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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Arnold

On the balance of Heart and Technique

When we begin to let go of rigid adherence to traditional approaches of mastering our craft, there can be a fear that all standards of excellence will be left behind. After all, the wild abandon of children or the “just feel it, man” attitude of the hippies are both unlikely to lead to a satisfactory performance of the Sibelius violin concerto – but on the other hand, nobody wants to hear a robot play Sibelius.

The integration of excellence and heart happens when we realize that the very purpose of “getting it right” is simply to please our inner audience member. When you don’t get a technique just so, how would you know you didn’t nail it other than the twinge of frustration in your gut? If it weren’t for that twinge, there would be nothing other than a disembodied intellectual understanding that your fingers should go here instead of there. When you do nail a passage, how do you know that you nailed it other than the sense of satisfaction and pleasure at having done so?

When you learn to play from the heart, you are not being asked to let go of any standards of excellence you might have. Rather, you are simply listening from a different place inside of you as you practice and perform. As mentioned above, listening from “gotta get it right” leads to performances that sound like you’re trying hard to get it right, whereas listening from the heart leads to performances that are actually emotionally and spiritually fulfilling. If you could get the notes right in either case, which one would you choose?

Joseph Arnold, violinist, Alexander Technique teacher, Co-Founder of the Soulforce Performing Arts Academy

* This is an excerpt from my upcoming book: "Soulforce Artistry: Redefining Artistic Performance, Practice, and Pedagogy in a World That's Lost Its Mind." Sign up for my email list for early access to my book!

Picture courtesy of Stanulevich on

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