“About being relaxed while playing guitar”

At first, what means “relaxed”? We have to agree somehow on which meaning of that word we mean by using it in guitar playing. If we take “relaxed” as that state of the body and the mind, where no physical action exists…Yes, in this respect the statement is absolutely right. But if we agree that by relaxing, we will understand: “to play with less strain or tension”- then that is the state we have to aim to i.e. up to what point to relax.

To play guitar we need power, but applying the power irresponsibly and without thinking here and there will definitely bring us to destruction, some physical problems, or at least tension which will dramatically decrease the quality of the music we play. I think most of us agree with that. One needs the power to move the string, to hold the guitar, to keep their body and hands in a certain position…playing is a physical act. However, the power we need should be just enough to do the above. It cant be constant throughout the whole piece. Due to the nature of the music which requires different dynamics, expressions, and tone colors as it develops in time.

The power to relax

The power as such needs to be controlled, otherwise, no job could be done efficiently. How do we control it, how do we distribute this resource? How and where do we deliver it in the needed amount, in order to make the guitar “play”? Those are important questions when it comes to using power for any task. On the purely physical level, every human’s body possesses more than enough power and energy to play any musical instrument. It looks like we have to deal with some sort of management of the power. Knowing exactly what the music needs and knowing exactly how to give it, are the things we need to know. So we can manage the power and energy in the process of playing. I think here is the biggest controversy between the different guitar schools. Every guitar teaching system has different thoughts and tools to achieve that.

To know what the music “needs”.

This includes understanding and awareness of music in general, styles, genres, music theory, music history, harmony, polyphony, arts, etc. Working in those fields is essential because that’s how one becomes able to set relevant tasks on the physical level. In other words what to ask the body to do in order to perform the piece.

To know how to “give” it.

This is the physical level. If we think of our body as an organization or a company where you have management, different departments, employees, resources, outcomes, incomes, profit, loss…and so…we have to assign each part to a specific function or task- to structure the system.

Relax and manage

In our case the management will be flat, meaning we will have one GM-the brain, responsible for everything because we have only one brain. Then we have to assign him with the general agenda of the company which is: producing extremely high-quality music by using guitar, delivering it to the audience, and realizing maximum “profit”, by profit, we will understand the satisfaction of the audience and the financial reward.

Understanding the physics of the movements and the posture allows us to exercise or apply more power without getting tensed. I can say that if there is tension one does not have that understanding, but it will be so extreme. No matter how good the understanding is tension still can sneak in and create a disturbance. In other words, it is good if one develops techniques quickly to relax when there is a chance.

Valentin Spasov 2011

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