Scott Sanchez's Reviews > Playing with Ease: A Healthy Approach to Guitar Technique

Playing with Ease by David Leisner
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it was amazing

David Leisner’s own debilitating struggle with focal dystonia might have ended his performing career were it not for his analytical self-reflection, dedication and tenacity that eventually led to his recovery. We are fortunate to have his insights and compassion offered in this magnificent book. Written in a conversational style, David Leisner’s passion and knowledge about his subject are evident throughout the book. This pedagogical work avoids the pitfalls of some books of this nature that read like dry theoretical treatises. Playing With Ease feels more like a series of personalized lessons from a master teacher and performer. This is one of the best books on the physiology of guitar playing (and instrumental technique in general) that I have read. As a professional musician, I have read numerous books on the subject. What I especially liked is that Leisner writes from the point of view of a performer and teacher who has spent his life searching for the most efficient and healthy approach to playing guitar. These principles, when applied, will enable the musician to perform with healthful longevity that is free of injury. Leisner shares his journey with an honesty and vulnerability that is admirable in any master teacher.

This book deals with anatomy and physiology as related to guitar playing. Often books of this nature overload the reader with a plethora of information that seems irrelevant when separated from the technique of playing the instrument. One reason I think this is one of the best books on the subject is that Leisner presents specific detailed information on a need-to-know basis. He avoids dogma, and relates scientifically evidence based information when relevant. In this way, the reader can actually apply the information to his/her learning and playing using a pragmatic systematic approach. Additionally, for some topics that can be hard to describe in prose only, Oxford University Press included a companion website with videos of Leisner teaching these concepts. Photos and illustrations within the book also enrich the learning experience.

I was not in complete agreement with Leisner on the subject of right hand technique (perhaps there would be something amiss if I agreed with everything). As a professional classical guitarist I do plant the right hand fingers sometimes, and I use rest stroke (Leisner advocated limited use of these techniques). Having stated this, I do feel that the author was fair in stating that some of the more controversial topics were his opinion. I found it refreshing that his tone is always authoritative without being imperious. Chapters on practicing and preparing for a concert are also illuminating and useful to any serious amateur or professional.

The part of the book that I found most enlightening is Chapter 5, How to Play With the Large Muscle Groups. Leisner’s insight into this topic shines a spotlight on a little understood aspect of instrumental technique. Defining what the large muscle groups are, how they work and where they are located is imperative in “a healthy approach to guitar playing.” Leisner emphasizes “freedom of motion as opposed to economy of motion.” Not sure what that is? If you are a serious amateur or professional musician, I highly recommend reading this book. Did I also mention that the book includes photos, illustrations and companion video site?
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
June 8, 2019 – Finished Reading
June 16, 2019 – Shelved

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