Search This Site

05 July 2017

Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl
Textual description of firstImageUrl

How to play anything - FAST

Let me tell you a secret... To Play fast, you need to practice slowly.

A recent viewer on my YouTube Channel commented on one of my Grade 8 videos,  "As a grade 3,  this is the most depressing thing to watch. I doubt I'll ever get that good!"

Have you ever felt like that when looking at a new piece that seems impossible? I’m sure we all have at sometime. But, today I want to let you into a secret... that you can play pretty much anything you want to, and faster than you ever thought you could. So what is the secret?

Well basically, to play fast, you need to practice slowly. Sounds like a contradiction, doesn't it? But it's not. Let's back track here. When you were a baby, just learning to feed yourself with a spoon, probably a large percentage of your food, ended up on your face, rather than in your mouth. As time went by, you gradually got more accurate at knowing where your mouth was, so that now, (or at least I hope so), you can feed yourself without major mishaps. You have developed muscle memory. Your muscles that put the food in your mouth, remember what to do by themselves, without you having to think about it. This muscle memory, was developed by repeating the same action, over and over again. The same is true when it comes to learning a piece of music. You need to get to a point where you can play it, without thinking about it. Where your fingers know where they are going on their own. To do this there are a few basic principles you need to apply.

  1. You need to start at a speed which is easy and comfortable. There must be absolutely no hesitation. If you can't maintain the beat - IT'S TOO FAST. Many students who when learning a piece, keep stopping or stumbling every couple of bars or even every couple of notes. This is pointless practice. 
  2. You must use exactly the same fingering, every time you practice a passage. If you are training you muscles to know where they are going without you thinking about it, they must repeat over and over, exactly the same action, with the same fingers. OK, a little bit strangely, but let's go back to the analogy of a baby learning to feed itself. The process would be slightly more complicated, if every time it went to feed itself, its mouth was in a different place.
  3. Practice in sections. Don't try and tackle the whole piece in one go. However, a word of caution here. When practicing in sections, always overlap a bar or two from the preceding and following sections. If you don't, when you come to put the sections together to make a whole, there may well be gaps and/or stumbles between them.
  4. Use a metronome. Apart from the piano itself of course, a metronome is probably the most used piece of equipment that I have. When you have found a speed that you can comfortably master, then, and only then, gradually increase the speed. The incremental steps of a traditional metronome are a good guide: 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 63, 66, 69, 72, 76, 80, 84, 88, 92, 96, 100, 104, 108, 112, 116, 120, 126, 132, 138, 144 etc. I tend not to go much slower than 60 bpm, because below this, it gets harder to feel when the next beat is coming. I prefer to subdivide the beat. That is to say, instead of play crotchet=40 I  would use quaver=80. The same is true for very fast beats. Minim=72 is easier to follow than crotchet=144.
  5. Reach that magic moment. "What is it?" I hear you ask. The magic moment, is when you are starting to increase the speed and you get to a point where you suddenly realize that you weren't even thinking about what you did. Your fingers knew where they were going by themselves. You get to the end of a certain passage and say to yourself, "How did I just do that?" This is a great feeling, and from there the sky is the limit. Keep increasing the speed up to the desired tempo.
  6. Once you have technically mastered a piece, practice WITHOUT a metronome. A metronome is great for learning fast passages, but it can tend to make pieces sound mechanical rather than musical. At this point you can add more creative nuances, a bit of rubato here and there depending on the piece.
I challenge you to try this method on a piece you are practicing, that is technically difficult. Find that magic moment and then come back to this post and leave a comment below if it worked for you. 


1 comment:

  1. I tried something very similar, not with a piece but a scale I was trying to learn to play in contrary motion. I played it 'mindfully', ie incredibly slowly, focusing on which finger went to which note. It really did help. Though as for trying this on my Grade V pieces... you might have to wait a couple of months for a reply!


Comments with external links not accepted and WILL BE DELETED