“…when we are silent enough, still enough, we take a step into […] the place of spirit, and mystery…” Linda Hogan

February 20, 2016

When I think about fast playing one of the neglected factors is the release of muscle tension after the action. Muscles move the finger but immediately release so that the finger can return to a ready position. Holding a finger with muscle tension inhibits most of the future potential movements. There is lots of room for confusion here because the commands for the movements take place almost simultaneously with the release command happening as the finger goes down. This much easier to do at
a slower rate of speed, one can see tangible results.

This week I have been working at not pressing the strings down at all. This is like doing exercises with no resistance. As I watch my fingers sit on the strings I play silently. The faster passages were difficult to do this way, my fingers sunk into the string and it took several days to get the fingers to sit on top without pressing. Reflecting on that challenge I realize that there is so much concern with placing the fingers in the correct place for such a miniscule amount of time that they haven’t been releasing. It has taken a good deal of patience to go through those sections ensuring that the strings are not depressed.

Is the habit of holding muscle tension for fast playing from the fear of not being good enough? The years spent on scale exercises that never got better, or years of willing my fingers into the right place because I was so determined? There is a scale at the end the third movement of Concierto d’Auranjuez, which demands to be played correctly because of its climactic placement. There is also a run in the finale of Sor’s opus 9 that demands to be played . In these situations the player is carried away by the music, or the music plays the performer. Muscle tension or no muscle tension, the music
must go on.
I have also DSCF8012found that in order to play at the quietest volume without depressing the strings, my fingers need support and the shoulder, arm and wrist must be in an optimal position or my fingers will press too hard.

The upside of this work has been greater freedom in performance, to be able to play any note in any manner, to let the moment dictate the nuances. If the audience is too loud,I play very soft until they get quiet. This work has allowed me to play thoroughly in the moment.

Nasrudin had been telling the courtiers that he could predict the future. When the Sultan heard about this he called Nasrudin, and asked, “Tell me when will you die, I may be able to help in such matters.”

Nasrudin knew this was a challenging situation so he looked to the Sultan and said: “Esteemed leader, to hear is to obey, even with the most dire of news. I am not sure of my last day, it is a blurred vision, but for sure I will die one day before your Majesty. Blessed is the Almighty!”