How to apply the AOV

December 2nd, 2010

I’ve been asked a number of times, how do you apply the ideas in the AOV?

First, it’s important to recognize that the AOV is not a technique book, it’s a fundamentals book.

It has only one goal – to create optimal conditions in your body and your mind so that you can achieve maximal results with minimal effort.

Providing good conditions is an important basic strategy in life.

If you want a plant to grow and thrive, you must provide it with optimal conditions – good soil, abundant sunlight and water. Without these good conditions, the plant will not thrive and might even die.

The same is true of any technique in any human endeavor. No matter how good or effective a technique, if you don’t provide it with optimal conditions, it will not thrive also, in fact, it might not even take root.

And that’s the basic premise of the AOV — to achieve virtuosity, you need to create optimal conditions in your body.

The principles work on two levels, the physical, which encompasses body state and movement, and the mind which involves strategy, approach and philosophy.

I’ll try to summarize the basic principles of the book in this short posting.

First, the physical conditions.

Examine your body, look for tension anywhere. There must be no tension in your body. It must feel completely loose and soft. Your hands must feel loose, your fingers loose. There should be no attempt to hold the body in any rigid form or force it in any way.

Next, examine your movements. Are they simple, direct, efficient? This can be hard to recognize. We’d often get used to doing things a certain way and begin to accept them as the only way. The best way to truly evaluate your effectiveness is to look at results. Results never lie.

The ultimate test of your relaxation are arpeggios and tremolos. Can you play arpeggios at a good speed, without tensing up? Try playing Etude #1 by Villa Lobos at 120. If you can maintain it all the way and still stay loose and relaxed, you are relaxed.

In the left hand, check for inefficiencies. Again, this will be hard to detect. Look out especially for jerky movements as you shift positions, look for inaccuracies, buzzings, weak pull-offs and hammer-ones. All these are tell-tale signs of inefficiencies.

Next, examine the task. Are you making it unnecessarily difficult? Making it more complex than it has to be? Can you identify any unnecessary movements and eliminate them, or streamline the fingerings so that they flow better?

If you’re working on specific techniques, make sure that even as you try to implement new moves, that you’re not creating any tension in your body, that you have the basic conditions described in the AOV in place – lightness, looseness, fluidity and especially rhythm. These conditions are absolutely crucial if you want the technique to work.

Next the mind. Examine your basic approach to life.

Do you tend to take short cuts? Are you more concerned with process than results? How flexible are you in approaching a task? Do you liberally customize and adapt tasks to fit your unique needs and situation or do you tend to stick rigidly to a ‘standard’ way?

These are key questions that determine whether you have the virtuoso mind or the non-virtuoso mind. The virtuoso mind is focused on effectiveness, on efficiency, on achieving results. It is predicated on one thing only, and that is to achieve your goals, at any cost, using whatever means is at your disposal, and in the most efficient and economical ways possible.

To the virtuoso, there’s no right or wrong, only what works.

That, in a nutshell, is the AOV, if you have these conditions in place, you’re ready for any technique, any task. The problem is that all these conditions must be in place, if only even one is missing, the whole thing will come tumbling down like a house of cards.

Going back to the plant analogy, if you have great soil and abundant sunlight, but you forget to water the plant, it will still die.

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