Identifying the basic elements of virtuosity 2

June 2nd, 2011

The AOV is a compilation of the basic elements of virtuosity which I had identified over years of playing and teaching.

But as I wrote in my last post, you don’t have to take my word for it, you can identify your own list.

In that post, I suggested two ways of identifying these crucial elements.

Here, I’ll share a third.

Instead of focusing on our playing and on the playing of others, we’ll approach the problem from a more academic standpoint. We’ll approach it from the point of achieving goals.

What are the goals we’re trying to achieve in our pursuit of virtuosity?

It’ll be hard to list every detail, so we’re narrow them down to the most essential elements.

Which are speed, power and precision.

These three elements are at the heart of every human pursuit and sport.

Watch any martial artist, athlete, sportsperson, and you’ll see the same striving after these universal goals. (There’s a fourth element, endurance, which doesn’t concern us so much here.)

And among these three elements, speed is at the top of the list.

Why? Because the other factors are actually subsets of speed.

Power, for instance, is dependent on speed – if you can move faster, you can create greater momentum and this increases your power.

And if you can move faster to your destination, you can usually locate it more accurately, so precision too is a function of speed. More about these points later.

The thing about speed is, it’s a great rationalizer. It forces you to become lean and economical in your execution because you don’t have a choice. It’s either that or be left behind.

In thinking about speed, one way to approach it is to think of cars.

If you were to build a car, how would you build it so it’ll run faster and more economically?

The obvious would be to:

  1. Make it light, build it with light materials.
  2. Reduce moving parts to minimize resistance.
  3. Lubricate moving parts to reduce friction.
  4. Eliminate unnecessary components.
  5. Put in a more powerful engine.

That’s just a list I made up. I’m sure real car builders have a more extensive list.

The point is, there’re basic things we can do to make cars go faster and there’re basic things we can do to make ourselves go faster too.

With that in mind, what are the equivalents of those factors we just listed above for cars, factors we can apply to our playing?

  1. Lighter – we can lighten our touch.
  2. Reduce moving parts – we can reduce movements in our body
  3. Lubrication – looseness in our body so there’s minimum resistance.
  4. Eliminate unnecessary components – eliminate unnecessary moves, unnecessary notes even.
  5. Put in a more powerful engine – develop more power in our fingers.

I must confess that I didn’t derive my list of basic elements by looking at cars, I discovered them from years of teaching, trying to find out what works for my students.

But using the car model is a good way to help us define the parameters we’re dealing with. It’ll help us focus on the real issues at hand, the concerns facing all performers, which are speed, power and precision.

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