How to learn music faster

April 16, 2008 at 02:29 AM · I am learning Bach's Fugue and Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen and I have to perform both in a month. Are there any techniques to speed up the process? I've been performing the same concerto for almost a year now, so I've been out of learning new rep.

Any help would be nice


Replies (10)

April 16, 2008 at 02:40 AM · Greetings,

yes. Try playng through the work or passages without violin or bow (shadow palying) as the last thing you do before you get into bed at night.

A useful and underutilized technqiue.



April 16, 2008 at 02:19 PM · There are lots of volumes on the subject, various schools of thought. The subject touches on everything from 'tips' to psychology.

The avoidance of wasting time through an organized approach seems a common theme. I recall my favorite teacher giving me a 'warning' of sorts. He said (paraphrased from memory of 30 years ago), "Sometimes you hear the professionals make mistakes on the simpler passages, because they knew to practice the difficult ones carefully and didn't round out their attention, assuming the simpler ones would simply go well".

It's not the most significant point I ever learned, but a few experiences thereafter underlined the point; overlook nothing.

Among the most significant tips and ideas I've read about and found true is the notion of 'mental practice'. The idea that practice within the imagination can be as effective as real practice, though the equality of effectiveness could be slightly overstated. The hands and arms to need their time at the instrument.

My point, though, is that there can be several minutes, amounting to hours, where one can 'practice' without an instrument. Dull moments spent waiting in traffic, between classes, waiting in a cashier line. It can give you the appearance of the distracted genius because sometimes you might not notice you've detached from your surroundings. It can, however, add an hour or two to your available preparation time with good effect.

April 16, 2008 at 02:55 PM · There is a wonderful website: dedicated to this topic.

From there you can check out, and order if you wish:

"The Practice Revolution" by Phillip Johnston which is the best book I have seen on this subject.

April 16, 2008 at 08:00 PM · hypnosis

Yes it works, you can even hypnotise yourself.

April 17, 2008 at 05:11 AM · Listen, listen, listen, listen... Whatever else you're doing, you need lots of input on how the violin should sound. Hang out on youtube, go to concerts and generally immerse yourself in violin sound all the time.

I remember one summer spent living in an apartment with a really great violinist. This guy was working on a lot of stuff that summer and playing all the time so I pretty much was surrounded by great sound and technique all that summer. The memory of that experience supplied many shortcuts that I wouldn't have thought of otherwise and that I didn't even know I had learned!

April 17, 2008 at 01:32 PM · Play it by memory for people a lot. Grab a passerby and say "come listen to my Bach!" You learn things during these little performances about yourself and it helps pinpoint the parts where you get nervous or your fingering does not work.

April 17, 2008 at 01:47 PM · "The faster you want to play, the slower you have to practice." -my teacher, Sally O'Reilly

I practice passagework in the following manner:

1. Excruciatingly slow practice to create a solid foundation. For me this ranges from MM 60 or 80 with one note per beat, up to half-tempo.

2. Once I'm comfortable with my passage in the above manner, I use the metronome again for agility expansion. Obviously, everyone has their own preferences for this step. I start at about half tempo, and go up by 1-4 notches depending on the ease of the passage. I spend a lot of time on the lower tempi. Don't move on if it isn't perfect, and don't worry if you don't get up to speed on a particular day. Better slow and solid than fast and out-of-control. Remember, your brain regurgitates kinesthetic input, so if you are inputting wrong notes at high speeds, your chances of mistakes in a performance are higher.

3. As I polish a passage, I run it occasionally at full speed to A) check on its status and B) rehearse agility. I am not of the mind that the brain can entirely speed up slow practice - I think that some rehearsal at top speed is the only way to develop the proper agility. That said, I spend about 80% of practice at this point at half speed, polishing away at the foundation.

Hope this helps. :)

April 17, 2008 at 04:24 PM · The problem with playing at slow speed is that your bow speed will be slow,and the sound will be different to normal bow speed.

April 20, 2008 at 12:41 AM · You can still bow up to speed and use the slow fingering.

April 20, 2008 at 03:08 AM · Juda,

The way to go about practicing fast passages slowly is to make every motion larger and use more bow. As you get faster, all the motions and the amount of bow get smaller until, at the full tempo, these motions are the right size and speed. Don't worry that the bow speed is slower or whatever, just make sure that all the motions you use are proportional, i.e. look like a slowed down version of the fast passage in question. This includes the speed of the fingers, string crossings etc. Basically, you are choreographing the movements at a slow speed, just like a dancer walking through a difficult part of a dance.

Also, Marina is right about those little test performances. Basically, you use these performances to test your piece "to destruction", i.e. see where it's going to break down under realistic performance pressure.

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