Two dimensions of control

November 23rd, 2012

Control is an essential part of mastery.

In fact, the two words are practically synonymous. Without control, there’s no mastery, and without mastery, no control.

There’re two sides to control.

The physical angle, which is to get your body to do what you want it to do.

And timing, which is to make sure your actions occur when you want them to occur.

To use the analogy of an orchestra:

There’re two main players in an orchestra, the conductor and the musicians.

The conductor keeps time and the musicians follow his/her timekeeping.

If you have musicians who are unable to execute the notes in time, or a conductor who is unable to keep time, you wouldn’t have a very good orchestra.

The same is true of playing any instrument.

Think of your fingers as the musicians and your mind, the conductor.

If you lack finger control, you wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demands of the music and your playing will be sloppy. If you lack timing control, you wouldn’t be able to pace yourself, and you will end up rushing through your performance.

Both factors are absolutely crucial to any mastery strategy.

And in this, timing control comes first.

If you have good timing and rhythm, they will naturally result in greater physical control.

Take the following example.

Let’s say you have good rhythmic control but poor finger control. When you play, your strong rhythmic drive will make your fingers keep up with the pace. If they’re unable to do so, you will practice until they’re able to do so. Good rhythmic control leads to good physical control.

The reverse, however, is not true — good physical control, in themselves, will not naturally result in good timing control.

Because timing and rhythm is a mental thing and our physical attributes have little impact on them.

So what happens?

If you lack timing control, you will almost always end up rushing through your playing, especially when you’re in high-stress situations, like performances.

The critical thing to note is that the two functions – timekeeping and playing – are quite separate and you must keep them separate in your playing.

In other words, when you play, you must separate the player from the timekeeper.

This is a concept that may seem simple enough on the surface, but bear with me. Because the actual concept may be quite different from what you think it is.

Let’s go back to the analogy of the orchestra

In every orchestra, you have two main players, the conductor and the musicians.

Think of your fingers as the musicians and your mind, the conductor.

When you play, your mind must always set the tempo and your fingers follow that tempo. Never let your fingers set the rhythm, because finger rhythms are not as reliable as mental rhythm.

Finger rhythms are easily affected by weaknesses in physical technique. If for example, your fingers are unable to execute a passage in time, they will slow down, and this will end up affecting your rhythm.

But mental rhythm has no such limitations. There’s no physical technique involved in mental rhythm, it’s all in the mind.

So mental rhythm is pure and uninfluenced by any external factors.

The ability to separate your rhythm from your playing is a crucial part of mastery.

That’s why rhythm is a core component of the AOV.

To learn more about how to separate your rhythm from your playing, check out the AOV for Guitar.

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