June 4th, 2014

When I first started writing the AOV, I had a list of 11 basic principles of virtuosity. Over time, this list eventually shrunk to six.


Because I began to see that some of these principles are actually subsets of the others.

One of the 11 that was purged is positioning.

Positioning has always been a big factor with me.

Because how you position yourself will determine how efficient you are.

Take a simple example of working in a workspace.

When you work in a workspace, one of the most important things is to keep everything within easy reach. You don’t want to have to run back and forth just to get a chisel or hammer – you’ll be wasting too much time.

You want a chisel? Just reach out and it’s right there.

You want a hammer? Same thing.

But eventually, I realized that positioning is really part of the bigger picture of economy.

For example, when you hold your hand, you want to hold it in such a way that all the fingers are lined up directly above the strings, as close to the strings as possible.

So that when you play, you don’t have to reach out much, you just reach out and the strings are right there under your fingers.

Economy is of course, one of the basic principles of virtuosity and few people will question its importance.

And yet, I’ve often seen players sacrificing economy simple to fulfill some other secondary consideration.

One such is that of how a hand “looks” rather than how it operates.

It’s common to see players trying to hold their hands so that it fits some “textbook model” of right hand positioning, completely disregarding the bigger implications of how that hand position will affect the economy in their plucking.

To make matters worse, when they pluck, they will try to fulfill some imaginary rule of follow-through and push the finger into the palm of the hand as much as possible, again completely ignoring the principle of economy.

It is a kind of insanity which is totally inexplicable to me, because all the evidence points to the contrary. (A similar kind of insanity seems to pervade many religious cults too, where some of the ideas propounded can only be described as general wackiness, and yet there are people who actually believe in them.)

Everything we do is subject to the basic laws of nature.

Whether we choose to follow or ignore these laws, we do so at our own peril.

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