Externals vs. internals — a guitar perspective

November 17th, 2012

The key to good playing, I’ve discovered, is to focus on internals rather than externals, on good conditions within the body rather than on physical appearances.

In my teaching, I’ve always believed in letting the student discover his/her own playing rather than in dictating it to them.

Because they’re the only ones who know what’s going on in their body, and they’ll have to make the final decision on what works for them.

Yes, I have some general guidelines on seating and hand positions, but they’re more like points of departures rather than rigid prescriptions, and it’s up to the student to implement them in ways that feel most natural for them.

Because I believe that true externals are reflections of the internals.

If you have good internals, the externals will naturally take care of themselves.

The problem with emphasizing externals is that it usually comes at a cost.

You begin to neglect the internals.

And sometimes it will actually interfere with the internals.

If you try to force a student to hold his/her hand according to a strictly prescribed model without taking into account the student’s unique physiology, you may end up going against the natural workings of their body and stunt its development.

It’s far better to work on internals, on how it feels, rather than how it looks.

And the internals are all about comfort level, naturalness, and results.

If you’re playing well, that’s all that matters.

The emphasis on externals has taken on such a strange twist these days; I’ve even heard criticisms of Segovia because he didn’t hold his right hand according to current definitions of what is ‘correct’ right hand position.

One wonders how Segovia would’ve played if he had been taught the ‘correct’ way by these pedagogues.

We often hear of physicians who try to fix the symptoms rather than the underlying cause of the illness.

To me, the externals are all about symptoms.

Taking care of them will not take care of the underlying conditions.

My focus on internals rather than externals is actually part of a larger life philosophy.  Here’re some recent musings on the subject in another area.

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