Harpsichord – Negative and Positive Perfectionism (Musicians)(Psychology)(Pain)(Strain)(Injuries)(Posture)(Alexander Technique)(Albuquerque)

by ethankind on April 8, 2014

This ebook, An Alexander Technique Approach to Harpsichord Technique, is published on this website in a PDF format. It is very detailed and practical, and it will give you the physical tools you need to take the limits off of your ability to create the accurate harpsichord technique you want without sacrificing your body.
This ebook is also for sale on all AMAZON websites in a KINDLE format.
Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A. (MOVEMENT THERAPY)

Here is my definition of a NEGATIVE PERFECTIONIST. He or she is a harpsichord player who uses negative reinforcement to become a very fine harpsichord player. This means practicing to become a fine harpsichord player is based on hours and hours of practicing and being very critical of your playing. Your intention is to see how well you can perform with the LEAST AMOUNT OF THINGS GOING WRONG with the performance – not missing notes, how close the performance is to your ideal interpretation, ease of playing, etc.

Here is my definition of a POSITIVE PERFECTIONIST. It is similar to being a negative perfectionist, but the difference is a positive perfectionist is a harpsichord player who trusts the hands to do what they need to do to play flawlessly, rather than trying NOT to make mistakes.

So, the goals are the same but the means are radically different. The negative perfectionist plays with the critical eye of the ego to improve. The positive perfectionist plays with the gentle eye of the ego, and says, “What can I do to get out for my way, to let myself approach the perfect performance FEARLESSLY?”

We know that negative perfectionism on the harpsichord works. If you’re willing to put in the practice time, do the work to create a good enough technique, and NEVER give up, no matter how critical you are of your playing, you will become a great player.

Can you become a great harpsichord player with positive perfectionism? Yes. Here are some of the strengths of positive perfectionism.

You are LESS LIKELY to make as many mistakes at the harpsichord than the negative perfectionist, if you trust yourself to be accurate, and you have a technique good enough to play what you want. Why? Because the tension level in the body is usually much lower in the harpsichord player who plays fearlessly, with trust rather than trying to avoid mistakes.

An Alexander Technique point here: A negative or positive perfectionist harpsichord player can both create an incredibly efficient harpsichord technique and harpsichord posture with the help of an Alexander Technique teacher. But the harpsichord player who uses negative reinforcement will probably have to be more mindful of excess tension throughout the body, because he or she uses criticism to play well.

As a positive perfectionist are you as willing as a negative perfectionist to make changes to a harpsichord technique that is letting you down, given you don’t use the inner critic to DEMAND flawless playing? Yes. I believe it is the harpsichord player who uses positive perfectionism, who is MORE likely to make changes to a harpsichord technique that needs refining, than someone who uses negative perfectionism. Why?

When you learn by avoiding mistakes, you have created an inner critic who expects you do everything you can to NOT make mistakes. Is that inner critic going to let you make changes to your technique, since you will lose control over your playing, if you make changes to your technique? Possibly not. I’ve had Alexander Technique harpsichord students who stop coming to me, when I suggested a better way to play the harpsichord, and they couldn’t play as well initially after making the posture and technique changes.

Here is the crux of the matter. Can you be as mindful at the harpsichord without the critic and play as well or better, than when you are always critical of your playing? I’m asking this question as only an objective question, rather than as an implied statement that positive perfectionism is always better.

Negative perfectionism can be better for some harpsichord players, if it produces amazing performances. But my only caveat is that the negative perfectionist needs to have the inner strength to override the inner critic, when it is necessary to make a valid improvement to your technique. THIS MEANS THAT ACCEPTING THAT LOSING CONTROL OF YOUR PLAYING IS A REALLY GOOD THING, WHEN IT LEADS TO GREATER EASE IN PLAYING THE DIFFICULT LITERATURE.

Here is the shadow side, negative side of positive perfectionism. It is not loving when you play consistently carelessly and seem not to threaten yourself. In other words, you seem to be gentle on yourself, as you consistently make the same correctable mistakes. This is actually giving up against the hyper-critical voice inside that is never satisfied. This is the inner critic out of control. This means you are being controlled by such a strong fear of making mistakes that you don’t even attempt to solve technique weaknesses.

I DO favor positive perfectionism over negative, if you want to choose between them. Here’s why.

IF YOU ARE NEVER AFRAID OF YOURSELF AT THE HARPSICHORD, THEN MINDFUL GENTLE PRECISION IS AN EFFORTLESS GIVEN, IF YOU HAVE LOVINGLY CREATED A TECHNIQUE THAT MAKES ALL OF THE WORTHWHILE HARPSICHORD LITERATURE EASILY OPEN TO YOUR INTERPRETATION, AND YOU TRUST YOUR HANDS TO PLAY THE RIGHT NOTES.

LOVE IS NEVER BEING AFRAID OF YOURSELF AT THE HARPSICHORD, BUT MASTERY BASED ON NEGATIVE PERFECTIONISM CAN STILL FEEL PRETTY DARN GOOD! CHOOSE ONE OR THE OTHER AND TAKE LOVING CONTROL OF YOUR HARPSICHORD PLAYING.

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