Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Law of Polarity

The Law of Polarity states that everything in the physical universe has an opposite - such as Negative-Positive, Up-Down, Hot-Cold, etc.

One of my favorite discovery (practice) techniques is to use this Law to rethink how I play and listen.

here are some examples -

1. listen to the notes / listen to the silences

2. listen to the attack of each note / listen to the sustain of each note

3. feel the fingers press onto the fretboard / feel the fingers lift off of the fretboard

4. feel the fingers pluck the strings / feel the fingers release

Most of the time, we tend to think and listen in habitual ways. By using the Law of Polarity, we can develop more awareness - which leads to better playing.

For example, we can be so concentrated on plucking the strings that we don't think about the release before and after the pluck. This is one of the reasons why we have unwanted tension. Focus on releasing.

With the left hand, we may think only about the act of pressing onto the fretboard. The fingers do not lift fully, because we are more concerned with the next press. Again, this creates unwanted tension and fatigue. Focus on lifting.

In listening, the attack is the most obvious part of the note, but even more important is the "body" of the note. Hear and feel the rest of the note - listen carefully to the decay.

We sometimes think of silence as a gap between the (more important) notes. Silence is where all sound is born and dies. The more meaning you give to silence, the more meaning your notes will have. We want to cultivate a deep reverence for it.

3 comments: said...

Great post! Have you read John Cage's Silence? It's one of my favorites.

Morris said...

This is truly..amazing. I have studied guitar for ten years, and now I've been more and more focused on being so good that I can perhaps get to study classical guitar at University level. The problem has been that I started to play everything but classical pieces. Now that I've realized that this is the music I want to play, I lack technical skills, so I've worked in them, but never really get rid of the excersises. Now I've read all of your posts and I finally have gotten rid of them. I owe you so much. Truly I do. Thanks from Sweden!

kevin r gallagher said...

Hi Christine, yes I did read that book a long time ago - probably before I was ready for it. Thanks for the reminder - I'm going to read it again.

Hi Morris, thank you for your comment. I'm thrilled that you are going to study this art at a University. I wish you great enjoyment in your studies. Keep exploring and asking questions. The answers will come.

Best of Luck,