Technique Troubles

There are basically two schools of thought on technique:

  1. Technique is in the music. Draw from the repertoire to learn the necessary skills in order to play it well.
  2. Technique is what you bring to the music. Develop fluency in various skills so that when you want to learn a new piece of music you already have the tools you need to learn and play it well.

I confess that I have often waffled between these two philosophies and have yet to settle on one that undergirds my teaching approach. Here is my dilemma. The second philosophy makes more sense to me pedagogically and pragmatically, but there is no inherent motivation or convincing systematic approach to implementing it. In other words, that’s what may seem best for my students from my perspective, but they are much less inclined to work on fast, fluid arpeggios as an isolated exercise. If, however, a piece that they really wanted to play included several measures of arpeggios, they would work tirelessly to learn and play them well. Same goes for scales.

I used to be a stickler for working on scales, but only the rare student is motivated enough to work on them and learn them fluently from week to week. I always incorporate scales and other technical skills into my practice incentive theme for the year, but whether a student works on them or not is usually based on their personal goal selection for the week. And most students don’t voluntarily choose the scale option for their goal (shocking, huh? :-)).

Anyway…I really want my students to be more skilled in technique. And by this, I don’t mean that they can come in and barely eek out a harmonic minor scale on the bazillionth try. I want them to be confident and fluent the first time. I’m working on some ideas, but would LOVE to get some advice from anyone who has experienced success in this area. What approach has worked the best for you? And I would love to hear from anyone – do you teach according to the first or second philosophy of technique? Anyone else struggling with this in your studio and want to work together to come up with a good solution?

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