Practicing Slowly Speeds Things Up

December 16, 2007 at 07:51 PM · Never have I improved so much so fast, within reason, of course. What did I do? Simple, practiced Yost shifting, scales, and Kreutzer etudes very very slowly using a metronome. What have I been missing? A lot apparently.

I practice slowly quite frequently, but not this slowly. I took the Yost shifting exercises and practiced the ones that would be found in the scales I would work on later, but to a metronome set at 60. Two to three beats up and the same down. Then up and down each taking one beat. Along the way up and down I paid attention to shifting smoothly and taking note of which notes I was passing on the way up and down for future reference. Kind of like marking your way through deep woods so you can find your way back again sometime later.

After that got boring I hit the scales, again very slowly and if I missed a shift by a bit I immediately went back four or five notes and repeated the shift. Then gradually speeded things up a bit. I'm enjoying playing the three octave scales in tune and with good tone to speed it up too much right now.

The big improvement came with the Kreutzer #2, for example, #1 is already slow so I won't belabor that one.

What I found going super slow is a lot of notes

I had not noticed before where I could put a finger down a few notes in advance and just sit on it until it was played. There are plenty of those if you look carefully. Or really getting the feeling of a shift or a big finger stretch, things I had missed before going faster.

In flying a jetliner your brain must be at least about 20 miles ahead of the plane, and sometimes 150 miles or you could end up as a nasty statistic. Keeping a few measures ahead of where you're playing by going slowly also makes life a lot easier. Make haste slowly, you'll get there faster.

P.S., shhh, don't tell anyone, you can play the Kreutzers as doublestops, use your intuitive imagination on that, you'll find them.

Replies (26)

December 17, 2007 at 02:27 AM · Congratulations. You have discovered how to practice effectively. The next step is to get off this site and back in the practice room.

December 17, 2007 at 03:24 AM · Greeitngs,

Charlie always gets feisty around Christmas time.



December 17, 2007 at 07:49 PM · Dear Ray,

I am sorry if I was rude in my post. My intention was to be helpful. I am very glad you found a way of practicing that is extremely beneficial for you. I am curious how you figured out how to practice like this.

Would I be safe to assume that you took what you knew that already worked well for you, combined it with a few suggestions from different people, and just sat down and physically worked it out?

December 17, 2007 at 10:51 PM · Greetings,

Charlie , I wasn`t equating feistiness with rudeness;) Notice also the subliminal effect I has on Al. He used the word feisty in his blog..



December 17, 2007 at 10:53 PM · Charlie, I didn't take that as rude at all, in fact I got a chuckle out of that and actually did end up practing a bit more.

My teacher, Dana Myers of the SLSO, suggested shifting very slowly and "like being in a taxi," she said, "enjoy the ride up and down." I just slowed it down, scales and Kreutzer, a little bit more and tossed in the metronome to keep it smooth. My friend, concert violinist Adam Han-Gorsky, also the former CM of the Minneapolis Symphony, has mentioned similar things in the recent past. Going that slowly opened up things I had never noticed, kind of like driving slowly past a very scenic area and noticing details you never saw before because you were always in a hurry.

December 18, 2007 at 05:14 AM · My teacher, Lewis Kaplan, is a big proponent of practicing like'd think that practicing a Prokofiev concerto at less than half tempo would be suicide-inducing, but honestly that method of practice is so much more effective than anything I've ever tried. Festina lente, I suppose...Anyone experience this too?

The key though is HOW you practice. If you practice it like it's boring, you're never going to get anything done...but if you figure out how to do EVERYTHING in slow motion, just like you would in tempo, it lets you really listen...

December 18, 2007 at 07:38 PM · Right, if it is "boring," then your mind will be in other places than the practice room. Honestly, the biggest improvement in my practicing was when I decided to stop using my fingers and start using my mind.

To Buri, I did not realize there was a difference in the two words, and to Ray, I am glad you have a sense of humor.

December 18, 2007 at 10:30 PM · Greetings,


adjective, feist·i·er, feist·i·est. 1. full of animation, energy, or courage; spirited; spunky; plucky: The champion is faced with a feisty challenger.

2. ill-tempered; pugnacious.

3. troublesome; difficult: feisty legal problems.

I menat the first,



December 18, 2007 at 11:07 PM · I'm all of the above.

December 18, 2007 at 11:13 PM · and more

December 19, 2007 at 12:12 AM · Thank you for clearing things up, Buri. Perhaps we could expand on Ray's original topic though, rather than have vocabulary lessons?

December 19, 2007 at 12:55 AM · I prefer the vocabulary lesson

December 19, 2007 at 02:14 AM · stop beiung feisty Charlie. The threa dis still running. Nobody is being prevented from contributing.

December 19, 2007 at 03:17 AM · ...just so long as Charlie doesn't mention frozen poop on a stick, he's okay by me.

December 19, 2007 at 03:38 AM · eeew

December 21, 2007 at 07:32 AM · So, to get back to the original intent of this thread, we can conclude that in order to master a difficult piece, one needs merely to begin slowly and gradually play it feistier and feistier.

December 21, 2007 at 02:59 AM · That's what Hahn says. But she also recognizes the loss of flow in the process.

Here's something pretty interesting (at least to me?)

I can slow down Suzuki material to half-speed on the Cd's to listen to them... Only then, and almost the first time (actually after thirty months as you all know), was I able to start getting the oscillations fluidly and consistently in the vibrations, relaxing the wrist and keeping a well-shaped hand.

But I played through the oh, I guess first 2/3's of the Gavotte next to the end of Suzuki 3, with just real well placed even and clean oscillations with a nice shaped hand this way.....

So yes..

December 21, 2007 at 03:17 AM · But I wouldn't describe Hahn as feisty, would you?

December 21, 2007 at 03:21 AM · She is one of the most tame players I have ever heard.

December 21, 2007 at 03:22 AM · Je t`ame

December 21, 2007 at 03:53 AM · My problem is bow speed. When playing really slow my bow speed sounds big yet slow like a big giant saying, "FEE FI FO FUM, I FEEL THE BAD INTONATION OF AN UNTALENTED ONE." I get these horrible swells and what not. Don't respond to this question, because I am about to answer it myself; Maybe I should jsut practice slowly a little bit more and address the above metnioned problem.

December 21, 2007 at 04:44 AM · I just got good tone production recently actually starting over sort of, so I'm in the same boat Jasmine.... Patience....

Gone are the big days of grand detache for a'spell.

December 21, 2007 at 04:59 AM · Hahn? Feisty? no way..

December 21, 2007 at 03:13 PM · Don't forget, you can still put in dynamics, musicality and feeling even when going slowly.

Shifting exercises, like Yost, are terrific at slow speeds as you can hit the shifts dead on no matter how far you travel every time. Then speed up the metronome by 15 and start over again for awhile. You're also working the mind like crazy while going slowly. Slow does not bean lethargic.

At slow speeds you're taking everything in that's happening correctly so it still works as you speed up.

What you're doing is emulating the duck, all calm and serene on the surface but paddling like crazy underneath.

December 21, 2007 at 05:15 AM · And, Wohlfahrt variations.

December 30, 2007 at 04:47 PM · Ray's method is a very good one! I fully endorse it.

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