THE SECRETS OF INSTRUMENTAL TECHNIQUE
By Noel Huntley
Early in the 1900s the piano teacher Tobias Matthay, renowned for his expertise in the field of piano tuition, taught a particularly astute and self-willed student (name withheld). This student was highly intelligent and well-educated, eventually becoming a famous concert pianist and author of books on music and psychology as well as a lecturer at Oxford University.
The student had the ability to apply science and logic to a situation, whereas Tobias Matthay was typical of the highly intuitive (right-brained thinking) musician. Endless arguments ensued culminating in the student discontinuing his studies with the famous teacher.
The problem, or source of conflict, was that the teacher taught that the process of technique development and the learning of a piece of music involved practising to achieve a no-force condition in the coordinated movements. One can see the apparent flaw in his thinking here, particularly if one is familiar with Newton's laws.
In order to achieve motion of limbs, in other words, velocity, acceleration must take place, not to mention that even at constant speed there will be resistance due to friction. Thus on all accounts force must be used.
Is the student correct? Or is it possible the teacher's rendition contains truth? As indicated from the information in the articles on physical mobility neither of them is completely correct.
This difference of opinion exemplifies a typical case whereby the intuition, which can manifest higher-dimensional logic, elicits a principle of potential scientific truth too advanced to understand in the present but utterly apparently flawed relative to (3D) logic.
If the teacher had taught that one practises to attain ever-reducing Newtonian forces with a theoretical end result of no forces, he would have been completely correct. The conclusion the student arrived at later as a concert pianist was that one aimed at attaining minimum tensions.
As we have described in the articles on physical mobility and superhuman ability, two mechanisms are involved in making movements. The muscular system is a system of forces obeying Newton's laws: nerve impulses from the central nervous system activate muscles, which contract to achieve movement of limbs. All that we would be able to achieve with this system alone would be twitching of the muscles. Synchronised with this system is an energy-field mechanism within and around the joints.
Picture spheres of energy, from small to large, some concentric, infinitely superimposed around all the joints, which regulate the angle at the joints by the principle of resonance---see articles on physical mobility. These are quantum fields. The muscle provides the basic force and the quantum-computer system of the energy fields gives us our fine skills. As the quantum fields are developed further with practice, the muscles relax more and also operate more efficiently (as an independent improvement from that of specifically training the muscles). This is the true meaning of relaxation in muscular activities.
All physical activities could be placed on a scale. Instrumental technique would be at one extreme denoting the need for development of the quantum-field system and not the muscles, and at the opposite extreme would be, say, weight lifting for sheer strength. Sprinting might take about a mid position in the scale, requiring high speed, efficient movements and reflexes, but also strength, particularly for acceleration.
Thus, for the musician, if your muscular system is operating normally and there are no inherent weaknesses you only need to develop the quantum-field mechanism. What does this involve?
When an individual develops skill, the learning patterns, which are programmes stored within the energy fields, increase their information density. One may wish to think in terms of information capacity of a computer. If the information density is low, as in poor technique ability, the number of points of awareness in a movement is less. This means there will be less control, and coordination will be deficient since there are a smaller number of information 'points' to cross-reference between movements.
Current science teaches that the neurons determine the muscular activity and therefore you can only connect together movements and cannot increase the information density. Note that physiology also tells us that there are only about 420,000 motor units in the whole human muscular system. This is true but it is also an incredibly low information capacity and one wouldn't be able to do more than twitch. (One motor unit operates many muscle fibres---about 10 for the eye muscles, about 2000 for the calf muscle---and there is no independence within this motor-unit group. When the quantum field system is understood and its relationship to the nervous system, scientists may well find that not only can the muscle fibres operate individually but also their fibrils and filaments---but this is speculation at this point and not necessary for our understanding here.)
[Consider the following. There are about 250 million fibres in the human skeletal system. Each fibre has about 8000 fibrils, and each fibril about 4,300 x 2250 fast-twitch and slow-twitch filaments per centimeter; a total of around 20 trillion filaments! This figure will be greater if we summate over the average length of muscles. This is quite a respectable information capacity even for the artificial intelligence expert's view of skills in robots.]
