Every guitarist likes to read about technique. We pour over one of the many guitar technique books, and imagine ourselves playing. We try out concepts with the guitar too.
But are we really doing anything different?
Maybe. Our intellectual technique can be different from our actual technique. The way you think you move can be different from the way you move in real life. I think many beginning players (including myself!) get really caught up in doing things right when they should really be just doing something.
Intellectual vs. Actual
For instance, I was having a conversation on twitter with Heike Matthiesen about rest vs. free stroke. Say said, “for me it is the same movement with a different ending – not my own idea: I learned it like that from Pepe Romero!”
That’s true. Most guitarists think of free and rest strokes that way. One movement (from the big knuckle) with different endings (involvement of the other knuckles). Rest and Free stroke can also be done with a similar (or the same) hand position. But that’s an intellectual construct — someone put a label on the rest and free strokes and described what happened naturally. To a beginner these two strokes will probably feel completely different! I learned about the similarity of the two strokes after I’d learned to do them.
Every try to tell a beginner how to play a free stroke by describing all the joint movements? It’s ridiculous, tedious and largely ineffective. Not only that, but it’s too much to think about for the average beginner. Those specific movements are an example of intellectual technique — a label put on an action. It’s much easier to say, “It’s just like closing your right hand into a fist.” All the right movements, none of the tedious explanation.
Both of the above are examples of intellectual technique vs actual. Much like music theory, which follows practice rather than defining it, intellectual technique should be a function of actual technique. That is, the way you describe and perceive yourself moving should follow an actual movement.
In short, were there a choice between practicing and reading a technique book. I’d invariable pick practicing. Not that reading technical books isn’t valuable, but there is much more to be learned by doing something.