How to speed up - feeling frustrated

Edited: March 20, 2018, 3:01 PM · Hi Guys
I’m working on Kreisler’s Rigaudon and trying to speed it up. I feel like I’m hitting a brick wall with it. I’ve tried lots of techniques but I get to a certain tempo and don’t seem to be able to go faster, it’s marked up at 122-130 bpm. I can manage about 100.
I’ve isolated the tricky parts, played them forwards, backwards, added notes backwards, split them into strings only (no fingers) which has certainly helped. I’ve played the piece very slowly. Played in different rhythms, minimised movements of left and right arm/hands. The tricky parts I’ll play but then fall apart on some other random part.
I’ve been playing it for 2-3 months and need to decide whether I’ll get anywhere near the correct tempo for an exam later this year. If I can’t then I need to replace the piece and pretty soon.
Am I unrealistic with my progress, will this take months? Please help!


Replies (13)

March 20, 2018, 3:54 PM · One possibility is that 120 bpm is just beyond your limit right now. You can go out and "try everything" to run a four-minute mile too, but chances are that's not going to happen in a month's time.

The only thing I can suggest is to look at YouTubes where the person is playing it at the speed you want and see if there is anything you can catch about what they are doing physically that might be different from what you are doing. Also ... make sure you are not pressing down on the fingerboard harder than you need to because that will slow you down. Nate Cole had a video on that a year or so ago.

Edited: March 20, 2018, 9:29 PM · Sounds like you've worked the left hand pretty well, that leaves the right hand as the most likely limitation in all likelyhood. I have the same challenge ramping up my tempo on sixteens with the local orchestra, and almost invariably struggle with (the necessary) more relax wrist and fingers movement and shorter strokes. There are always certain patterns that gives my brain a challenge, but I think my most limiting factor is actually my right hand movement. The faster the tempo the shorter the stroke, which takes more control. If it is the left hand that can't go fast enough, work on minimizing movement and finger pressure.
Edited: March 21, 2018, 2:04 AM · Sonia, someone who can play that piece at 120bpm (forget 130bpm), (1) in tune, (2) cleanly, (3) with good tone, is really, really good. Perhaps more people may manage with one or two of the above properties, but nailing all three is really high level. Having said that some additional tips. In first position. Pick a one-octave scale, say a major scale, say F major. You can start that with the second finger on the D-string. Play the scale in one bow up, then come down again in another bow. Practice these starting on any finger, so pick a scale starting first finger, say B flat on the A-string, one starting second finger like the one above, one starting third finger, say C on the G-string, one starting fourth finger, say A on the D-string, you choose. Do not use open strings (just for this exercise, not a general guideline, in pieces you should actually exploit the open strings in fast runs). These runs up and down should be really completely in your fingers. The finger position patterns should be ingrained in your brain, so that you can play these scales at "reflex speed". It should just be a reflex. It will be much faster than sixteenth notes in 120bpm! Daily practice on this works miracles in a relatively short period of time. The second tip is to play scales in broken thirds. Same story here, starting on each finger, ingraining the finger patterns, but given what happens in the Rigaudon, you can practice these not legato in one bow but in fast spiccato. Here sixteenth notes at 120bpm is just fine :-) That lays the groundwork. If you can do this in first position, you can also do it in higher positions. Ideally it is something you do regularly since a long time and gives you the basis to play such pieces fast and cleanly. Then to practice the actual Rigaudan at hand, some similar tips apply: split each measure in half, or for the spiccato runs even beat by beat, and do ABCD practice. For example, measures 7 and 8, divide in beats so we get ABCDEFG (there is no H part, it is just a simple note B). First get A really "reflex speed" fast. Get B fast, C fast, until G. Then get AB fast, BC, CD, DE, until FG. Then get ABC fast, BCD, CDE, etc. Then ABCD, BCDE, CDEF, etc. And so on until you get the whole thing. Finally the entire piece should be mentally divided in larger chunks, such as the two measures above, or eventually even larger chunks. Eventually you memorize the piece (you can't play that fast and not have memorized it). Violin playing is fun, hard work :-)
March 21, 2018, 9:19 AM · 1. How far away from your strings do you raise your fingers?

2. How many individual motions are you making in the LH each measure? How to reduce the number of motions?

March 21, 2018, 3:30 PM · Thank you for the suggestions, I’m not ready to give up just yet! I guess we all hit plateaus in our playing and pushing through them means we are at the next level.


March 21, 2018, 3:59 PM · Have you tried feeling the tempo in half notes instead of quarter notes. That might help to give the piece a lighter touch musically as well as technically.
March 25, 2018, 3:15 AM · Update- having conceded to my teachers greater wisdom I’ve been playing more mixed rhythms and sets of 4 semiquavers. I’m now somewhere between 115-120 bpm :)
March 27, 2018, 6:59 AM · At the risk of overwhelming you with tricks, here is a list of practice techniques, below. Some of these I demo on my youtube playlist "How to practice fast passages", which you can find here:


Left Hand Pops Practice left hand alone (with metronome) and listen for audible pops of sound. Get rid of any unevenness, make your fingers work perfectly, lightly, with quick action.

Open Only Practice passages that involve string crossings with open strings only, no left hand. Work as slow as you must to understand the string changes.

One String Snippets Practice all notes on one string fast, stop, change arm level and practice the next string notes, stop, etc

Opposite articulation Practice those things that are slurred separately (for LH/RH coordination), those that are separate slurred (for fluidness)

Dotted rhythms: Sunny Side Up (dotted 8th and 16th)

Dotted: Over Easy (16th and dotted 8th)

Gingold Rotation Turn 16ths groups (of 4) into 3/8 time with 2 fast,2 slow:
So, the first time is 16th,16th, 8th, 8th. Second time is 8th 16th, 16th 8th. Third time is 8th, 8th, 16th, 16th. Fourth time is 16th, 8th, 18th, 16th.

Transitions only
Spend time threading together practice bits so that the transitions work. Create loops for continuity.

Breath Work at slow and medium speed concentrating only on your breath. Make sure air is moving!

March 27, 2018, 8:37 AM · Sometimes we have a speed limit not due to our practice technique, but to very slight faults in our technique: are fingers being placed ahead of time, or just in time?

For fast pieces like this, I recommend students have the piece PERFECTLY memorized at slow tempi. We often try to speed up a piece before really knowing the notes, and that can be frustrating.

Sometimes, yes, we reach our speed limit, even if we are doing everything right. Put the piece away for a few months. Sometimes it's the best technique of all...

March 27, 2018, 9:33 AM · Susanna, these videos are fantastic. Thank you!
March 27, 2018, 12:06 PM · Jean, Galamian scale acceleration is a great suggestion.
Edited: March 27, 2018, 6:01 PM · Ditto Scott. Bump tempo one beat at a time only when playing at new tempo perfectly. Technique, technique, technique. Should naturally be memorized at this point. The brain can’t keep up with reading music and the playing at the same time at this level of difficulty.
March 28, 2018, 1:44 PM · Thanks for you help :) especially Susanna for being so generous with your knowledge


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