Ways to work out fast tricky spots
Slow practice is essential but not sufficient, especially when it comes to practicing fast tricky spots. These are the ways we are often told to practice, with metronome,
1. Slow to start with, then gradually speed up.
2. Play with different dotted rhythms and bowings
3. Reverse the notes
4. Always practice the tricky part in connection with a note before and after it.
Also, I find it's more efficient to work on each spot for no more than 10 minutes, move on and come back at a later time, instead of spending a lot of time trying to perfect each spot singularly.
Please share your ways of practicing such spots.
Some more ideas:
In addition to all of the above, pause just before every string crossing.
I often see slow-practice preached -- and I don't challenge that. It's worked well for me ... sometimes. Having slow practice translate to tempo means what Christian said -- it means understanding ALL of the components and how they fit together. This I believe is a learned skill like so many other things. That's why I think slow-practice works so much more brilliantly for better players, whereas for intermediate players the gradual tempo increase seems to work better. Or is that all just nonsense?
Play the passage at tempo, break it up into little chunks, and gradually add when it's clean.
Tempo increase also means we learn to play a passage in many different tempi which means we are learning different passages, but such practice may not necessarily bring up to the tempo we really want. Dotted rhythms should help. But as Christian and Paul said, components are the key. Learning what we don't need. Also, my teacher often quizzes me the number of notes on each string when it comes to complicated string crossing passages.
As Mary Ellen said "pause just before every string crossing".
I agree with most of what the OP and others say but I'm not sure of the value of playing backwards. I also believe that the bowing should be strictly followed where possible as you are programming your brain with inconsistent patterns by changing it around.
I would add to the string crossings, that a passage that is rapidly alternating between strings can be practiced with the right hand bowing only open strings. It takes a surprising amount of concentration to know exactly what string you are on without the context of your left hand and the actual melody (My guess is it gets easier the more you do it). When you finally bring the left hand back in, it usually is much more coordinated.
I would add that shifts should be started as early as possible, as soon as you reach the note that is being shifted from. This is difficult to coordinate if you aren't used to it, but it really works when the tempo increases. I see too many students who shift just at the very last microsecond. This technique works fine at slow tempi, but at fast tempi the left hand will start to be behind the bow.
Regarding reversing notes, I don't do this all the time but only when I feel particularly insecure about intonation of a passage that requires many shifts all the way up the fingerboard, with lots of accidentals or with unusual melodic lines. It seems to help me psychologically; that is,if I can do it forward and backward, I feel more sure about playing it. It takes away some boredom of repetition, as it is fun to "compose" when practice.
Now, here is another question, if you are good at
I think there's a difference between practicing passages that are merely fast, and passages that are both fast *and* tricky. Just fast typically yields to drill techniques -- rhythms, chaining, backwards chaining, and so forth. Fast and tricky, though, requires figuring out what makes it tricky and then finding a practice technique that deals with the trickiness.
Lydia I think your teacher is right. For example dotted rhythms. One of the two "forms" of dotted rhythms often feels the same as the passage. Then, don't practice that one! Practice the one that feels hard.
That's right! I meant fast
Yixi, I can see the value of setting your hand for where you are going and working backwards from that, usually for some tricky shift, or moving between certain double stops. I haven't used it for passagework, partly because I don't want to accidentally embed something that isn't there, but sometimes, if a shift isn't working, and I'm arriving at some notes with tension (especially for a really big shift), I might set my hand in the most relaxed way at the target, and then work the shift out backward, so that I know exactly how my hand should feel at the end, and I now know better what to aim for.
Christian Lesniak, it is about hearing the intervals, the distance, and the hand feel of the tricky group(s) of notes, etc. I understand the fear of "accidentally embed something that isn't there", but if that's a serious concern, would you still practice different rhythms, bowings or even different tempi, different fingerings, etc.?
I personally have found the mental practicing thing to be better for the broader musical questions. This is the kind of practicing that can be done on a plane with the score in your lap. I mostly memorized the first movement of the Franck Sonata on a flight to California once.
Hmm I thought I'd responded to this but I must have exited the browser before replying...
One of the mistakes I used to make and still catch myself making during slow practice is that the movements themselves are no longer representative of the passage, and this is something to watch out for.
As pointed out by Erik above it is of outmost importance not to learn to use too much bow just because we are practicing slowly. I see that often at section rehearsals in our orchestra: When going through something slowly people tend to use more bow. That can also happen when practicing with different rythms as often advocated - too much bow will be used on the dotted note. Therefore I like to take a slightly different approach to the rythm practicing (it sounds almost the same but the thinking is a bit different): Play the notes in the way and at the tempo they should eventually be played, but play only as many of them as you are absolutely sure you can play correctly. In the beginning that would mean two. Go through the passage that way a number of times then start on the second note and do the same thing. Pause after each group of notes to prepare for the next group and only play them when you are sure you can.
I think what Bo writes is very important and it also corresponds to one of Nate Cole's great instructional videos (
I like to encourage students to take a binary approach to learning anything. I call it the "+1 or -1" principle. The basic implication is that there is no "partially correct" playthrough of a section. There's no such thing as playing something and it having a neutral effect. Either you are getting better at the section or you're making it worse, and it's a lot easier to get a "-1" than a "+1", since only one wrong note will make it a "-1 attempt.". Thus, we play slowly because it counts as a "+1" regardless of the speed we play it at, and it's a lot faster to accumulate +10 with a series of very slow, correct attempts than it is to do 30 "-1" attempts and 40 "+1" attempts to achieve the same net effect.
just as an aside: at a local university, one of the profs had a cutesy slogan on his/her door:
"You'll fix it when you make the decision to fix it."
I think the best thing for tricky spots, is a pencil. Mark the bars(areas) with an X.
Oftentimes the problem
Jeewon, my teacher will completely agree with you. But you said in such a way that I must print it out and put on my music stand for a daily review. Great stuff! Together with your previous comments on different phases of practice from the other thread, I've got a fuller picture now. Thank you!
Good theory Charles! Truthfully, I noticed that exact phenomena in my own learning process. My teacher helped me to see it. Now, my practices are becoming more fruitful and a lot less frustrating.
Charles, brain-based strategies of learning, especially at molecular level, is such a fascinating area that really opens up to a bright new world. It is also very technical and complex. I'm grateful that you have applied theories and studies into violin practice so clearly and practicable. Thank you!
Having thought a bit more about issues of mental control in
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