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playing really fast!!!


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Hi Guys,


do you have any techniques for playing a really fast piece/riff that work? Obviously i know start slow using a metronome but i am kind of wondering if there is anything else that might help.


I have been trying to learn the intro to "One Angry drwarf and 200 solemn faces" by Ben Folds Five. I think the tempo is about 115-120. I parts of the intro hard so i started really slow, around 70. I have got to about 100 in about 1 week...but i am now finding that if i increase it any faster I am making mistakes. So i tried decreasing the tempo and gradually increasing it again (hopefully this will work).


how many times do you think you should play somethign before increasing the tempo again? Im finding that if a play the 2 bar passage more than 4 times i make alot of mistakes. Am i doign something intrinsically wrong here in my practicing method?

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First, make sure to have a good overall technique, finger strenght and - most important - playing posture. Ben Folds looks wild, but his arm position is conservatory-like. :)


For speeding up a particular passage, try this:

Take the first few notes. Play them slowly at first, then speed them up a bit at a time, until you reach your target speed or even a little more. It's very important that

1) You don't play more notes at a time that you can handle well, and

2) You don't tighten any muscles in the process. Keep your arm/forearm relaxed, and think of your whole arm as one lever.

Work on the passage in little fragments, leaving some notes in common between pairs - in other words, the last note or two of fragment one coincide with the first one(s) of fragment two, and so on.

When you have all fragments at speed, slow the tempo a bit, and try playing fragments one and two together. Then, up to speed again. Do the same with fragments three and four, five and six, etc.

Then of course, :) connect fragment one-two with fragment three-four, and so on. DON'T hurry to play the whole piece now - you're building your confidence with the piece as an unit.

When you've played the piece at speed a few times, don't forget to play it slowly occasionally, to keep a cleaniness of articulaton.


Again - always try to avoid any rigidness or tightness of the arm during the whole thing.


It's a long and a bit boring process, but if you do it well, your whole technique and playing stamina will gain forever from it.


Hope this helps



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Here's a related question: Have you ever had this happen? I naturally play a song or piece so fast that I can't slow it down and still play it with proper timing? What am I doing wrong here? Do I need to practice something or is this normal?



Gear: Yamaha MODX8, Mojo 61, NS2 73, C. Bechstein baby grand.

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I agree with what has already been said. But I just wanted to add a couple things that seem to work well for me especially when I am trying to work up Bach fuges or preludes.


1) place rhythmically accenting the notes which fall on the beat such that you break a string of 16 eighth notes to 4 short strings of 4 eighth notes. Often when I practice I really over accent compared to when I playing there is only the feeling of the grouping.


2) convert a passage of even eighth notes to long-shorts or short-longs, really overemphasize playing the short note as quick as you can while playing the whole passage overall much slower then you would play it then reverse the whole passage (in other words play whatever you are playing in an exaggerated bebop swing and then reverse it)


3) play softer with even, good tone


4) use good fingering. Playing fast is like driving a pickup truck with a tarp pulled over the back. Anything not tied down will fly up and rip the entire tarp to shreads once you hit 120km/hr on the highway.


Anyways I hope this helps.

cheers :)

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Good advice from Bluemed. That system is common practice among pianists, but I din't mention it because it only works with strings of equal notes - if the rhythm changes a bit, it can get confusing. Not being familiar with the piece Sudeep mentioned, I couldn't be sure.

Furthermore, I've observed that sometimes, it pays to divide the notes 'intelligently' - that is, if a group of notes is easy, why give it the same treatment of the harder parts? Just decide your sections/fragments according to difficulty, and save some time. Of course, mantaining a certain rhythmic coherence doesn't hurt... :)


Originally posted by Music*aL:

I naturally play a song or piece so fast that I can't slow it down and still play it with proper timing? What am I doing wrong here? Do I need to practice something or is this normal?



Very normal - I see it every day among my students. It's just the inner ear and muscle memory at work. It is annoying indeed! The simple cure is to play your pieces at a slower speed occasionally. It helps both your brain and your hands to avoid too much 'automatic' behavior.

Also, for general cleanness, I've found very useful to play tunes in a slow, semi-staccato fashion, with a very relaxed, 'falling' arm.

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My $0.02:


If you can play it slow but not fast, practice it slow more. When you can play the piece without errors more often than not, then you can speed it up. A metronome helps, but don't get frustrated when/if you can't keep up with it. I've been practicing CPE Bach's "Solfogetto" for 10+ years, and still can't play it up to speed (the reason is because I don't practice it enough, or consistently...but I still love playing it).


If you can play it fast but not slow, you don't really know the piece. Force yourself to practice it slow...metronomes are also good for this. I have a tendency to "race" through certain pieces (classical and popular), no matter how slowly I begin, and my metronome is crucial to my practice of those pieces.


Also, beware of muscle memory: one symptom is not being able to play just part of a piece that you've memorized...if you have to play the whole thing to remember it, your muscles have learned the piece better than you have. ;) Muscle memory can also--sometimes--be the culprit in cases when you can play a song fast/slow but not slow/fast.


Practice, practice, practice! ;)

"Is it too much to demand? I want a full house and a rock-n-roll band..." ~ Lucinda Williams
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