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Clean and Smooth Fast Passage


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Does anyone have advice on learning a difficult fast passage. At a

slow tempo, I can play everything in tune, shifts clean and

accurate. As I increase tempo, intonation goes down the toilet, and

i miss shifts all over the place.I think part of the problem is

that when i increase the tempo, my shifts get rather fast (I

wouldn't say too jerky tho...?) Does anyone have advice to remedy

the smoothness aspect of shifting at fast tempo...?

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From what you've described, it sounds like you're already using Collin's method of practicing (if you're not, it's a good way to solve your problem). It sounds like something is going on with your mechanics. It's pretty hard to diagnose a problem like this over the internet but here are a few suggestions:

1. Make sure that your left elbow finds its ideal position before you shift.

2. If you usually feel your shifts in your fingers, try feeling it in your arm (shifting is nothing more than your elbow opening and closing).

3. I think you're onto something when you say "my shifts get rather fast." Try keeping your shifts as slow as possible so as to fit in the tempo.

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My top tip for this is to practice in rhythms.

I use the patterns from the Galamian/Neumann book but almost anything will help.

Also (and this may cause a few brows to rise) be careful not to have shifts which work poorly at speed.

Same finger shifts tend to be slower than different finger shifts and also it is important to let the fingers relax unless you specifically need the rhythmic articulation.

Let us know the passage...easy or hard, and someone will remember having struggled with it for sure.


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What you could try (always helps me) is to pick out a fast passage,

play the notes two by two, very short and fast. Take a bit of time

in between the pairs to focus on the coming two before you actually

play them. Vary the pairs, so you don�t always have the same

two connecte by starting of with maybe the second & third

note... Next step is to connect 3 notes, keep up speed still paus

in between to concentrate on the coming 3. You can move on, connect

more and more until you become secure about the whole passage...

happy practicing hope it works for you! Martina

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  • 2 weeks later...

Concentrate on the sections that pose a problem until they are resolved, then work them into the rest of the piece. Otherwise you are wasting time and causing your mind to stumble whenever you approach the rough spots.

Fairly basic but don't forget the 2nd and 4th positions. It is infinitely easier to move up or down one step than 2 or more.

Can you use a stretched 4th finger instead of crossing strings? How about a lowered first finger without shifting. Watch great soloists resolve such issues without breaking into a sweat.

Just to repeat because it is important, make sure your shifts work at fast speed. It is a mechanical thing, with limits in relation to how complicated you make it.

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There's a lot of great advice here already, but I want to add "hear, hear" to Lymond's shifting advice, and T_D's point about relaxing. When I have learned something well up to a certain speed, and have to get over the bump, I find it essential to slow my breathing and do some mental relaxation - close eyes, breathe deeply, open eyes, and with a spirit of calm, jack that metronome up one more notch and let the fingers dance on the end of a smooth-moving (not too excited) arm. It's almost foolproof.

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Good advice, I'll just add a few comments. Take the 2 by 2 comment and expand on it. Practice fast in small groups, always staggering the start and stop point. Here is the big one for me, find anchor notes. By this I mean notes where you mentally pivot from one group to the next. Often these are notes that you can stretch just a little due to the chord progression or line and give you just a tiny little break sot eh mind and grab a hold of what is next.

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