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AJ

YAAARRRRGGHHH!!

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Okay, could someone please explain to me how to increase playing speed without completly losing intonation, and completly forgetting how to read music? My teacher has suggested that I start to pick up the speed on some of the songs I am learning as I have been learning them at about half tempo. It seems, though, that as soon as I start to pick up the speed my brain gets ahead of my fingers, and, realising what's happened, it goes back to look for them, getting completly lost in the process. Nothing resembling music comes out, and I am ready to throw my bow out the window.

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Use a Metronome. Start out at a tempo where you can play the piece with beautiful tone and you get the rhythm and other stuff perfect...then increase the tempo by one or two clicks...continue this until you're up to tempo...you'll memorize the music this way, too.

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iupviolin gave some great advise. Make sure to go slow enough that you can stay with the metronome at first, and really get it right before going on the the faster tempo.

The other school of thought is to jump right in and play up to tempo. Obviously you can't do the whole thing that fast, but pick a very small section and go for it. This works great for parts that are all 16th notes, and even. Do it in groups of 4-8 notes, or one measure at a time. I like to repeat the part without stopping over and over until it feels good before going on. Try not to break time or stop. You can also do this with the slow approach, gradually going faster until you've passed your desired tempo.

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only problem with starting fast is if you play wrong notes you might not realize it right away and then you keep practicing the mistake over and over, then it gets much harder to break, when i first learn something difficult i dont even use a metronome i just play it reallllllyyyy slow and work out all the shifts and figure out where my leading finger is going to and what positions im going to etc...

violinist are lucky we can slow down everything as much as we want, try playing golf

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Determine what the target tempo is for musicality (i.e., how fast would you play it if technical problems were not the issue? how would your favorite musician play it?) note the approximate metronome marking for that tempo, and then start even slower than you can already play it and work speed up one metronome marking at a time. At each repetition, concentrate on playing musically and with full expression, as if each repetition were a performance. You may reach your target tempo in one session or it may take a longer period of time. When you get to a tempo that is too fast for you to play accurately and musically, stop there and come back to increasing the speed another day -- work on other things until then.

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Here are some good steps to take:

First, memorize everything slowly, then work on smaller sections (2 to 3 measure sections) with the metronome and gradually raise the tempo as each section becomes easier and easier.

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Yup, I'm with the metronome crew. Once I have everything memorized, then use the metronome to give you a click at a ridiculously slow tempo. This helps really learn the passage...almost harder to remember very slow, than very fast. This will help memory. Then do just what they said...take it up a few clicks at a time. I always went for intervals of five 60, 65, 70. But go with what they said...and what HKV said...memorize it all.

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A metronome tip that i got from my teacher last lesson, that works mysteriously well:

When you're at a challenging tempo, focus on listening to the metronome, not yourself. Strive for complete accuracy with the beat. You'll find that when you hone in on evenness and fidelity to the beat, it will suddenly seem much slower and feel much easier. Mystical!

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Here's a variation of a technique I read about in _The Inner Game of Music_: It sounds like you're afraid to make a mistake in the passage, which makes your playing tense, so when you do in fact make a mistake you tense up even more and make more mistakes, and then look at your bow, and then at the window.... So perhaps, rather than playing the song at concert tempo, you should try playing it *faster* than concert tempo. Use a metronome, determine the proper tempo, increase that by 20% or so, and then try playing the piece. You will make a lot of mistakes, trust me, but don't dwell on them--just rip through the piece as fast as you can. Then try playing it at the proper tempo. If you're like me, you'll notice just how much time you seem to have between the metronome clicks.

Try it! Hope it helps.

Trent

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AJ, I feel your pain. The last movement of my Hindemith FLIES.

My teacher gave me a GREAT practice tip for fast passages, and it has worked in amazing ways -- it a relatively short amount of time, too.

1) First, section off the really hard passages in your piece, and vow to work on them EVERY DAY. (Repetition and muscle memory are crucial) The easier sections, work on perhaps every other day.

2) Second, as per many of the above comments, get out the metronome and begin the difficult passages at a PAINFULLY SLOW tempo -- a tempo so slow, you can play the passage perfectly with no troubles.

2) Then move up 3-5 clicks on the metronome. Repeat the passage.

3) As you get faster, don't move up as many clicks -- perhaps only move up 1-2 clicks.

4) When you begin to fall apart, STOP. Mark the tempo at which you SUCCESSFULLY ended for a reference point. *Move on to something else -- you won't be able to achieve anything better at this point.

