Technique, to this former music teacher, has generally pertained to the basics of musicianship. At the ripe age of 5 years old, I was taught by my second piano teacher, Mrs. Ida Defoe Hardy, (my mother was the first teacher) that if you had good technique and kept practicing your scales, you could learn a piece more quickly and easily. Long ago, when I was young and rule-bound, I did what Mrs. Hardy said and later realized she was right. My good piano technique, curved fingers, strong hands, scale facility, etc. has stayed with me even though I play less frequently.
Yesterday, at the nursing home with my 87 year old mother, I was again reminded about the value of technique. A new organ was donated to the nursing home and Mother has been wanting to play it. I would wager that it has been a minimum of 15-20 years since she touched an organ and with her crooked arthritic fingers, I feared the worst as she approached the keys. Yet, I was the one who got a BIG surprise. Although it wasn’t perfect, the music was recognizable, the rhythm consistent and the smile on another resident’s face as she listened to Mother was genuine.While I was pleased with the sound, I was even more impressed with Mother’s technique. Her crooked fingers were curved as she sat up straight. In organ lessons, we learn to lay the thumb on its side in order to depress two keys at the same time while reaching other fingers to far away keys. Mother did this repeatedly without consciously thinking about it. I guess good TECHNIQUE lingers for years. It IS like riding a bicycle; you never forget it. The longer we’ve practiced a technique, the better the skill, and the less likely we are to lose it. (Isn’t this why elementary school teachers urge parents to keep their young readers in the print through the summer months? The more unskilled the reader, the more they lose through idleness. Adults, don’t have to do this because our skill is fully developed.)
Design work certainly requires technique as well. We practice the basics such as crimping, making a wire spiral, etc. repeatedly and these become so natural that we are free to think of other elements. As a beginner, I wanted to be creative and add my own style, but there were many disasters largely because I didn’t have the basic skills perfected. Now, years later, many of those techniques are natural and my brain is free to consider other things. There must be a lesson here! I think my guide should be that when learning a new element (currently, the element is how to make my own wire clasps), I should practice until the process becomes more a part of my technique before deciding to alter it. I don’t like doing the same thing over and over, but in the case of basic technique, it is needed.
I can still hear Mrs. Hardy saying, as I later told my own students, you can’t improvise on Bach until you can play it the way he wrote it! OK Mrs. Hardy, I think I’ve finally got it!