Earlier this year I wrote a review of this book over at Classical Guitar Canada. Jean-François Desrosby is an excellent guitarist and has put out a great little handbook to outline a few of the ideas and info regarding his D.Mus dissertation. I wanted to supplement that review by talking to the author and so this article came into existence. – Bradford
Classical Guitarists: Unlock Your Potential! / Guitaristes Classiques: Les secrets de votre potentiel
by Jean-François Desrosby
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Interview, August, 2012 via email.
Bradford: Can you tell us what inspired you to write your D.Mus final doctoral work and how your book came into existence?
Jean-François Desrosby: What inspired me to conduct research on the subject of biomechanics and psychology of performance was an unfortunate adventure. I injured my left-hand and could not find the right help anywhere. So, I started looking for solutions myself. I met with a kinesiologist, a specialist at the Musicians Clinique in Paris, who told me about biomechanics. This was the turning point. From that moment I began to devour everything regarding human biomechanics. I had just registered at University of Montreal and had my Doctorate project on twentieth century Spanish music, however, it interested me less than biomechanics. I made a request to change the subject. The university management loved my idea and I even received a scholarship from the university in addition to one from Arts Council of Canada.
After finding the solution to my hand problems, I continued to push my research in the field of biomechanics, seeing the immense opportunity to optimize the technique of classical guitar and to understand its biological basis. I then added the dimension of the psychology of performance after discovering that without the contribution of psychology, biomechanics alone could not bring a full optimization of guitar performance. Passionate about science and sports since I was young, the search combined all my personal interests.
The idea for the book came from my doctoral supervisor Professor Peter McCutcheon. As my work was not to be published by the University, he told me that I had to do everything possible to publish it because he said it would help many guitarists. I decided to publish a first book in a language more accessible than my doctoral work, in order to allow everyone to understand the basics of my research.
Bradford: How has this study changed your experience as a guitarist?
Jean-François Desrosby: This has really changed a lot of things. I changed my position, adopted the ergonomic guitar support. I learned to change a lot of automation that I had acquired both psychological and biomechanical. My technique has become much more compact, far fewer unnecessary movements. I learned to use the right muscles for the action for which they were designed, and it gave me answers on how to fix particular technical problems.
I changed the way I learn, the way I prepare for concerts and to overcome my personal blockages. Finally, it was a complete revolution in my approach to the instrument and for the better.
Bradford: How has this book changed the way you teach?
Jean-François Desrosby: My research gave me the tools to teach better. As we know, teaching is a great responsibility, and as I have taught for two years at the University of Sherbrooke, I have now in my charge a number of high-level guitarists. We are responsible, as professors, to help our students reach their full potential. In this sense, it allows me to provide them with answers based on scientific reasoning which can address their technical problems. It also allows me to detect psychological reflexes that may affect performance and thereby direct them to the right tools. With the scientific basis behind my work, I know I’m not sailing blind. Everything is based on verifiable and tangible things. I think it’s also nice for my students to be able to verify the validity of my teaching.
Bradford: Compared to other books and approaches in the music field, everything from ‘The Inner Game of Music’ to ‘Alexander Technique’, where do you feel your study fits into the literature?
Jean-François Desrosby: I think there are many first-class books and methods on the market. Inner Game and the Alexander Technique are excellent examples. I wanted my book to try to give the why of things and give various possible solutions. The criticism I have of several approaches is that they do not explain the why of the validity of their technique. I’m curious, and I like to know the fundaments. I thought that was what my book was to trying to explain. This is what could best express my approach: I’m trying to explain the “why” of things based on verifiable facts while showing the relationship between the different elements involved (psychology and biomechanics), not just give the right answers.
Bradford: Do you have any other suggested readings for guitarists?
Jean-François Desrosby: In fact, I think the best way to approach this is to see what others are doing in the literature. These two books could be interesting:
Bradford: What’s next for you? Any plans for future books?
Jean-François Desrosby: I took a break after writing my book because I am also a concert artist, and I had to prepare new music for my upcoming performances and recording. However, I still have a lot of research results to share. I will continue to feed my blog “The Modern Guitarist” and I’m thinking about how I will publish the rest of my results. In my next publications I want to push much further into biomechanics and psychology of performance, but separately. I do not know if it will take the form of books, or if I’ll do something more 2.0. The excellent reception of my first book encouraged me to pursue this adventure. I think there is a lot of demand for this type of approach, and I am really pleased to continue to contribute to my modest way to the advancement of practice and teaching classical guitar…be patient, I’m working hard on this!
Check out this sweet video of the author performing!