Working With Limitations

There is a Stravinsky story I find myself telling often.

Allegedly, when he went to compose, the first thing Stravinsky would do is put a time and key signature on a piece of manuscript paper to limit himself.  Without that he would look at the piano and, seeing an almost infinite number of possibilities, get overwhelmed and shut down.

A key part of the process to learning anything is overcoming limitations.  By expanding one’s knowledge and skill set things that were impossible become possible or even easy.  As a musician, when I find an obstacle to something that I need to be able to do, I often practice playing that thing to add it to my abilities.

But what about other strategies for dealing with limitations?

Instead of assuming that limitations needed to be eliminated, what if, limitations were embraced and worked with to reach your goals?

Kang Yana Mulyana

I know very little about this Indonesian guitarist other than the fact that he has some very real physical impediments that make playing the guitar in a “traditional” manner impossible.

Check out his workaround!

What’s technically amazing to me about this is that the fretting hand is only using the thumb and pinky (!?!) to get those notes out of the guitar!

How did he do this?

1. He had a why.

Again Victor Frankl, “He who has a why can bear almost any how”

2.  He worked with his limitations rather than try to overcome them.

If he had gone to a guitar store to take a lesson, he probably would have been told that his physical limitations would prevent him from playing and that he’d have to do something else.  But his numerous work arounds (putting the guitar on the floor, finding alternate ways to fret and pick notes), allowed him to get the same end result.

Do you.

Let’s not get this twisted, I’m not saying that you should be lazy.  Kang Yana Mulyana spent an unimaginable amount of time working on guitar to get the end results he wanted (and that’s some real physical and mental obstacles to overcome).

What I am saying is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving your goals.  What worked for one person will not necessarily work for you.  The important things are to have an end goal that you’re trying to achieve and to work with your attributes and limitations to achieve them.  Learning what works for you is a lifelong lesson and it’s definitely one worth taking on.

Here’s one more video to help keep you inspired.

As always, thanks for reading!

-SC

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