Ballistic Movement: the springs of action

"Some movements are so rapid that there is no time to get feedback information from the muscles while they are being executed. A rapid musical arpeggio has to be planned in advance and the whole sequence is launched like a ballistic rocket."

During the second World War experimental psychologists distinguished between movements which were being continously controlled throughout their action and ones which had a ballistic character and could not be modified once they had started." - Jonathan Miller from "The Body in Question".

A rapid musical arpeggio has to be planned in advance and the whole sequence is launched like a ballistic rocket.

The implication for practice is that you have to program your nervous system in a building block approach, so the sequences of movements which make up scales and arpeggios can be "set off" by a single musical thought.

You don't have time to play "note by note".

Segovia technique in Bach

An excellent video despite some sound distortion on the louder notes. Despite being in age, probably close to his 80's here, Segovia gives a masterful rendition of two movements from the Solo Violin/Lute Suite in E Major BWV1001. Great camera work on both hands.

Notice in his right hand:

  • Extremely relaxed right hand
  • Parallel/sympathetic movment in the faster passages
  • Contrast of tone between the voices
  • Control of the bass note lengths
  • Right hand pulls away from the strings as a consequence of sympathetic movement on the loudest chords
  • Dynamics
  • The variety of sounds he coaxes from the instrument!
  • Andre Segovia - his technique

    Andre Segovia - his technique

    Left Hand:

    • Left hand portamento
    • Left hand transversal vibrato (across the neck) with the 3rd finger whilst holding a chord

    Andre Segovia - his technique
    Left hand playing an E major chord

    Left hand: Segovia plays a Left hand transversal vibrato (across the neck) with the 3rd finger whilst holding a chord. Left hand: Segovia plays a Left hand transversal vibrato (across the neck) with the 3rd finger whilst holding a chord. Left hand: Segovia plays a Left hand transversal vibrato (across the neck) with the 3rd finger whilst holding a chord.
    Left hand: Segovia plays a Left hand transversal vibrato (across the neck) with the 3rd finger whilst holding a chord.

    Segovia: making the guitar 'speak'

    Segovia exhorts Brigitte Zaczeck to "caress the E" at 1:00 in this video.

    These videos are a goldmine of information for the guitarist who wants to make the instrument "speak". Excerpt from a masterclass given by Andres Segovia in 1965.

    Staccato (introduction)

    Staccato has less energy and time in each note.

    This is not a mental or theoretical concept - it is based on movement. Get up, find some space, and try moving in a crotchet (walking) rhythm, and then switching to a quaver (running) rhythm.

    Stacatto articulation is equal to walking on tiptoes

    You will quickly find that the quaver uses less space and less energy than the crotchet.

    Rhythms in music are subject to mathematical and intellectual analysis, but they are fundamentally expressions of the different modes of bodily movement.

    Staccato - on tiptoes

    Emotion in music (introduction)

    Emotions in the body cannot exist apart from their corresponding "postural sets".

    Emotions in music derive from Rhythm, Timbre, Tone and Dynamics. Use your imagination and try to create various moods in a piece you know well.

    Emotions in music derive from Rhythm, Timbre, Tone and Dynamics. Emotions in music derive from Rhythm, Timbre, Tone and Dynamics.