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Developing speed?


polkat
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I'm an early intermediate level player. I play mostly swing jazz violin, standards, and some gypsy jazz. I have no problems with improvising and picking good notes and runs to play, but I have a problem with playing fast. When I try to push my speed, my left hand simply won't follow my brain and i end up sliding around instead of playing clear notes. I'm okay with slower to medium tempos, but not the faster stuff. I always practice runs slowly at first, and try to build up tempo, but my fast stuff is hopeless.

What have others here done to help themselves with this problem (I know that I'm not the only one)? Thanks?

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I'm an early intermediate level player. I play mostly swing jazz violin, standards, and some gypsy jazz. I have no problems with improvising and picking good notes and runs to play, but I have a problem with playing fast. When I try to push my speed, my left hand simply won't follow my brain and i end up sliding around instead of playing clear notes. I'm okay with slower to medium tempos, but not the faster stuff. I always practice runs slowly at first, and try to build up tempo, but my fast stuff is hopeless.

What have others here done to help themselves with this problem (I know that I'm not the only one)? Thanks?

The problem with playing fast is not so much that the fingers can't physically go that fast, but mentally we don't work enough on grouping notes so that our brain doesn't think of each individual note, thus limiting the speed. Starting slowly is a great idea but it limits you in the final top speed. An analogy is walking vs. running: no matter how much one speeds up a walk, the motion is different than a run and it will always stay so, thus limiting the top speed.

IMHO, one should practice grouping notes in a run or passage by using rhythms: group two notes, then three, four, six, eight, etc, depending on the grouping of the notes in said passage. For example, I start by practicing an even note passage (16ths, grouped in fours) with a dotted 8th followed by a 16th and repeating this unit, slurring 4. Then I reverse the rhythm, 16th followed by dotted eighth, thus grouping two notes. The next group is two eighths followed by two 16ths; eighth, two 16ths, eighth; two 16ths, two eighths. Next I approximate a rhythm best described as a long eighth followed by three quick notes, moving the longer note so that eventually every note will get a turn being the long note. In this fashion, the brain gets used to thinking in groups of two, three then four, thinking of larger and larger units and thinking less, thus allowing the fingers greater velocity.

I hope it's somewhat useful advice. If nothing else, it makes repetition a bit less monotonous.

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I agree with sefir's suggestions. Generally the problem is training the mind to grab larger spans of notes, and not be thinking about individual notes. Specifically, practicing different rhythmic patterns, as sefir suggests, imposed on a passage will get you the clarity you want in fast passages.

My addition to sefir's suggestions would be to lift some technique builders from the classically trained violinist, namely practicing scales and arpeggios, and maybe even etudes.

Practice 2 or 3 octave scales and arpeggios with a metronome until you can play those scales, as 16th notes, at about 120 to 140 beats per quarter note, cleanly, by memory. This will allow you to grab mentally at one time any string of notes that looks like a scale or arpeggio, whether that's a half dozen notes or 2 dozen.

The point at which you begin your metronome setting doesn't matter. If that's 60, that's fine. The idea is to be able to play cleanly and accurately whatever the initial setting is. Then over time, weeks, months, gradually crank up the metronome setting.

You might also look at the standard etudes for violinists, such as Dont opus 37 and Kreutzer and do the same kind of metronome work.

I remember reading somewhere that Joe Venuti, or maybe it was Stephane Grappelli, regularly did his scales.

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skiingfiddler said...

>>I remember reading somewhere that Joe Venuti, or maybe it was Stephane Grappelli, regularly did his scales.

Must have been Venuti. It's well known that Grappelli hated to practice and rarely did (although I have to believe that he did so in his earlier years). Can you suggest an arpeggio book that might help? Not being classically oriented, I don't recognize the musical suggestions given. Thanks!

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Definitely go with the Kruetzer studies...

Just out of idle curiosity, what sort of condition is your bow in? I found a lot of my problems in the end had little to do with my coordination, and more to do with the fact that I entered the 7th grade exam with a bow that was worth less than $50 and hadn't been rehaired in at least 7 years. Just remember there are also physical limitations involved...

