Many people contest the idea that playing fast means playing better by saying it isn’t necessary, that music is lost in the workings of speed.
However, even if we are the kind of person who believes that speed is not necessary, we know that speed is indicative of virtuosity, and “virtuosity” is really just another word for ease in capability.
Who doesn’t want to be as capable as possible when it comes to the instrument that you love?
Virtuosity is a journey, but these steps will bring you closer to a long term plan path to speed.
One of the most complicated things about playing fast is understanding speed.
Our brains are incredible, but our brains are also quite simple.
Have you ever experienced listening to a piece of fast music for the first time and feeling that it lasts forever, and then listening again and it goes by in a flash?
When we are concentrating on something complicated, our brains literally slow down our perception so that we can process what is going on.
Imagine how much our brains have to work if we are not only processing the speed that we must play, but also producing the correct muscle movements to be able to create the speed in the first place!
‘Understanding’ speed is the most important step to reaching the speed you require.
Music is not a game of luck, if we have produced something once, we are able to reproduce that effect again and again given that we recreate our previous conditions.
Sometimes those conditions can be as simple as the confidence that we are able to do so, which in turn sets our brain on a lower panic mode, creating less adrenaline that therefore allows our muscles to relax and the action to be performed.
2. Understand Speed
The first step to understanding speed is to engage the power of reflex.
We have probably all heard of the term ‘speed bursts’ popularized by Scott Tennant. But what many of us may not take into account is that the most important part of this exercise is breaking it down to a couple of notes in order to extend the reflex motion of our fingers.
When we start to examine the simple movements of our fingers — for instance when we play only one string with one finger of the right hand — we can observe the muscles that we are engaging unnecessarily in order to make this movement and simplify it down to only necessary muscle engagement.
Once we have mastered the feeling of this, we can add a second finger strike to the mix, combining these movements and creating a chain reaction reflex motion that is not actively controlled, only actively ‘set off’.
Building these reflex motions and combining them all is the key to playing at speed whilst not causing massive amounts of tension.
After this point we can focus on certain melodic or rhythmical aspects in the music on which we can hang our starters for our chain reaction motions and let go of that focus on every note.
3. Take Time
As with the practice of anything, playing fast takes time.
There are certain explosive muscles that can only be developed through repetition, and that kind of strenuous repetition should be spread over a decent trajectory to avoid injury and frustration.
There is more to playing fast!
Remember that speed should be used where necessary and that most music does not require it.
Our real goal should always be making our playing as easy as possible, so that we may enjoy our time performing without having to suffer!
Check out tonebase for more tips on playing fast and developing virtuosic speed, including the following FREE lesson by Ali Arango!