Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’m going to show you four ways to develop speed in your piano playing. You hear people who play dazzlingly fast, but maybe you’re just struggling to get a piece up to speed. Is there anything that you can do to develop more speed? Absolutely! There are a number of things you can do. Of course, working generally on different repertoire, scales, and arpeggios is helpful. These are essential building blocks of technique on the piano. But what I’m going to show you today are specific things you can incorporate in your practice to help develop speed.
I’m going to use Ballade of Burgmüller as an example. The part I’m going to focus on is the end, where you have a fast pattern of notes in both hands. What better place than this to demonstrate the myriad ways you can practice? Today I’m just going to cover four specific ways of developing speed, to not overwhelm you.
1. METRONOME SPEEDS
One of the most fundamental ways of working with the metronome is to do progressively faster metronome speeds. You find the speed at which you can play the passage absolutely faithfully, and then work up the speed one notch at a time. Why one notch? Because you won’t even notice the difference in speed! You find the speed at which you can play it perfectly, comfortably and securely, repeatedly. Then you put it up a notch and do it again. I would never suggest trying to get a whole piece up to speed by going one notch at a time, but when you have just a few measures like this, it’s an ideal opportunity to do metronome speeds.
The key is to make sure you don’t raise the metronome at all until you have absolute security.
That’s the important thing. Now, you may think it’s going to take you forever, because it takes you so long to really get it solid. But spend the time at the front end to get it absolutely secure! You may have to go hands separately at first and pick a much slower speed than you think is necessary. But don’t even think about raising the metronome speed until you can play it ten times in a row, not only where it’s perfect, but where it feels comfortable. You want to play every note with absolute security and definition. Once you get that, then raise it up a notch. Then once again, keep playing it until it not only sounds perfect, but it feels comfortable.
As you get faster, remember to lighten up and stay close to the keys with rounded fingers.
When you play with flat fingers, you don’t get the benefit of all the joints of your fingers like you do when you’re playing with rounded fingers. Your fingers will naturally go into this position if you just allow them to. And that position gives you much more ease because you have the benefit of all the joints of the fingers. Plus, the thumb is in alignment with the rest of the fingers.
2. NOTE GROUPS
Practice small groups of notes, repeatedly. You can work on a few select notes at a time, even just two note groups! And the secret is to play up to speed. Take different groups of notes and find the ones that allow you to land on notes that are insecure. Ultimately this is training your fingers where the hands play together. Listen strategically to where the hands are playing together and when they aren’t. You can get a lot done just by finding the right notes to land on. When you land on notes, avoid tension. You want to land on them with total relaxation. Practice relaxation in your playing, even if you have to play just two notes! Find groups of notes that help you land securely with hands precisely together, and you can accomplish a tremendous amount.
3. ACCENTED NOTES
Playing with accented notes can be really valuable. You can accent different notes within a phrase. This can be done in innumerable ways. You can do different numbers of notes or any type of accents that help you feel relaxed. You don’t want to be pushing with the arms, just use your fingers. By doing this, you train yourself where the fingers play together and where the hands play together. You’ll discover tremendous things. You might come upon certains accents and realize you don’t know where your hands play together! Those are the places to focus on.
Rhythms are another great tool. Depending upon the passage, there are many different rhythms that can aid in developing speed. You want to find whatever rhythms solve your issue. Try playing passages of even eighth notes as dotted rhythms, dotted eighths followed by sixteenth notes. Then you can reverse the rhythm playing sixteenths followed by dotted eighth notes. You want to discover where the hands need to be together. If you don’t know where the hands play together, you might be able to play your right hand fast or your left hand fast, but you really don’t know where they land together. So this is what trains your hands to play precisely together.
These are four techniques that can help you develop speed in your playing!
Remember, working on scales and arpeggios is incredibly valuable. That gives you an opportunity to just focus on your fingerwork. You can work on pure technique, devoid of music. It’s a great thing to have all your major and minor scales and arpeggios under your fingers. That will be incredibly valuable for you. Remember, the faster you play, the lighter and closer to the keys you must be in order to facilitate speed, because it takes a lot of work to raise fingers when practicing slowly. Raising the fingers can be valuable, so you can feel which fingers are down and which fingers are up initially. As you get faster, lighten up and stay closer to the keys with rounded fingers. Remember these four methods of developing speed: metronome speeds, note groups, accents, and rhythms. Let me know how this works for you! For those of you who have other techniques, share them in the comments here at LivingPianos.com and on YouTube. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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