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by Chernobylbob on Flickr

Everybody wants to learn to play quicker and play higher. It would seem to most people who watch us practice that “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Rimsky-Korsakov is the pinnacle of musical achievement. Really, that song ends up just being a party trick

BUT

Playing fast. IS. FUN!!!

So, today I am going to divulge a little secret that I was taught in college that dramatically decreases the amount of time it takes to learn the fingerings for quick lines.

How It Works

The whole technique revolves around changing the rhythm so that you are moving between sets of notes at double speed while playing the entire line at the same tempo. How we do this is by changing the rhythm of the line from straight eighth notes to a “Dotted-Eighth Sixteen” rhythm and then to a  “Sixteen Dotted-Eighth” rhythm.

It may sound a bit complex (or simple, you smarty pants) but let’s clear it up now with an example:

1) We are going to find our maximum speed where we can almost play the line below. We want this example to be just outside our technical reach.  You should be able to get through parts but not the entire line in one blast. Set your metronome to this tempo

Step 1: find the limit of your technique

2) Now, with your metronome still on at the same speed or slightly slower, adjust the rhythm to this:

Step 2: adjust the rhythm at the same or slightly slower metronome marking

3) Now we are going to change the rhythm in the opposite direction, keeping the metronome at the same speed as Step 2.  This is going to feel very weird. I call this Step the “Front Heavy Step”

Step 3: adjust the rhythm in the opposite direction, same speed.

4) If you can play Steps 2 & 3, we can repeat Step 1 at the original tempo.  It should be much easier, still a bit tough, but much more possible.  As always, track your speed on the metronome.  Can you push it any faster now?

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I hope this technique really helps.  It’s more of an intermediate to advanced level practice technique and probably wont do  beginners much good, but the concept, which I will expand upon in other posts is applicable to every instrument at every level.

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credit: Assuroca on Flickr

This past summer I went to Germany. While there I was hosted by a professional singer/actor named Martin. Martin was trying to learn to play piano and guitar at the same time and he had a pretty interesting approach. He would only “practice” in the traditional sense for about 15 minutes a day. He would sit down and learn a chord or melody line and then quit. What made him successful was his INTENSE urge to play what he had just practiced whenever he passed an instrument (which was very often).

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