Why You Play Too Fast

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Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The question today is, “Why do you play too fast?”. Most people try to play faster than they’re comfortable. Sometimes you will have a piece you can play just fine, but when you try to play it slower, you can’t even figure out where you are! There’s a great deal of motor memory or muscle memory that is involved in piano playing. Your fingers just seem to know where to go. So you want to go fast enough that you won’t forget where to go next. The problem with this is, unless the music is really secure, your tempo will fluctuate. You’ll make accommodations to the parts you don’t know quite as well, going a little slower. Then you’ll speed up again so you don’t forget where you are.

Motor memory on the piano is akin to touch typing.

I took a typing class in high school. I learned how to touch-type, so I don’t have to look at the keys. Little did I know, that would be probably the most important course I had in high school! In the computer age, it’s so great to be able to type without looking at your hands. But the funny thing is, if I stop and think where a letter is on the keyboard, for example, the letter “W”, I don’t even know! I have to look at the keyboard. If I have to type on a screen, where the keyboard is smaller, and you have to just touch the letters on the screen with your finger, I can’t even find them! Yet on a keyboard, I can type almost as fast as I can speak. I’m a really fast typist. I was the fastest in my class in high school. I guess all those years of piano paid off in my typing class!

Playing the piano too fast is a rampant problem among many piano students.

What you must do is take the time to slow down your playing and figure out what is there. This can be a painstaking process. I’ve talked a little bit about how sometimes when you want to start in the middle of a piece, you may have to speed up just to figure out what fingers to start with. When you’re playing slowly, you might want to play faster just a little bit at first, just to see where you are, and what fingers are on which notes as a starting point of a section.

Every fine pianist I have ever met practices slowly, incessantly.

There are three things that every accomplished pianist does: practice slowly, practice with a metronome, and practice without the pedal. I’ll also add to that, practice with the music! When you memorize a piece, that doesn’t mean you don’t use the score anymore. As a matter of fact, it’s the opposite. I like to memorize a piece first and then do all my practicing with the score, reinforcing the memory, practicing slowly with the metronome with no pedal and really solidifying.

The reason why you play too fast is because you’re not really cognizant of the score.

You play too fast because you don’t really have an intellectual understanding of the score. You’re just going through the motions. Your fingers kind of remember on their own without knowing what they’re supposed to be doing. But that’s extremely dangerous. It doesn’t have a solid foundation. Things can fall apart if you depend upon that type of playing. Thank goodness we do have motor memory! Piano would be so much more difficult if you couldn’t depend upon it at all. But you want to minimize your reliance upon the feeling of the keys and where your fingers naturally go. Slow, deliberate playing is the way to do it. Refer back to the score.

Try slow, deliberate practicing for yourself!

Take a piece that you can play fast, but you can’t play slowly with security. Take out the score and play slowly. You’re going to discover so many things! You will always find more details than you initially remembered. Your music has so many details in it! Let me know how it works for you here in the comments on LivingPianos.com and YouTube. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

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Contact me if you are interested in private lessons. I have many resources for you! Robert@LivingPianos.com

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