5) Every day, when you begin work on these designated sections, always click your metronome back to a much slower tempo than you left from the previous day. (Again, you are just giving your brain time to think, and reinforcing the muscle memory)

6) Continue to click up the metronome, first in big steps (3-5 clicks) then in smaller steps (1-2 clicks) as you approach your last tempo marking. Try to beat your last tempo, even if it is only by a click.

You will reach your end tempo in a relatively short amount of time. Really.

If your doubtful, think of this analogy: What if - when you were in school - your teachers would have only taught you a particular subject one or two days a week, and crammed 5 days worth of material in one sitting? You would have failed the class, most likely, because your brain wouldn't have had time to effectively absorb and process the material through repetition and time. Same thing with playing difficult (and particularly fast) pieces -- if you "cram" in fast and furious practice sessions and don't take the neccessary time to absorb the "information" gradually, it will be nearly impossible to perform solidly.

I know the above process sounds very tedious, but it is effective and worthwhile -- at least is has been with me. I have found that this type of "grunt-work" is absolutely necessary.

I began utilizing this method a month ago when I felt my situation was quite hopeless, and that I would NEVER get the tempo fast enough (half note = 120). Now my Hindemith is currently 5 clicks away from being at tempo, and I have a month and a half before my recital -- plenty of time. (yea!)

I apologize, I just realized I sound like some horrid "Info-mercial." (Lose weight and be able to play your pieces at a break-neck speed, or your money back!) [smile]

Good luck, and hope this might have been helpful!

VG

[This message has been edited by Viola Girl (edited 03-15-2001).]

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Everyone's advice here is good, but don't overlook what Trent said, just because it goes a little against what everyone else said. Playing fast has always been one of my real failing points, because of the reasons Trent listed. Also, when you start playing pretty fast, and this is PARTICULARLY important in sight reading, your brain has to kind of shift into a new mode. When playing slow, you have plenty of time to think (conciously) about every note as you play, but when you play very quickly, you have to just let it go (in your mind) to a certain degree. It is kind of like reading words, in that if you really want to read fast, your brain has to shift into a new mode from the one which pronounces every word in your head. Well, when i start playing pretty fast, something often goes off in my mind where i feel like "ahh! i'm not in control, i can't think about every single note as i play it!" and my mind short circuits. Now, i don't play at as high of a technical level as some people here, but for me, playing slow has limited benefit (in terms of increasing speed), because it is this inability to just relax and let my fingers go, that short circuits me when i try to play really fast. Sight reading can have the same complications, in that if you can't just let yourself play, particularly in fast passages, your brain can often short-circuit your technique. My point is that my violin teacher (an excellent one) always told me to play slow and the speed would come, but for me it didn't really work that way. That works for many people, but it depends on what it is that is keeping you slowed down. I think if it is relaxing and letting your fingers go that is your stumbling block, or some other brain short-circuit that comes specifically from SPEED, then the only way to get over it is to leap in head first, play fast, and learn to let your fingers go (something i still can't do very well). Slow playing, of course, is essential in mastering the passages TECHNICALLY. It really depends on what is keeping you slow; it is not always a physical problem, or a technical inability to play that fast, sometimes it is in your head.

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A viola teacher that I've had a masterclass with (Lewis Rosove) had seven or eight steps for mastering a piece... I'll try to look the method up for you. I think I have a friend who knows all the steps... they're very tedious, but very effective. Normally I'm with the metronome crew. Remember to use small bows, play from the wrist, and don't use vibrato when playing slowly. Good luck!

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I'm with Alistair here. I'm definitely of the look before you leap personality and have had problems playing fast due to mental blocks.

One thing that has worked for me is to split the fast and slow practice within the music. Say you're working on a measure of sixteenth notes. The first time through play beats 1 and 3 fast and 2 and 4 slow. The next time through switch with 1 and 3 slow and 2 and 4 fast. This way you get used to playing the notes fast and give yourself time to recover so that you don't feel like you're spinning out of control.

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I started using the technique described above (forcing myself to go only one notch at a time every several days) about a month ago and though I'm not happy with the pace, I am delighted with the results.

Is there a down side to using a metronome? My daughter's Moscow-trained piano teacher absolutely forbids her from using a one.

[This message has been edited by BrooklynFiddler (edited 03-15-2001).]

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Fantastic advice from everyone!

Is there anything that you can play up to tempo?

What about building your confidence up first by playing something easy that you can play fast, even playing it faster than its written.

That way you will be warming your fingers and your brain on something you can do sucessfully, it may give your confidence a boost!

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