When you think about the most impressive feats of human creation – from the great pyramids to an incredibly intricate piece of art-work – it all starts one piece at a time. Meticulously building something while often tedious – can lead to incredible results. The same principle applies when learning music and developing your skills as a musician.
Being able to play a piece of music up to speed and have it flow seamlessly and almost without effort is something you will have to build up to; this is not something that just comes naturally for most people. The best way to achieve this type of sound and skill in your playing – no matter what instrument – is to practice slowly and often with a metronome.
I’ve covered this topic when it comes specifically to piano but I thought I would create a new video and article for all instruments – as some of them present unique challenges. For example, sometimes on a wind instrument it’s not practical to practice slowly – because the breathing will be in all different places. However, when you get to a particularly fast passage it’s a good idea to slow things down, so you can get the finger movements and tonguing in-synch with one-another. If you just play fast all the time there will be a lack of precision.
I guarantee you that any great musician – no matter what instrument – has practiced slowly and continues to reinforce with slow practice throughout their musical career. It is simply something that every great musician does. They might not practice an entire piece slowly – and you don’t necessarily have to either – but you must practice faster and more difficult passage under tempo to develop security in your playing.
Now there is one huge caveat to practicing slowly: you must do it with a metronome and you must incrementally increase your speed. First of all, you will not want to increase the speed at all until you have complete control over the passage you are working on; it should come off completely smooth and almost effortlessly. Only then will you want to increase the speed on your metronome and make sure that you only move it up one notch at a time. Building speed and precision at this pace will allow you to conquer the most difficult passages with ease – they will become almost effortless when you are done with them.
If you have doubts about this method, I have an exercise for you to try. Take an old piece you have had at performance level – one you haven’t played in quite some time. You might have some trouble areas at first, and that’s fine. Take any parts where you are a bit rusty and try playing them slowly – you don’t even need the metronome for this at first. You will find that if you practice these parts slowly it’s the best way to get the piece back into a high performance level. Some key areas may require working one notch at a time increasing speed with the metronome. However, you may find instant results just from the slow practice!
Slow practice is something I recommend to all my students and it really is something you should do on any instrument. While there are some instruments where slow practice isn’t always a practical, all of them will benefit from slow practice in faster sections. If slow practice is something you haven’t tried or avoided until now I highly recommend adding it to your routine; you will love the outcome, I promise!
Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729