The original idea for the AOV came from my teaching.
As I tried to explain one technique after another to my students, it became apparent to me that the same basic principles are behind all these techniques.
For instance, the tremolo and scale techniques—two seemingly dissimilar techniques and yet, one can see the same basic principles at work in both of them, principles of lightness, economy, rhythm etc.
It led me to a realization—fundamentals are everything.
And for them to work, all of them must be in place. If you miss but one piece of the puzzle, the entire structure would collapse.
For example, I see some players chasing one fancy technique after another and failing to work on their rhythm. They may develop good finger facility, but because they lack rhythm, they have no control and would rush through their playing.
Or some would obsess over how to hold the hand, at what angle etc, and they would force their hands into unnatural positions and end up with tight and tense bodies that are unable to produce the speed and fluidity they’re looking for.
Yes, fundamentals are everything.
It’s something so obvious and yet strangely enough, I could not find anything written about them.
I found many books on technique, from sports to the martial arts, and many of them actually touch on one or more of these fundamentals, but none addressed them as a group, as a set of essential principles that one have to apply to achieve virtuosity.
So I decided that if no one would do it, that I would have to do it myself.
That was 2003.
Over the years, the book went through many evolutions, from pseudo philosophical discourses to rambling essays on techniques. But none of them was satisfactory, I felt that none of them reflected what I wanted in the book.
But what did I want in the book?
I had no clue myself.
Then one day, I had a dream. It was one of those early morning waking dreams when you’re halfway between sleep and wakefulness. You know you’re in a dream but somehow you’re unable to wake up.
I dreamed I was in a bookstore and I saw a book on the shelf titled, “The Art of Virtuosity.”
How strange, I thought to myself, that’s the book I’m trying to write.
Then part of me said, take it down, take a good look, and memorize what you see.
So I took the book down from the shelf and what I saw filled me with wonder and amazement. It was a simple book with only a few chapters but each chapter was filled with powerful words of wisdom and advice.
That’s the book you need to write, I told myself. That’s the book you need to write.
And then I woke up.
I decided to rewrite the book from scratch. Over the next two years, I wrote and rewrote the book several times, all the while trying to recall and re-imagine the book I saw in my dream.
In the process, I pared it down from 120 pages to 46 pages, then to 38 pages and in its current (and I think final) form, 37 pages.
In my studio, I have several boxes of notes and scribblings—about seven years worth (and they’re but a fraction of what I really wrote, most of my early drafts ended up in the wastebasket after I had typed them into word documents.)
Three boxes of scribblings and notes and in the end, 37 pages.
I just finished fine-tuning the chapter on rhythm again, and I think with each new revision, I’m finally getting nearer to that vision I saw in my dream.
Some of my friends asked me recently, “Aren’t you tired of writing the same book over and over?”
And I tell them, “How can you get tired of a journey that hasn’t ended yet?”
So how will I know when the book is finally done?
The same way that a good chef knows when the dish is done.
Latest version of the AOV — December 17, 2014: