Slow practice may be the most common practice technique of them all. This is our first line of defense against virtually all issues in repertoire and technique. It allows us to correct what we’re doing and identify what we want to achieve. In this blog post, we’ll share specific ways to use this practice technique efficiently.
There are a few ways to make slow practice more efficient. Using Paganini’s Caprice No. 5 as an example, play the piece slowly and identify the most prominent issue. Let’s say you’re struggling with intonation, perhaps on the second note (C).
Play the first note, and then, with a tuner if needed, play the second note. If the pitch is a little bit low, the second finger can go a bit farther out. If the pitch is a bit high, the second finger can come in a little. Ideally, you train your ear to hear these pitch discrepancies so you can identify and correct them in real-time.
Always begin with the note before the problematic one so you can practice the motion between the notes, not just the out-of-tune note in isolation. Ask yourself if the finger was precisely where you wanted it to be when you started a note or if it was still adjusting.
Checking for Tension
Slow practice is an important opportunity to learn how to breathe and relax. Your body should remain as loose as possible so that correcting an issue can be done quickly. (The story of Jascha Heifetz is often told; he supposedly didn’t always play perfectly in tune right away but could adjust the intonation so fast that nobody noticed.)
The longer something takes you to do, the more time you have to process it. Don’t expect slow practice to lead to magical results – it will almost always take more than one day. However, this technique trains the ear to hear intonation, and that makes it likely the best place to start.
While slow practice may take a bit of mental fortitude to use often, it is a highly efficient way to practice and target specific areas of playing like intonation and relaxation.
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