One afternoon after a long day of masterclasses in the little Andean town of Santa Ana in the state of Táchira, Venezuela, Maestro Alirio Díaz emphatically shared a list of what he considered essential reading for all of us young, bright, and bushy-tailed guitarists. I thought it was an odd list because the first book, Psycho-Cybernetics, was written by plastic surgeon, Maxwell Maltz (1889-1975). In it, he discusses creating and developing an ideal self-image and he recommends many visualization ideas to achieve this. Alirio mentioned how he used it to visualize himself in front of audiences before performances.
Another book from his list, Piano Technique, was written by Karl Leimer (1920-1974), a concert pianist and pedagogue much admired by Richard Strauss. Leimer was drafted into Germany’s Wehrmacht during the end of World War II and subsequently imprisoned in Italy. He composed a Piano Concerto for Left Hand after he learned of a college friend who had lost his right arm to an explosion during the war. This book talks mostly to pianists and is written in a charming old school voice but it has very compelling chapters on slow practice and visualizing.
This next book was not recommended by Alirio. It is a personal favorite and since I’m recommending recommended books on learning, I will recommend it to top off the list. This one was introduced to me by “the Superman of Silicon Valley” Tim Ferriss whose books and podcasts are outstanding for dissecting high level performers across every discipline. This book in particular, The Art of Learning, is written by the great American chess player and martial arts master, Josh Waitzkin. There is so much great information in this book that we can apply to our pursuit of musical excellence, from beginners mind to visualizing to inner peace.
I’ll be back with more soon…