“Do you wish to make music? If so, think music, and nothing but music, all the time, down to the smallest detail even in technic. Is your ambition to play scales, octaves, double notes and trills? Then by all means, concentrate you mind on them to the exclusion of everything else, but do not be surprised if, when, later on, you want to communicate a semblance of life in you mechanical motions, you succeed in obtaining no more than the jerky movements of a clock-work puppet.” - Harold Bauer
I think that pianists, especially, get caught up in executing dazzling displays of technical prowess. I’m definitely no exception. I don’t blame anyone - it’s fun; it’s self affirming; it’s powerful; it’s addictive. There is a certain type of thrill in feeling your hands and body fly around the keys. There’s a certain type of awe of witnessing that as a listener as well.
I often get students who tell me to give them a whole regime that allows them to meet certain technical demands: “I’m fine with hours of Hanon, Czerny, exercises, anything”, they say with determination, self discipline, and hope. I want to acknowledge their focus and passion, and I’d never want them to lose it.
Doing exercises to build just the technique, almost in isolation, is like a bodybuilder who spends hours lifting weights to build their perfect body. But ask them to do jumps and flips like a gymnast or dancer and you’ll immediately see a difference. They might be able to do a handstand or a flip because they have the muscles, but they might not get it on the first try or it might not be as gracefully executed. It takes time for the body to understand how to use itself in the context necessary.
In the same way a gymnast or a Dancer moves their body, trains their body, and exercises for their self expression and art, we musicians should not forget why we spend hours practicing. Do not practice technique for the sake of technique. Practice. Practice technique to be in service of the music, all for the sake of the music and your self expression. For there is another type of thrill in feeling your hands and body fly around musically and expressively. There’s another type of awe of witnessing musical expression for a listener as well.
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