Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about how playing fast is easier than playing slowly. You might think that’s crazy. Of course, it would take more work to be able to develop speed in your playing. There is some truth to that. But once you do have some speed and fluency in your playing, have you ever tried to go back and play slowly again? It can be really difficult! There are a lot of reasons for this. We’re going to discuss this and what you can do to help your playing.
Once you’ve played a piece many times, your fingers just know where to go.
Years ago I made a video about how playing your scales should be on autopilot. I likened it to learning how to walk. You see toddlers taking their first steps. The concentration on their faces is unbelievable! Of course, once you learn how to walk, you really don’t think about it. It’s almost involuntary. You can be thinking about other things while you’re walking once you learn how to do it. Well, the same thing is true of scales! It’s also true of all the music you play. You get to a point where your mind is wandering, but your fingers keep going. That’s actually a good thing in some respects. If you didn’t have that to rely upon, it would be hard to be focused 100% of the time. But naturally, you can’t depend upon that motor memory, finger memory, muscle memory, whatever you want to call it.
When you play slowly, it’s harder to think through everything.
When you slow things down, every single note becomes very obvious. But there’s another reason why playing fast is easier than playing slowly. I’m not even talking about the solidity of how well you know the score. I’m talking about musical considerations. When you’re playing slowly, it’s very difficult to even know where the line is. For example, Chopin’s E Minor Prelude. Playing that piece slowly and trying to get a sense of the rise and the fall of the line is all but impossible. It’s very difficult to maintain a line playing under tempo.
All music really is reflective of the human voice.
All instruments are an extension of the instrument we all carry with us. Naturally, wind instruments are a direct analog to the human voice, because the breath is involved. It’s a natural extension. Bowed instruments, like a violin or cello, have the continuum of the bow against the strings. On the piano, it’s a challenge to create that continuum of sound. But imagine a wind player or a singer trying to sing a song much slower than its normal speed. It would be hard to sustain the phrase. You would run out of air! It would be hard to get a sense of the line. That same Chopin prelude played at a faster tempo, with the pulse of the quarter note or even the half note, makes it much easier to feel the musical line.
Once you know a piece, it’s so much easier to play it faster, because you can get a sense of the line.
The challenge is gaining enough fluency that you can play up to speed. Sometimes it helps just trying to play something up to tempo. Even if it’s not totally polished, playing it up to tempo helps you know what you’re working for. Of course, you don’t want to repeat sloppy playing again and again. You may even want to play just the right hand, just to get the feel of the phrasing. Once you understand the intention of the music, your practice is so much more productive. You want to know what you’re aiming for. So think of your music up to tempo, even if you can’t quite play it yet. Try to play it up to speed so you get a sense of the music. Your practice is always in service of the music.
That’s the message for today! I hope this works well for you. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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