Have you ever found yourself - or your student - getting tangled up in a long passage of fast notes?
Perhaps you have practiced this passage or etude slowly, but somehow when you speed it up, it falls apart, or it's full of random mistakes.
You can practice it in rhythms, and this is a wonderful strategy that often helps a great deal. But what if you are still having trouble getting through a long passage, up-to-speed?
Here is one way to practice that works well in this situation: practicing with "think spots." This is actually a method that will work on any instrument, not just the violin! Sometimes the trouble actually lies with sustaining one's mental concentration, and so one needs to practice thinking. Also, when it comes to playing fast, after playing something slowly to get the notes correct, at a certain point, one has to practice fast in order to play fast.
So here is a way to do both. Below is my video, and then below that, I will explain it in words:
I made this video because I was working with a student on the fifth etude from Wohfahrt's 60 Etudes, Op. 45, and despite the fact that he clearly had practiced, he simply could not string together the whole etude without a lot of fumbles and mistakes, especially in the more-complicated second half of the etude.
Here's what we did: I asked him to stop before each measure, make sure he was completely sure that he could play that one measure accurately, then play it as fast as he could do it without making any mistakes. Then, stop and think, play the next measure. Basically, we were adding these "think spots" before every single measure, then playing each measure very quickly. The condition is that the measure must not be played with any mistakes! So you have to take long enough to KNOW that you will play the measure accurately, and then you have to prove yourself by actually playing it 100 percent accurately!
If you do this correctly, you are both adding "think spots" and you are also practicing playing fast. The "think spots" will remain, even when you take away the stops, and in the meantime, your fingers are getting the hang of executing each measure up to speed. Once can do this successfully, taking as much time as you need before each measure, you can add the metronome. Adding the metronome actually limits and automates the time that you spend on each "think spot." Eventually, of course, you will take away this extra time spent on "think spots," and hopefully by then, you will have given both your brain and your fingers enough practice to get through the entire passage, accident-free!
Hope this helps you with your practicing and/or your teaching! Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.
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