How do you play faster?

January 29, 2007 at 05:33 AM · Hello all,

I've searched around but I haven't found an article that shows you how to practice to play faster. Now don't suggest to play it over and over again until you get faster, there have got to be a technique!

I've read that you just "drop" the finger and lift it but I really don't get this. My note isn't clear when I do that since I need to use more muscles to press on the string.

Also, I find that if I play each note w/ only one finger on the finger board, I can play faster but if I keep any fingers on the board, I have to struggle to keep it going (and I know this is bad). an example would be the running passage of Czardas (which is what I'm trying to learn)

Any excercise or techniques you can show me?

Replies (20)

January 29, 2007 at 05:57 AM · Greetings,

it`s possible you have two problems here.

1) The degre eof finger pressure varies according to the spee doyu arevplaying. So if you pracitce slowly with the finger pressure oyu would use at that speed then you are not pracitcng at all as you would play fast and are essentially wasitng time.

2) The fingers move form the base jopint . Vey often the over involvement of too much forearm muscle leaves one unable to play fast.

3) Pracitcing with dotted rythms allows one to pracitc efats while palying slowly. Remember thta the focus of attention should be on the lifting of the fingers not the dropping.

4) You may have a coordination problem in the Czardas. To solve this use a hooked note method.

That is, plat the first note on a down bow. Repeat it on the up bow slurred ot the second. Repeat the second sluured to the third. Reapt the third slurred to the fourth and so on. Gte this faster and fatser with the metronome until you are off the scale. this tehcnique forces the left hand to change ahea dof the bow, or rather it ensure taht it is alread chnagedbefore the bow changes diretcion.

5) To develop speed try practicing the Galamian aceleration exercise on your scales.



January 29, 2007 at 10:52 AM · Fingering choices can also slow you down.

January 29, 2007 at 07:27 PM · I once had someone tell me when you've got a passage and you have been working on it, and you can't get it faster, take (in this case) a bar or two and sing it at the speed you want (getting the closest approximation of pitches you can -- thinking each and every note, since you have been playing it). So, it would be like this:

"da-da-da-da-Da-da-da-da-da" (perhaps repeat a couple of times, to make sure you've got it)

PLAY "da-da-da-da-Da-da-da-da"

Repeat process a few times for those bars. Move on.

For some reason, this often works. You have to do your homework ahead of time -- but I think the concept behind it is retraining your brain to think of it at full speed after all the slow practice. It gives you a chance to think the fingers without them slowing you down. I got the Barber 3rd movement up to a slow performance tempo this way after doing rhythms, just a couple of bars at a time.

January 29, 2007 at 08:49 PM · Greetings,

Valerie, that is so true. I think in many people's cases they do all the exercises , follow all the advice, but when it comes ot mentall running through a short passage at speed the mind stummbles and fumbles becuase it simply doe snot have a clear pictur eof what you wnat the body to do. If the mental im,age is not there no amount of practice is going to help you in the end. We are what we think we are,



January 29, 2007 at 08:46 PM · When I'm trying to speed something up, the first thing I do is to isolate the left and right hands and try to see if there is something specific slowing me down -- so for example, if you have a fast sautille passage, you might try playing it legato at various speeds, with rhythms, etc to work out any left hand issues before you worry about the bow. You might also try executing the bowings you want on open strings or on a scale to see if there's a right hand problem.

From the first post, it sounds like a left-hand problem...if you need more exercises, you might want to work on Kreutzer 9 a little bit, or some trill exercises to work on finger independence.

Once the left and right hands are working okay separately, you need to put them together. For detached strokes, the rhythm comes from the bow, and so your left hand fingers have to be in place ahead of the bow strokes -- sometimes it helps me to think about the left hand having a rhythm that is slightly "on top of the beat" compared to the right hand. You can use almost anything as an etude for this -- Kreutzer 2 with bowing variations, or scales...

The thing that helps me the most in connecting slow practice to fast playing is to think about playing groups of notes rather than individual notes. Slow practice is great but if you're used to thinking about your notes one at a time, it doesn't transfer well to fast playing, because the notes go by too quickly.

Good luck!

January 29, 2007 at 10:30 PM · Schradiek (I think it's the second book)wrote some good etudes for developing dexterity in the positions. That book is really really helpful for this.

I have to keep my fingers very close to the fingerboard and use a light touch in order to speed things up.

How did I develop a light touch? I don't know. One day I woke up and decided to think light, and to let the tension go out of my left hand. Truly. The mind is very powerful.