Now the quantum fields act on the joints with quantum action, not with Newtonian forces, which means the interface region will have reduced inertia! Ask any concert pianist if he or she is experiencing the full inertia (a heaviness/momentum or resistance) of arms in rapid movements.
Thus the first important statement to make is that there are no limits to the development of instrumental technique, or any other skill (we are not dependent even on the 20-trillion-filament limit, even if the filaments were functioning individually). Information capacity within the learning patterns can apparently be increased indefinitely and the body can respond to this.
Now let us see how the above information relates to the mechanisms and procedures involved in learning. In terms of current knowledge all learning is due to coordinating given information, or reflexes, or programmes, that is, the ability to make a movement is constant (one can't increase the information beyond the neuronal capacity) and ability is governed by linking together learning patterns or coordinating fixed programmes. This is like endeavouring to programme a computer that has fixed information capacity. But when the information within the quantum field system is increased this is equivalent to improving the computer, or changing it for a better one. This means learning is not just specific programming or coordination but is also general in the sense that the ability to make simple, basic movements can be raised indefinitely. The information capacity of the (mind) computer can be increased.
When the general component is increased the specific learning will take place more rapidly and reach a higher standard. Practicing for general learning involves procedures that avoid effort and avoid trying to be accurate (or specific); it emphasises relaxation and an absence of muscular activity. Such worked-out procedures will encourage the information capacity of the learning patterns to develop further---that is, the information density which gives rise to greater awareness (kinaesthetic sense) of movements and therefore greater control.
Thus, the second item of key information in the acquisition of instrumental technique is that there is not only specific learning (on which the present teaching and education is based) but general, in which the basic ability can be raised indefinitely and that with this ability more advanced specific programmes can then be attained.
Now let us consider the well-known statement that the student practices to achieve independence of fingers, etc. to bring about technical improvements. In previous articles we hinted at the special relationship between integration and differentiation---a kind of relationship between dependence and independence. In fact you can't have one without the other. In order to achieve greater independence of finger control one must create greater integration of movements. More movements must be spanned as an undivided whole by learning patterns in order to increase differentiation between movements: being able to focus energy on the smallest elements without adversely affecting adjacent---in space and time---actions.
Thus this gives us a proper definition of technique (or skill): Technique is governed by the degree or amount of motion of fingers, wrists, arms, etc., that can be spanned as one whole in space and time, by the learning patterns. The greater is the integration, the greater the differentiation or independence of the elements within the whole. This appears to be a universal principle and is due to the presence of higher frequencies at greater degrees of integration, projecting smaller parts or pulses in 3D.
Now we come to the importance of training for whole-arm movements as much as finger motion. This feature is neglected. Not only is it important in keyboard technique that the skill involved in whole-arm motions is as good as that for the fingers but the ability at the fingers, wrists, elbows is governed by whole-arm ability!
Psychologists have proved this by experiments (see article on physical mobility). The mind's computer system works in a manner to cover all possibilities. The fingers, wrist, elbow joint and shoulder all have their own learning patterns, but they are stored in a hierarchical arrangement---a ranking system. For example, the wrists also have learning patterns for the fingers (besides the fingers having their own learning pattern) in a higher-dimensional format. The elbow has the learning patterns for the wrist and the fingers---in a different higher-order format. In turn, the shoulder has all the learning patterns in the hierarchy. When movements are executed, say, playing a note on a keyboard, the shoulder quantum reduces the format of the learning patterns at the shoulder level to elbows then wrists and fingers, instantaneously. This facilitates the process of integration and therefore skill. One of the first things the piano teacher should impress on the beginner---say, after establishing the posture at the keyboard---is that every note action with the fingers should register at the shoulder, no matter how gentle the action might be. If the shoulder only senses, say, half the number of finger actions, the student will take twice as long to develop a certain level of technique.
