How to learn flashy runs
Okay, vulnerable technique question coming up.
One thing I've consistently struggled with (on violin and in piano–hey, Chopin!) is figuring out how to play runs or fast passages that are not easily subdivided. Somehow I neatly avoided learning how to do this back when I had access to great teachers. It's not something that comes up as often in orchestral or chamber repertoire–and in my sporadic lessons since high school I've worked on Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. (Had I stayed another year with my high school teacher, we'd have tackled this head on with Rode and Sarasate–e.g. Rode 7, the 25-note run leading up to the B between rehearsal letters C & D in the first movement...or the first page of Zigeunerweisen. But, alas, I graduated and moved away not long after she suggested those pieces as the logical next step.)
As I see it, there are two challenges:
1) getting things up to speed (as with runs or fast passages in general), for which there are great established practice techniques, e.g. slow practice, rhythms, etc.). But I can't get through this part until I solve the more fundamental issue, which is
2) figuring out how the notes map evenly on top of the beat(s). (plus, a one-bow run played at .10x the speed doesn't really fit, right?)
Seriously, how *does* one fit 22, or 25, or however many notes there are, onto a beat? Do you subdivide the entire measure into 88-100 beats on the metronome and start there? Do you play them separately before attempting to fit them into 1-3 bows?
PS: Yes, obviously working with a teacher would be super helpful here.
You have to organize the run in your head. I'm assuming you're talking about the odd groupings -- a run of 11 notes, for instance. I tend to group those into threes and fours, with the bigger groups at the top of the run (so an 11 is 3+4+4). At speed, the slight difference between the triplets and quads won't be noticeable at all.
Organizing the run is necessary, but the "flash" is all in the bow distribution.
Thank you both! I don't think I ever played that Kreutzer. I like how this edition breaks it down. Rhythmic rationalization is exactly what I need.
There are many threads on mastering fast passages, including an active one. Otherwise you're forcing people to just keep repeating themselves.
Ah, yes. The Google. How does that work? Also,wondering if I can play Accolay for my Juilliard audition, or do I need to learn Sibelius? Can I do it in six weeks? My teacher wasn't sure but I'm pretty good, if I do say so myself. Should I use a shoulder rest or just glue my instrument to my shirt? Will fake Dominants make my Eastman Gliga Forza edition violin sing or cry? What are prunes? I have so many questions!
PS: the existence of yet another active thread on how to master fast passages, wealth of archives notwithstanding, would suggest that this is a topic of enduring interest. Jeewon and Lydia answered my fairly specific question with useful tips. I appreciate their generosity.
Katie's problem (1) is covered by the other thread. This thread seems to be about problem (2). :-)
Depending on the piece you can probably take a bit of artistic liberty and focus more on the big beats, which was what I did on Bruch first movement. I never actually counted in 7 and ended up giving more length to the first note and sometimes the following longer "actual" note so it fit with the larger scheme of things. The only slow practice I did was going trough the runs in rhythm and chunking it away from the surrounding music so I wouldn't trip.
For number 2) I believe you need to make some approximation and bring out the notes that you feel are the most important or require the most emphasis, while at the same time feeling the underlying subdivided beat.
Katie, your satyric response above it fantastic!
Jason, are you saying glue is not advised? ;-)
Here's a thread from a few years ago which covered the same info as the other current thread:
But before getting back to fast runs...
Katie, if you look at Kreutzer 23 (cadenza study),
My skill level is surely lower than Katie's but it's a challenge to play 12 notes in the same bow and to hear them all clearly (to say nothing of twice as many), so the prospect of emphasizing, subdividing, or distributing my bow unevenly seems especially daunting. I don't know why it should be so, but the severity of the problem depends greatly on what my left hand has to do. The latter could simply be a mental bandwidth issue -- after taking care of my left hand, not enough brain cells left to deal with tone.
One idea I like: you can fit more notes at the frog than you can at the tip. :)
Actually, I think you can fit the most notes in the middle of the bow. Hence the general bowing rule, spend-save-spend, for long runs.
Hahaha, Paul - Granted. I have trouble playing all those runs on one bow (and it will be a while before I could put up a recording of myself on youtube that I wouldn't completely cringe at), so I think it makes sense to divide as necessary, with the eventual goal being playing the runs on one bow (or at least on two). But if you can make it sound better dividing, then why not? No reason to fetishize long bows if they actually make it sound worse.
Son file has been a revelation for me.
Jeewon's advice on spend-save-spend for long runs is insightful as usual. Most teachers I've met would tell us to save from the frog when a down bow starts. I notice that, during last July's three-week summer string academy and boot camp at our local conservatory, it's common even among advanced young players started too fast at the beginning of a down bow. So teachers would usually call out "slow!" when students just started from the frog. However, comes to think of it, save at the frog wouldn't sound good and that's why we tend to move too fast at the beginning of the down bow. What needs to be remembered is to save at the lower part of the bow
"What needs to be remembered is to save at the lower part of the bow immediately beyond the frog." Yes! That's a better way to describe it. Almost like a
Short answer, about fast runs, to quote my orchestra manager; "Play the first note then add more notes, land on the last note"
We'll have to agree to disagree, Joel. Touring artists are often at liberty to do whatever they want but that doesn't mean their choices are always convincing. I suspect there are more who play the opening quintuplet arpeggio strictly. Of those who add rubatos, few manage to pull it off without sounding all scrambly. (There is no scrambling in Brahms. And let's not even mention those who continue the rubato into the next measure!)
Thanks Jeewon, I was being partly facetious. Anyway, sometimes we over-think things, forgetting that that paper in front of us is not real music, but a (rather excellent) notation system. After the technical problems are worked out, after some years of experience and study, a musician can start to trust their own instincts, hear the piece in their head , and go for it. Regards, jq
Ultimately I suppose that's all we strive for. But the question remains how do we get from here to there. I'm pretty sure it's not by the seat of our pants.
Today we think of rubato almost solely as bending time, giving and taking, playing around with tempo freely. We think evenly distributing an odd number of notes is reserved for 20th century, weird stuff. But back in the day, the ability to play rubato "contrametrically," e.g. 11 against 2, was considered a sign of mastery. Furthermore:
Jeewon, how I wish you lived within 40 miles of Menlo Park, California!
Or move to BC!
I've always felt more like a west coaster :) So much closer to Hawaii!