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 Post subject: playing at speed tools
PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2020 10:16 am 
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I've usually been one to learn a tune at a moderate pace, then rely on the adrenaline of a highly charged session to get me going at speed. It has worked for me for a few decades.

With Covid cancelling in person playing I recently began to use a method taught to me by a gifted experienced professional teacher and performer. I have taken lessons with lots of pros and watched my kids take lessons as well. And have often gotten some vague advice to use a metronome to work a tune up to speed. But not until a couple of years ago when I sat down with this particular teacher did I get schooled in this particular method. I thought I'd post this in case someone else finds it useful.

I learn a tune to my satisfaction complete with phrasing and ornamentation where I want. This can be slow as molasses or at a moderate speed. It doesn't matter. Then I pull out a metronome. Picking a speed I can handle easily I play the tune once. Then up the metronome 5 bpm. (My teacher recommended that I actually set my instrument down and stand up each time I change the metronome, but I have admittedly skipped this step.-- It supposedly resets your brain, so you may want to try it) After one time through, up the metronome another 5. No do-overs if you make mistakes. Add another 5. Repeat this until you start to flub up regularly, then go a couple of more times. If the flub was a fluke, keep going. If not move forward through a couple more bpm additions with no efforts at corrections and no "oops, starting over" and quit for the session.

Get up, walk around, do something else and come back starting once again at that beginning speed and repeat the process. By adding speed 5 bpm the gradual process will help you preserve your ornaments and build to the point that you can play fast with control.

You can also go through this process by playing along in a program such as The Amazing Slow Downer. But the goal here for me was getting the tune alone in my own head.

Yesterday I surprised myself by learning The Holiday Reel from one of Martin Hayes YouTube lessons, then working it up from 92bpm until I fell flat on my face at 160. Then today I started at around 120 and ran until the metronome quit at 208 with minor flubs starting at 200. No one has to go that fast, but it was sort of fun.

In case this is useful... your mileage may vary.

Again, the goal here is to gain speed in small steps. You can start at 40 and go to 56 if that is where you are. But ideally, if you use this method you will add to your speed/precision/musicality skills in a controlled manner.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2020 12:42 pm 
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This seems like a solid method. I've been using my metronome a lot lately. I use ProMetronome on my phone and it has the tap function that i really like. That way you can listen to a tune and tap your finger to the beat and see almost exactly what bpm they are playing at and try to emulate it.
I'm going to try to use your method today with upping 5bpm at a time.

Cheers


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2020 1:10 pm 
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I'd say that 5bpm increments are actually pretty big, especially as you reach the limits of your comfort zone. So, while traditional swinging (pendulum) metronomes tend to go up in 4s (e.g. 92, 96, 100, 104, 108 etc.), I'd say use tighter spacings especially with electronic/digital equipment. A 1% or 2% tempo adjustment can make a very substantial difference to playability and feel!

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 23, 2020 5:10 pm 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
I'd say that 5bpm increments are actually pretty big, especially as you reach the limits of your comfort zone. So, while traditional swinging (pendulum) metronomes tend to go up in 4s (e.g. 92, 96, 100, 104, 108 etc.), I'd say use tighter spacings especially with electronic/digital equipment. A 1% or 2% tempo adjustment can make a very substantial difference to playability and feel!



I stand corrected! I've been using my old black Seiko with the red dial and, since the eyes aren't what they used to be, my mind automatically jumped to 5s instead of 4s.( I guess my brain was making clock/dial assumptions. :D ) That is exactly what that metronome mimics going up in 4s.. I have digital options, but I do like this the better.

A teacher of mine had a set up through a speaker that played a drum at a volume designed to get your adrenaline flowing while giving a musical feel.

The old wooden family metronome disappeared somewhere along the line of life. Changing the weight on that would likely give you the "brain reset" my teacher was going for when he told me to put my instrument down, stand up and then sit down again.

I'd often tried to jump too many bpm in the past. But the 4 bpm at a time seems more smooth.

Also, for a beginner one or two bpm may be fine.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 23, 2020 5:35 pm 
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busterbill wrote:
Also, for a beginner one or two bpm may be fine.

These smaller increments are also useful for expert players. While you might have no need or desire to work up from, say, 80 to 116 one bpm at a time, there will come a point somewhere along the way where it's the more productive thing to do.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 23, 2020 6:42 pm 
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That's interesting and I agree it's a useful method. I often stand up to change my brain, and so far, no detectable extra brain chiff.

I've used that method sometimes, for passages that require a lot of feel and/or precision, otherwise known as "lots of notes in just a little time". Once I can play it properly at a slower pace, it gives me great confidence in playing faster, because I have the muscle memory, the feel, already programmed in, and I can then speed things up focused on speed alone, and know that it's not the music that I'm still learning or practicing and nothing is unknown, I just have play what I know, quicker. What's extremely difficult is to learn complex or new music and expect great results without having the muscle memory there first. Practicing scales and techniques can certainly help, because I also love to play a lot by improvising, using the established music as a backdrop and sail over top of it with something spontaneous. "Be the ball, Danny!" It's easier to "Zen it" when you're very fluent with the instrument and in converting instantly what you hear in your head, into instrumental control.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 25, 2020 6:08 pm 
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Great strategy. I always remember the “10,000” repetition theory: top level athletes practice a motion or skill/movement 10,000 times before it becomes natural or without thought or committed muscle memory. As I go through tunes I’ve played for years I try to remember I once struggled with the simple passages and am encouraged that practice repetitions bring results. I enjoy the challenge.


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