I play volleyball competitively. In fact, next month, I will play in the US Open in Atlanta, which will be the... (pauses a moment to count) ... 8th time for me to participate in this tournament. One of my teammates used to play on the Venezuelan National Team. His English is superior to my Spanish, but that's a fairly minimal distinction. That still leaves room for him to have some vocabulary troubles, and recently, he told me that he needed to play more volleyball. Reason being: "I need to improve my technique." This sounded strange to me, because he's 29, thereabouts, and given how much volleyball he's played, I figured his technique was pretty well set by this point. Later in the day, we were discussing a player on another team who was an exceptional passer. My friend said, "Wow, he has very good technique." After the tournament, he used this word for a third time, saying he thinks when his technique has improved, he'll be able to make even more valuable contributions to our team.
I stewed on these statements for a few days. Eventually, I asked him to explain himself. I told him, in my best Inigo Montoya voice, "You keep using that word... I do not think it means what you think it means." I told him I felt like the word he was looking for was "skill", which is how well (or poorly) someone does something. Technique, on the other hand, is the word for how somebody does something.
How well versus how. Subtle difference.
The way I see it, it is possible that someone does something very skillfully because they have excellent technique. In volleyball, perhaps they have excellent body and arm position for forearm passes, or their armswing reaches maximum height without unnecessary movements, or they have excellent blocking footwork. Conversely, they could be gifted athletically or have lots of experience, and they are highly skilled despite poor technique. (I can think of some golfers this might apply to.)
He had a ready explanation for this... his Spanish word for skill is something along the lines of Técnico. This also didn't sound right, as I knew this word to be the Portuguese word for "Coach" or Technician... I had always used habilidad for skill, but hey, he's the native speaker, so who am I to quibble? Anyway, we had a laugh and moved on with our lives.
Now take five minutes out of your life to watch this clip of Evgeny Kissin. It will be totally worth it, I promise. He plays a Liszt Etude that I hope to play some day myself, something called La Campanella. (Italian and, I reckon, Spanish for "The Little Bell"? All this free language information today, you didn't anticipate that today's entry had so much bloggy goodness, did you?) Kissin thoroughly dominates this piece. By the end, the poor guy is sweating profusely. I have to run a mile to look like that. Wonder was his heart rate was at the end of this?
Anyway, the comments on this clip are very interesting to me. I haven't read them all (there are, at this moment, over 1,300), but many of them mention how good his technique is. I have no idea what these people are talking about. I see Kissin sitting up straight, but every musician I have ever known sits up straight, especially when playing music. My buddy discopalace (hi, discopalace, welcome...) (you ought to see his beautiful piano!) points out that his wrists are very quiet while his hands and fingers are creating all sorts of commotion. I concede this point, but is this technique? All I see... hands and fingers flying in a blur, and yet hitting all the right notes. This, to me, is not technique, it is otherworldly talent combined with lots and lots of practice.
My Alfred book purports to teach me "lessons, theory and technic"... (apparently, it's "technic" when you are talking piano). It isn't entirely clear to me which is which. And this is a big deal, because I understand that the biggest risk in my going without a teacher, especially in the early going, is that I will acquire poor technique (er, technic), which will require significant effort to unlearn.
I will have a teacher some day, perhaps late summer or early fall. What should I be doing in terms of "technic" that will minimize the damage here early on? Discuss.
And wow, isn't that performance something?