Amen to Peter's comment about thinking of notes in terms of "packages." That has helped me with the last page of Intro and Rondo Capriccioso.

January 29, 2007 at 10:51 PM · Greetings,

its the firts book. They are very good.



January 30, 2007 at 01:57 AM · I'm unfamiliar with the Galamian aceleration. I tried to google it but nothing come up. Can anyone point me to where I can find out more about it.

I will try the singing method to see if it works. But right now as I try to move my finger fast in a pattern 1-2-3-3-2-1, I can't get it to go faster after a certain point. ahhh so depressed...

January 30, 2007 at 03:18 AM · A good way to learn to play passages faster (especially for fast 16th or 32nd passages) is to play them with different rhythms at a slower tempo. This will enable your fingers to "learn" the passage, and it will become more intuitive.

Common rhythms used with this method are: 1) Long-short (like a dotted eighth and a 16th note) 2) short-long (16th note tied to a dotted 8th) and 3) short-short-long (16th-16th-8th, or if u prefer 8th-8th-quarter). Play the passage at a varaity of speeds, usually starting with fairly slow tempos. Alternate liberally between rhythms as well. You can also try to make more complicated ones as you get better like (long long, short long short). remember not to use too much bow, not much more hten you would use when you will be bringing the passage up to tempo. When you are done practicing with rhythms, try playing the passage as written, i think you will see some drastic improvement. Ive been recommended this method by numerous times, and by god, it works.

PS. Harmonic fingers (as if u were playing every note as a harmonic) will allow you to move your fingers much faster and will keep your left hand loose and free. they will often be all the pressure needed when playing such fast passages.

January 30, 2007 at 03:16 AM · Hi Duc,

Try this.....tap all of your fingers up and down on the strings of your choice. Make sure that all fingers tap together. Feel the lightness that results from doing this quickly. When the fingers come off the fingerboard, they are reacting to your initial push. The closer the fingers to the violin, the faster you'll move them. Then, try each finger at a time.

One important thing: Playing quickly is not an excuse for forgetting slow practice. Before ANYTHING can be played quickly, it needs to be impeccable at a slower tempo. That being said, if you are practicing fast pieces slowly, you have to make your muscles act as if you were playing quickly. For instance, you wouldn't slam your fingers onto the fingerboard, when doing this, just as you wouldn't use more bow than necessary when going slowly.

Good luck!


January 30, 2007 at 04:33 AM · Thank you for all your suggestions, I will try them all!

a side question. What are your warm up and stretching rituals? I sometime pop my knuckle (out of itchiness, I dont' think this is good for the joints) and bend my fingers backward and pull on them in order to relax them.

what other warm up do you do other than playing the scales and your favorite passages?

January 30, 2007 at 09:29 AM · I've never had to warm up. Everyone is different. Playing something slowly until my mind activates works for me. If your fingers are cold, try handwashing dishes.

January 30, 2007 at 12:04 PM · I stretch every morning before practice. First, I start with my back muscles by pulling my arm against a wall or doorpost (kinda hard to explain). You turn your body clockwise or counter-clockwise while holding your hand against the wall. Then, I stretch my arms by holding my fingers up, palms down, with arms straight out. Each hand held for around 10 seconds. Then, I do the reverse - palms down.

Hope this helps,


January 30, 2007 at 09:03 PM · I've been practicing trills and I can tell that my pinky doesn't go quite as fast as the other fingers and I believe it's b/c it's weak. My friend back in HS use the finger excercise in order to strengthen his fingers. He used something like this

should I purchase one and work on my pinky?

P.S. I've worked on the (singing in my head) tip and it actually work! coool beans =)

edit: is it odd that when I use my 1,2,3 finger, my pinky point straight up and lock up the joints? and it slows down my pinky when I need to use it.

and my teacher once told me to wrap my thumb around and don't leave it behind when I shift but I have double joint and whenever I shift it always tend to be back there... I noticed that my wrist sticks outward (away from the fingerboard) when I move my thumb closer to me (when holding the violin), which is good for playing on the G string! (light bulb!) oooh self discovery! haha...

January 30, 2007 at 10:32 PM · On warming up...

I developed tendonitis three years ago, and while it's manageable now, I've learned my lesson!! I always, always, *always* stretch before, during, and after practicing. Especially when it's a demanding, technical practice session where I'm working on runs!

My cousin once said that she was told, at a summer string camp, that 99% of musicians who don't stretch will suffer an injury at some point. Think about it: it's like a sport, but worse because all of the motion is restricted and repetitive.

