get as great and consistent at that one technique as you possibly could. As art moved forward, and what constituted art changed, this of course meant that we had new techniques to create this new art. Just look at the different brush stroke technique from Renaissance paintings to Impressionist paintings, for example, or classical guitar to blues guitar.
Sometimes, people then immediately will just declare the newer and more modern way of doing things as incorrect, since it’s so different than what came before it, but I think this is a bit jaded. I was talking with our drum teacher, Cameron, who is extremely proficient in the classical way of doing things, but whose main interest is more modern percussion pieces, and he summed up “good technique” into 3 requirements. I really liked this take on the idea, and decided to share it here.
Requirement #1: Is What You’re Doing Giving You Your Desired Sound or Effect? I think this is the best way to bridge the classical and modern world together. Sometimes, classical technique can’t give us some of these newer sounds a lot of us are going for, which therefore makes that technique a poor choice for those sounds. Alternatively, when you’re trying to get the more original pure sound, the classical technique is designed to do that, making other methods a bit useless. When you go to play something, think about what exactly you’re trying to accomplish, and then decide what techniques to use, not the other way around.
Requirement #2: Is What You’re Doing Efficient? Now that you know what you’re trying to accomplish, and therefore have probably narrowed down a few different ways to do it, which do we choose? The answer is very easily whatever is the most efficient. Helping students with this is what I do a lot as a teacher. Looking at what you’re doing with your instrument, and deciding how you can tweak things to make that as easy as possible is vital. Yes, for some Bach Fugues classical technique is very efficient. If I’m trying to bend some notes pretty seriously, maybe having my thumb in a slightly different spot is actually more efficient. Again, different answers are right for different goals.
A really big thing to remember with this is that efficiency isn’t just about making things easier at that exact moment, but in the long run. When we’re lacking finger independence at the beginning, it may be easier to move our hand in and out of a position, but it is more efficient in the long run to teach our fingers to work on their own and get rid of any unnecessary movement.
Doing something that will in the end injure your hand and therefore make it harder to play is also not very efficient, so keeping this in mind and being sure not to use techniques that puts too much strain on you is also vital.
Requirement #3: Can The Technique Be Repeated Consistently: The previous two requirements won’t do you much good if you can only do something once. This is exactly why we like to break techniques down to their individual chunks, and also why we practice for so many hours. These techniques need to become second nature to us, like the technique of walking down a sidewalk or eating a bowl of cereal.
What I like so much about breaking things down in this way is that it can show you “good technique” can come from modern camps, as well as classical camps. Neither one is wrong, it just depends on what we’re trying to accomplish, and how we can do it efficiently. It’s important to embrace all sides.
Anything you’d like to add? Leave a comment below!
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Guitar Instructor, Co-Owner
Falls Music School