Now, the learning patterns' holistic condition extends in time as well as space. The information organises holographically, giving the ability to anticipate the next movements and position of limbs, and how much of the immediate future is known. This information is experienced kinaesthetically. What we must now realise from this is that at any instant, while, say, playing a musical instrument, all tensions in the body are recorded holistically. That means the highest holistic levels within the learning patterns associate together not only tensions in the hands and arms, but neck, legs, feet, etc.
It is thus vital that the student, while practicing to improve technique keeps constant alertness to unnecessary or excess tensions in subsidiary muscular actions, in particular, neck tensions. The neck is a central muscular region in the performance of skills and coordination recognised long ago by Alexander, the originator of The Alexander Technique, accepted today.
Thus excess tensions elsewhere will have their information holistically recorded with the skilled movements. Any effort to increase the information capacity of the required movements for increased ability and relaxation will be held back by fixed, more unconscious tensions, in particular, in the neck since at the holistic level there is no differentiation in the input to these different groups of muscles---all tensions in the present moment become (with repetition) associated, quite rigidly.
One of the main limiting factors of learning-pattern development is that when a person performs a particular skill, say, plays a piece of music, and is being careful to be accurate, such as in a public performance, there is a tendency to apply too much tension in the muscles. This is fine for particular performances as the extra tension increases the cross section of the muscles used, and subsequently this reinforces the amount of information received by the movements, increasing certainty.
Now the exact opposite applies when practising to improve the reflexes, whether making movements at the piano or exercises away from the piano. These movements should be made with excess relaxation---deliberately reducing the degree of tension in muscles below the threshold value for those movements. The physical and mental condition of applying excessive relaxation combined with the simultaneous state of wanting the desired full movement---a contradiction---will create a discrepancy, a 'gap', to be filled in by the mind computer. Compare this with a corresponding but very different example of training the muscles using resistance exercises, and breaking down tissue so that the body's natural system will repair and overcompensate the process to give greater muscular performance.
In general training, the mind computer will bring about fission of the bits within the learning patterns, expanding them, to give a greater boost from the field system to the muscular action---replacing the 'lost' physical tension.
There is not the space here to present exercises* but clearly one needs to practise whole-arm motions as much as the fingers for optimum progress. We have covered seven major characteristics of the learning process, not revealed in current science, to which the music student (or anyone involved in skills) can give some thought and application. *[See book: The Attainment of Superior Physical Abilities.]
Summary of these principles:
1) Technique, or skill, is governed by the information density in the quantum vortices around the joints, not the muscular system, and there is no limit to this development.
2) The learning process is two-fold, consisting not only of the presently recognised specific learning, which is the coordination of given information only, but also of general learning, in which the capacity for greater learning-rates and ability can be achieved. The learning pattern is a 4D holographic template which houses programmes and converts nonlinear information into linear information (see articles on skill). [The skill mechanism/learning pattern requires 4D programming (to control movement in time) and our consciousness must process this 4D information, but in the margin of consciousness.]
3) In order to achieve greater independence of muscular actions one must achieve greater 'dependence', or more accurately stated, greater integration of information (stored holistically) within the higher-dimensional learning patterns.
4) Whole-arm ability is of particular importance since not only does one need to be able to play chords and rapid octaves proficiently but, most important, the whole-arm information contains all other information---elbow, wrist, fingers, in organised format.
5) All tensions in the body at any instant associate as one whole, that is, without differentiation of control of different groups when any body motions are executed and learned.
6) When practising to improve technique, the key to learning-pattern expansion is to apply less tension than that required for the normal movement, avoiding over-trying, and keep the movements simple whether at the piano or away from it.
7) Note that when practising the general learning methods, every few minutes check the whole body for tensions; from toes to facial tensions (only take about 10 seconds). The reason is that when practising the general-learning techniques, even correctly, mild tensions can arise in the body which will tend to prevent the background tensions in the musculature from adjusting its background tension to match the learning pattern's expansion. The higher the level of skill, the lower is the background tension. If this reducing background tension is hindered, the learning patterns will be prevented from expanding (think of the learning patterns as resting on the basic background tension; the two must be fully aligned frequency-wise and the background tension must be allowed to reduce as the learning pattern expands).
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