Always stretch slowly. I start with some back and shoulder stretches...tension anywhere can work its way down to your hands, or just make you uncomfortable.

Then I stretch my wrists. A great one is a "prayer position" stretch: keep your arms in front of you, parallel to the floor, with your elbows at a 90 degree angle. Then put your palms together, slowly bringing them lower until you feel the stretch.

I also like this one: stretch one arm straight out in front of you, palm up facing the ceiling. With your other hand, slowly bend your hand down towards the floor until you feel the stretch. You can also try this one in the opposite direction (start with your plam down before bending your hand down towards the floor).

I once printed out some great ones from the internet, but I cant remember where they came from! Hmm.

Hope that helps!


P.S. Galamian acceleration:

it's all done with slurs. First time throug, play the scale (both up and down the scale) with whole notes, one note per bow. Then play half notes, two per bow. Then triplets notes, three per bow. Then quarter notes. Then Then triplets, six per bow. Then eight. Then 12. The 16. Then the entire ascending scale. Then both up and down the scale in one bow.

I wrote this out for a three-octave scale, but it can be done with two-octave scales as well.

In order to make the scale bowings even, though, you have to add a fingering to the start of the scale and the end of it. In a three-octave scale, you start with a leap of a third and then step back down to the tonic before beginning.

ex., G major, 3 octaves:

(beginning fingering) G - B - A - (start the ascending scale) G - A - B - C - D -E - Fsharp - G - A - B - C - D -E - Fsharp - G - A - B - C - D -E - Fsharp - G - (start descending scale) Fsharp - E - D- C - B - A - G - Fsharp - E - D- C - B - A - G - Fsharp - E - D- C - B - A - G - (ending fingering) B - A - G

For a two-octave scale, instead of leaping to a third and stepping down to the tonic, you just play: tonic, leading tone, tonic, the rest of the scale, tonic, leading tone, tonic.

May 8, 2007 at 05:13 AM · I've recently bought the gripmaster, the blue light tension, and am finding it to be excellent for working out my pinky and ring fingers (which are my weakest ones). This product is better than most tension exercise products, because it allows you to exercise the fingers individually while also exercising the hand. Lol Laurie's method for warming up is to clean house, one can get their hands ready to and keep their house emaculate. Ha ha

May 9, 2007 at 05:13 AM · Metronome method works for me. First, I'll get over the obvious technical immaturity of the part that I want to speek up by playing each note slowly in tone, then gradually turn the metronome up when repeat. That is, if I can play a piece well at 80/bpm to start with, I will start to try 82 or 85 and to see if I’m missing any notes or having trouble with intonation or bowing. If not, repeat a few times and if I get consistent good result, I’ll go up 88 or more see how I’m handling that. I may be able to get from 80 to 100 in a same-day practice session, but the next day, I may have to start from 80 or 85 again to get up to 100 or faster. I’ll get faster over a period of days or even weeks of this speed-pushing practice. Then I have to slow down again if these fast parts don’t fit well with the rest of the piece, or if I notice some other technical problems (tone or articulation, for instance) that I need to fix on the fast part... it's just so not easy!

May 9, 2007 at 09:52 PM · first, you have to play efficiently to play fast. your fingers should be hovering above the note the whole time your wrist should be angled correctly. menuhin and milstein are a good model for left hand efficiency. as for right hand... you need to have your elbow up enough to get enough sound with just your wrist through fast passages but not so high that you're literally lifting the weight off. practice makes permanent so make sure you're doing the right things while you practice.

May 10, 2007 at 04:43 AM · People who can't play fast often think they don't have fast fingers, or just aren't talented. In my experience, my students can't play fast for one reason: they have not learned to prepare fingers properly before they are to be used, either across the strings, or for shifts. I emphasize 2 major points with my students:

1. the finger MUST be in place and ready to go down BEFORE the bow gets there. A "just-in-time/split-second finger placement" will only get you so fast--then you hit top speed and can't go any faster.

2. shifts MUST be started EARLY--the hand must be on its way the note before the shift. If you do it at the last micro-second, you'll be too slow at fast tempi.

hope this helps


May 10, 2007 at 07:42 PM · I read this story about some old chap in Taiwan decades ago who had, apparently, found a way to double the processor speed on the old 286 computerss. He had the whole technology world dumbfounded, until they realised that all he'd done was double the interrupt interval, ostensibly "doubling" the clock speed.

So maybe the answer to your question "How do I play faster?" is, "Make everyone listen slower."

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