Slow to Fast
I’ve been rereading some old threads on practicing, and noticed a lot of v.commies practice in the following way: they mostly practice slowly or very slowly, and then just try to play things at tempo. They often don’t indulge in progressive acceleration, and mostly practice very much under the tempo.
I can see the benefit of such practice. Practicing at a pace where you can consciously control everything, and slowly making things unconscious through repetitions.
Of course when you practice slowly, you must use the same mechanics you will be using in the fast tempo, but I was still wondering, does this (mostly) slow practice really work?
Can you really just practice slow, slow, slow, and then hop suddenly you play everything at tempo flawlessly?
Please enlighten me!
No. I do the higher speed practice in "chunks", maybe two notes, not more than five.
This is one of my current challenges. From my experience so far, practicing slow doesn't enable me to play faster. I mean, if my fingers can only go so fast, the slow practice doesn't develop faster playing. It does enable me to learn the notes and develop better muscle memory and rhythm, but if I can't play fast to begin with, it does nothing to develop the necessary technique and proficiency I need to play at tempo. I suppose when you're 10 year old, moving the fingers fast and furious is not so much an issue, but when you're over 50, it does require a lot of time to teach those old left hand fingers moving at speed in small motion, develop the necessary right hand bow control and left/right hand coordination. I have to practice fast and in increments too, listen to my body and take many breaks to avoid stress injury. Once you're capable of playing fast, then I can see only requiring slow practice and small chunks like Adrian said before jumping to tempo.
What Adrian said.
Importantly, when you practice things slowly, you must still use fast motions.
Learn to walk before trying to run. Here is my routine for those fast running note passages. Slowly work out your version of efficient, safe fingerings. Slowly; analyze all the shifts, when to lift fingers, when to use advance, prepared fingers. Dotted rhythm long-short, reverse-dotted rhythm, short-long. Triple notes, doubled notes, that forces the fingers to move faster, while the music stays slow. Reversed bowings; to expose awkward string changes. Final step; as written, in tempo. And, when things are really fast, try not to think about individual notes; look for groups, scales, chords.
Practice also with short motion to add to Lydia's tip.
To speed up my reflexes, I do mordents and short trills, slurred
I agree. I find that two thirds of our technique is before and beween the notes.
I'm surprised that no one has yet mentioned to use metronome to slowly crank up the speed.
Roger, I don't see why people over 50 year old with healthy hands and with no neuro damage can't move their fingers as fast and furious as young people do. I'm in my late 50s and I can play fast notes much better than I ever was. I've also heard people saying they can't play higher positions because they didn't learn it when they were young. This is entirely false. I didn't learn that until in my late 40s when I was made to practice 3 octave scales and arpeggios everyday. Then voilà! One might think we are training our hands to do thing when we practice while in fact we are making changes in the brain.
Yixi, I am not saying older people can't play fast, we have players in the Hampton Concert Orchestra in their 80's who played all their life that can leave me in the dust! What I'm saying is when you start playing at an older age, you simply can't all of a sudden play at 500 notes per min for a half hour. You have to work slowly at it or else face some stress injuries. A nimble kid doesn't have such issue. I started at 50, and comfortable at 400, but things tend to fall apart after that, but I'm working up the tempo and will get there eventually.
Roger, 500 notes per min = 16th notes at 125bpm, right? Oh I'm sure you can play them "all of a sudden", especially if they are more or less the same note ;) Seriously, good for you being a late starter! I'm familiar with the Hampton Concert Orchestra. Charlie is a good conductor and you have some good players.
You are right Yixi, right hand not a problem, I can probably keep it going much faster. It's the left hand and coordination with the right hand at high speed (you are correct 1/16 @ 125) that is my main challenge. All about technique, but I do find (now 57) that I can't practice at that speed much more that 1/2hr at a time, then I start feeling the stress in my wrist and fingers, so I got to be careful. The community orchestra is challenging me in a good way, very accepting and I do like how Charlie is conducting, we're very lucky to have such an experienced conductor. I know some people think orchestral playing isn't helping much your technique, and can even be detrimental, but I beg to differ, it's been good for me.
Roger, left and right hands coordination at any speed, the key is the timing -- because this is the only thing in common for both hands. Have you tried to practise with a metronome
Tx Yixi, that's pretty much what I am doing right now (well, try to any way ;-). I think the more difficult part for me is to learn to engage the fingers more, relax and minimize the length of my stroke, even on the dotted rhythms. It's getting there, finally. I think I recently crossed a mental threshold that was holding me off recently after spending a good part of the summer "torturing" myself (just kidding, I actually like playing exercises) with Sevcik. I do learn technical stuff in the orchestra if only because the program is consistently 1-2 levels above where I currently am, and have to learn the techniques that enables me to keep up.
When I practice slow, I play passages in rhythms (long-short, short-long, long-short-short-short...) so that while I pay attention to details my fingers and my right arm still know what to do. My school teacher, who is a percussionist, uses a metronome to practice five clicks faster each time.
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