Violin slowing perception of time

April 22, 2019, 3:18 PM · Ok, it sounds like a joke, but I'm partially serious this time.
I'll be practising my scales in eighth notes with the metronome at some very high value (200+) and it'll seem to change speed when I'm playing versus when I'm not.
The metronome obviously feels fast at 250, but when I start playing it suddenly feels much slower, and when I stop it feels like it speeds back up again. I recorded myself, so I know I'm not falling out of time.

Perhaps I've finally approached David Krakovich's level of virtuosity and my playing is actually so good and fast it bends the fabric of reality—except in such a way that it sounds in tune (a sign that I'm not quite there yet).

Replies (16)

April 22, 2019, 3:41 PM · I may be taking some kind of bait here but... when working up a piece to a higher tempo (um, not 200), I've noticed similar things happening. And I think this is called "flow" or simply: being fully present.

I used to have this happen when I was a visual artist - time would cease to slow or stop, then I'd come out of my flow-state and HOURS would have elapsed.

April 22, 2019, 3:42 PM · I said I was still playing in time. When I play, it feels much slower than X bpm, but when I listen to my own recording, it sounds like X bpm. As it should.
April 22, 2019, 4:34 PM · post the recording, because I really doubt you're playing as with the metronome as you think you are.

that said, you're probably just psyching yourself out looking at the number / getting information overload. If you think about it, eighths at 240 are the same as sixteenths at 120, which is a very comfortable tempo - hardly pushing landspeed records - so it's not surprising it doesn't feel frantic to play.

April 22, 2019, 5:04 PM · Pamela said what I was gonna say.
April 22, 2019, 5:10 PM · I'm trying to figure out what possible benefit there could be to practicing eighth notes at 200+. Set the metronome to a more reasonable tempo and practice sixteenths or 32nds. That constant ticking must be maddening.

I do the Galamian acceleration exercise at 84, up to 32nd notes.

April 22, 2019, 5:17 PM · I see this with students all the time; it's simple time dilation.

The metronome will most likely appear to speed up when you are focusing the hardest, and slow down when the music becomes easier and your focus relaxes. This is also why students usually play ahead of the metronome during the easy sections.

I prescribe a dose of LSD.

Or, what Mary Ellen said. Besides the fact that 8ths=240 is way more chaotic than 4ths=120, 2nds= 60, or wholes=30, it also prevents you from "chunking" the information in an efficient way.

April 22, 2019, 7:19 PM · When I was a kid practicing Flesch, Schradiek etc. made time go slow.

REALLY slow.

April 22, 2019, 8:43 PM · My experience has been that when I can play fast passages with no trouble it's because they no longer seem fast to me,

I olden times I always practiced my orchestra 1st violin parts about 10% faster than we would perform them, thus in performance they never seemed fast.

Perhaps you are experiencing this phenomenon, Cotton.

Edited: April 22, 2019, 9:15 PM · I have trouble with metronome ticks at very low tempos (I subdivide in my head anyways), so I play my scales in eighths starting around 60 or 80 and ramp it up over time. Hence 200+ bpm.

It would be more logical to use a slower tick and count sixteenths. But how can I dostinguish myself in such a saturated market of amazing virtuosos if I use my metronome like everybody else? I have to set myself apart.

I only feel this effect when I play something I know very well. If my conductor is getting us to sightread something brand-new and diabolical at performance tempo, then yeah—it feels fast.

April 23, 2019, 9:19 AM · If you have trouble with metronome ticks at low levels, then you are NOT subdividing in your head. That is the essence of playing faster and faster subdivisions at a relatively low tempo. This is a necessary skill and one I highly recommend you work on, rather than keeping the training wheels on by simply setting the metronome at a high rate.
April 23, 2019, 9:36 AM · Cotton, perhaps your metronome has a reversed polarity. Try removing the batteries and replacing them with the + and - leads pointing the other way. It sounds like your metronome might be beating backwards instead of forwards.

Just one more tweak to add to your collection...

April 23, 2019, 11:15 AM · One thing that might be going on, and I'm serious here, is that when the brain is flooded with either adrenaline, or that other speedy neurochemical for which I forget the name, the brain starts processing more quickly, and memory improves. It's like going from 30 frames per second to sixty frames per second. It helps us deal with crisis situations. Like things going slo-mo in a car wreck.

End of serious portion.

Maybe you're scaring yourself with that fast tempo. Try playing "Fight or Flight of the Bumblebee".

April 23, 2019, 6:57 PM · Neural pathways are still physical ones. It takes actual time for the message from your brain to reach your fingers, and it's likely that the pathways to some fingers takes longer than others. However, your brain is convinced that all fingers are the same (regarding time to activate), so when it takes extra time for the finger to work, the brain adjusts its "clock* and this feels like time speeding up. The opposite is true for fingers that take less time to activate. Time appears to slow down.

There are multiple versions of this phenomenon that can occur, resulting in time dilation in all sorts of different movements. For example, upbow staccato played with a metronome will likely make the metronome seem temporarily faster, likewise with any other movement that requires extra processing time or for the nerve signal to carry a longer distance.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that what you're experiencing is pretty normal.

Edited: April 24, 2019, 9:47 AM · Very interesting and perceptive responses to a subtle issue - musically and in every other way.

As a Clinical Psychologist, I can tell you that one of the main factors here is focus of attention (what you notice). That is, WHAT you pay attention to, HOW you pay attention to it, what OTHER THINGS you pay attention to at about the same time, what you DON'T pay attention to, and so forth.

Also, we can only pay full - 100% - attention to only one thing at a time. We usually think we are paying attention to different things at the same time. This is often described as "multi-tasking," but actually you can't "multi-task" your focus of attention.

In reality, we are usually rapidly shifting our focus of attention back and forth from one thing to another in a matter of milliseconds. This is human nature.

In addition, the way in which we pay attention can alter our perception of it, including the speed we experience what we perceive. That is, our perception, feelings, and a hundred other momentary intervening thoughts can alter our sense of how fast or slow time is going.

To pay full, 100% attention to one thing that we choose to and to that one thing only is a considerable achievement. But it is what we strive for in playing music.

Hope that helps.

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