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On Practicing - Part II, "The Outer Poise"


Continuing our discussion of Ricardo Iznaola’s invaluable practice guide aptly titled “On Practicing,” I’ll now talk about what Iznaola calls the outer poise – a direct counter to the previous notion of the inner poise. See my last post on the topic here.

Iznaola defines the outer poise as “…the state of alertness and readiness for action of a limb, without dysfunctional tension.” The outer poise is a physical reaction to what I call work tension. Work tension is the muscular energy needed to execute any physical motion on the instrument. For guitarists this is most crucially applied to the right hand. As mentioned in the previous post, this is the KEY element to successfully achieving ease and comfort in you work.

All this might be pretty obvious to you, or it may not. But here’s where Iznaola really gets it right. He distinguishes between weight and effort of the hand. Weight is the sensation of your hand utilizing gravity to its advantage, whereas effort is your hand acting AGAINST GRAVITY to achieve a motion.

The poise that Iznaola talks about is the physical balance of your hand between effort and weight. Both are needed to successfully execute any physical motion, but one must consciously and actively engage the hands to where this notion of poise becomes the standard. In Pumping Nylon (another resource I’ll discuss later), Scott Tennant describes this balance with more physical terms. Tennant enforces the idea that every motion utilizing work tension should be met with a moment of immediate relaxation, an idea he coined as dynamic relaxation.This mastery WILL give any player the desired ease of motion we all strive for, but each of us has to put in the work and experiment with how your own hand reacts to the physical sensations of weight and effort.

Out of all the posts I’ve made thus far, this may be the one to stump a few people. If that’s the case leave a comment and let’s talk! I’d especially love to hear from non-guitarists about how these principles could be applied to your own instruments. This is a text that I think should be on the book shelf of ANY musician of ANY instrument. For your convenience, I've created a link to the book on Amazon.

As always, if you found this post helpful or inspiring hit that like button, leave a comment, and share the link with your friends, family, and colleagues!

- JB



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