What is good technique for playing music?

Recently, I joined a discussion on an online discussion board about guitarist Julian Bream and his technique.  Even though he is a brilliant player, I remarked that he, like Segovia, did not have flawless technique.  In fact, much of their technique could use improvement, especially Segovia.  I was subsequently attacked by many people on the discussion board, much to my surprise – because “they are great players, so they must have great technique”.  This statement is certainly not true, and it is a misconception that I would like to address by answering the question, what is good technique for playing music?

Good technique should do the following things:

1. The player should use their body in the most efficient way possible. Please see my post on the principles of efficient function for a full explanation.  It was using these rules as a base for evaluating their technique that caused the stir in the discussion. Following these rules will allow each musician to use their body most effectively, while minimizing their chance of developing injury.  Easier and safer?  Count me in.

I should state that there are a few great musicians who have poor technique.  Having poor technique does not mean that one does not express music intelligently, creatively, emotionally, or artistically.  Having poor technique does mean that you have to work much harder to get the same result, which many people do.  This is why the study of technique is so important – you can have the same result with less effort.  This is where that misconception arises that good players must have good technique, because they assume that expression, empathy, and artistry are related to mechanics. They simply aren’t.

There are good musicians who have poor technique.  I believe that Segovia was certainly one of them. However, Segovia was one of the first guitarists and should not be faulted for this.  We have simply learned much about technique since his time. He was a great musician, but was at a higher risk for injury because of poor mechanics.  See my post on Segovia’s technique.

The good news is that there are fewer of these musicians with poor technique, especially in the guitar community. Our understanding of technique and mechanics has grown considerably in the last decades, so that younger generations don’t have to work as hard, are less likely to develop injury, and are more likely to accomplish great things.

2. These rules should be applied to make the instrument sound as efficiently as possible according to the laws of acoustics.

I won’t elaborate here, because the discussion of technique varies by instrument.  I’ll allow the other teachers here to post on the technique of their instruments.

You can see my following posts on What is good left hand guitar technique and What is good right hand guitar technique.