Perfection practice

The notion for the acquisition of a perfection technique seems a step too far for the everyday community of music practitioners, beginner to professional. Elements of subjectivity and skepticism quickly surface and are brought into the concept of perfection, and rightly so. Whilst beauty resides in the eye of the beholder, it may not be the case in the application of methodology.

“What is a perfect technique?” is not a rhetorical question but one posed to facilitate a more in-depth hypothesis in the quest to unearth a route to perfection. Bearing in mind that the notion of perfection is a mental construct and therefore subject to the judgment and assessment of sound minded members of the community. Therefore a methodology which corresponds to reality needs to be constructed.

A holistic analysis of music reveals a formulated array of symbols representing the visual and auditory notations of the full gambit of sounds belonging to the language of music. The connection with language is further strengthened in the nomenclature of music using the first even letters of the alphabet, A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Prior familiarity with these phonemes is further enhanced in the early years of learning in numeracy and literacy.

By definition, a language of music can be constructed alongside the science of linguistics, establishing these activities, linguistics and music, as close relatives.

The seeking of perfection in practice stands alongside the oft repeated assertion that, in general, perfection is not on the agenda. However this assertion contains a duality encapsulating the practice methodology and the individual carrying out the practice. It may be that the methodology can deliver 100% accuracy however, the individual’s application falls short of the potential of the methodology. The aim in the preparation of music revolves around the mental capacity to put in place, for reproduction, the material set out for playing or performance.

A synoptic view of the discipline of music making will inform us that the instruments on which music is performed are not learning devices, but demonstrators of the messages that we send to the instruments. From brain to fingers, and in some cases, the feet. Errors arising from this process equate to false messages being sent to the instrument which, without fear or favour, demonstrates these sent messages. Recognised in the aphorism, “As you sow, so shall your reap”. The undisputed fact is that instruments are designed to demonstrate messages, not formulate such messages.

This fact raises the notion of cause and effect, or using the technical term, a priori. Cause and effect, a priori, relieves the pressure during readings in performance and is best acquired by ‘saying’ the music until the messages for delivery to the instrument contain a high familiarity content. Always remembering the indisputable fact that the instrument can only demonstrate the messages it receives, or does not receive, from the practitioner. This assertion is a truism that corresponds to reality. Whilst a priori establishes the gaining of accurate information prior to message sending, a concept provides an extension as a means for correction and knowledge.

Now having arrived at the notion of a priori and concept we have established very valuable weapons  for use in our quest for a route to perfection practice. To illustrate the facilitative effect of the application of a conceptual extension for correction, we can use the familiar statement, “That is a wrong note”. Wrong note identifies and yet provides no information as to what the fundamental error represents for correction in the mind of the practitioner. The use of a word as a name and having no further information in the manner of an extension equates to ‘nominalisim’. By applying a concept to the nominalist term ‘wrong note’, we change the process from identification, “wrong note”, to that of a function.

This change by achieved by the application of a concept provides the information for a means of correction. The replacement then is, “That is an incorrect finger placement”.  “That is a wrong note,” is an illusion, as there cannot be a wrong or right note until a finger placement has been executed by the practitioner. Certainly there is always the potential for a wrong note, however, the manifestation of this potential is dependent on the finger placement.


So what difference does this change from “wrong note” to “incorrect finger placement” make to the outcome of practice? We have changed from identification of a wrong note to a function in the term ‘finger placement’. Now we have a function that provides the methodology for correction. Conceptual extensions remain in place throughout practice and performance, so that each and every note is subject to a correct finger placement in order that is does not become a wrong note.

The use of the term finger placement may well be the route to methodological perfection practice in the technical sense. Bearing in mind that the other factors of sound production and rhythm patterns have not been addressed in this essay. Such a route can only be established in the practical sense by reading each music symbol as a finger placement. Practising would have the aim of securing confidence in the application of correct finger placements rather than the fear of non-existent wrong notes. A miniscule mental delay immediately after reading the symbol and before the finger placement is facilitative. This mental delay will work as a barrier to hurrying brought about by anxiety about the accuracy of reading, particularly at high speeds. This delay should be borne in mind against the knowledge that the brain sends messages through the body at 100m/s. The bottom line to this methodology for the route to perfection practice is that practice be carried out slowly, so that recognition and delay can be accomplished free from anxiety. Camille Saint-Saëns, the famous French composer, has the following advice:

“At first you should practise slowly.

Then you should practise more slowly.

And finally, you should practice even more slowly.”

The messages you send take place in the environment of time and space. Therefore you cannot go back in time and retrieve any of the sent messages. A priori or conceptual knowledge is a very rewarding state of mind and best illustrated by the simple aphorism

“If you cannot say it,

You cannot play it.”

Practise for accurate and confident finger placements in the manner advised by Camille Saint-Saëns.

The route to perfection practice has been unearthed in the fallacious use of the words, ‘wrong note’ as a concept. Replacing ‘wrong note’ with the concept, ‘finger placement’, we now have a function to correct the illusion of wrong notes in practice and performance. Therefore, practice should have the aim of securing correct finger placements and not avoiding illusory wrong notes. Wrong notes do not exist until an incorrect finger placement is executed.

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