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I'm an early intermediate level player. I play mostly swing jazz violin, standards, and some gypsy jazz. I have no problems with improvising and picking good notes and runs to play, but I have a problem with playing fast. When I try to push my speed, my left hand simply won't follow my brain and i end up sliding around instead of playing clear notes. I'm okay with slower to medium tempos, but not the faster stuff. I always practice runs slowly at first, and try to build up tempo, but my fast stuff is hopeless.

What have others here done to help themselves with this problem (I know that I'm not the only one)? Thanks?

Do you have a teacher? If not, it may be that you have developed a technical problem or could benefit by some directed study.

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I don't know how much Grappelli practiced but I do know that as an adult he used to fly over from Paris to London for lessons with the great classical violinist Alfredo Campoli. Alfredo told me that when Grappelli had completed his studies with him, he sent him a letter thanking him for turning his left hand from rubber to steel. I'm assuming that meant a fair amount of practice. Alfredo had me doing the Dancla "Ecole du Méchanisme" Op. 74 daily and my guess is that is what he had Grappelli doing as well. I still do it and follow Alfredo's suggestion (order) written in my copy alongside numbers 8 and 15: "Eight times without stopping".

Ron

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I don't know how much Grappelli practiced but I do know that as an adult he used to fly over from Paris to London for lessons with the great classical violinist Alfredo Campoli. Alfredo told me that when Grappelli had completed his studies with him, he sent him a letter thanking him for turning his left hand from rubber to steel. I'm assuming that meant a fair amount of practice. Alfredo had me doing the Dancla "Ecole du Méchanisme" Op. 74 daily and my guess is that is what he had Grappelli doing as well. I still do it and follow Alfredo's suggestion (order) written in my copy alongside numbers 8 and 15: "Eight times without stopping".

Ron

Did he also emply the"Ecole du Velocite" as well? None of my teachers used the Dancla books but I love using them now as a teacher.

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Can you suggest an arpeggio book that might help? Not being classically oriented, I don't recognize the musical suggestions given. Thanks!

The classic scale studies book for violin is Hrimaly. I used that book back in the 1960's. I no longer remember whether arpeggios are included in that book, but I suspect they are.

Looking at one of the more recent scale studies books that does include arpeggios, CARL FLESCH SCALE SYSTEM, edited by Max Rostal, published by Carl Fischer, 1987, looks good. You would want to pick and choose what would be helpful to you, and you might want to use fingerings that are more 1st and 3rd position oriented.

I'd suggest going to a good music store and looking through the violin scales and arpeggios books to see what would work for you.

Thom's suggestion about getting a teacher is a good one. No book can substitute for a good teacher.

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The classic scale studies book for violin is Hrimaly. I used that book back in the 1960's. I no longer remember whether arpeggios are included in that book, but I suspect they are.

Looking at one of the more recent scale studies books that does include arpeggios, CARL FLESCH SCALE SYSTEM, edited by Max Rostal, published by Carl Fischer, 1987, looks good. You would want to pick and choose what would be helpful to you, and you might want to use fingerings that are more 1st and 3rd position oriented.

I'd suggest going to a good music store and looking through the violin scales and arpeggios books to see what would work for you.

Thom's suggestion about getting a teacher is a good one. No book can substitute for a good teacher.

A more accessible scale and arpeggio book that is based on the Flesch system is "Two Octave Scales and Arpeggios for Violin" by Susan C. Brown and is widely available at most stores or online. Like with all the suggestions posted by the others, a teacher would save a lot of time even if for just a few lessons.

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skiingfiddler said...

>>I remember reading somewhere that Joe Venuti, or maybe it was Stephane Grappelli, regularly did his scales.

Must have been Venuti. It's well known that Grappelli hated to practice and rarely did (although I have to believe that he did so in his earlier years). Can you suggest an arpeggio book that might help? Not being classically oriented, I don't recognize the musical suggestions given. Thanks!

I know this isn't exactly the same thing, but this comment brought this to mind. Nigel Kennedy used to complain to a good friend of his that I went to school with that when he played concerts with Grapelli, he always insisted on having a rehearsal. Kennedy always thought that practicing for an improvisational jazz concert kind of defeated the purpose. (Though personally I envision that they simply went over the charts and plotted out general guidlines, which seems reasonable, but I don't know . . .)

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