Tutorials

Beginner Dyslexic fingers

MartinL

Member
Messages
378
Location
Bilston, United Kingdom.
:D

I'm hoping for some pearls of wisdom from all you experienced and competent players out there.

I think my playing is coming along OK although still a relative novice, I know most of the notes up and down my sax, I can read my music well enough and follow most pieces without too much problem and if you put a score for something slow in front of me for the first time I could make a reasonable attempt at it.

So what about the next hurdle, I'm sure everyone has reached it and I would like to know how YOU got over it. Playing faster. If I try to play a quick piece I cant "read" "compute" and "direct my fingers" fast enough.

Just practice I know, and I am trying to push my comfort zone a bit in my practice to improve it. I just hoped there may be some tips, exercises or even training pieces that could be recommended.

Any thoughts? Thanks guys.
 

Pee Dee

Member
Messages
425
Location
Dorset
'just practice' is right. Try playing the fast piece slowly at first, until you have mastered it, then increase your speed bit by bit until you reach the required speed.;}
 

fishpond

Member
Messages
143
Location
Havant, Hampshire
"If I try to play a quick piece I cant "read" "compute" and "direct my fingers" fast enough"
I thought it was my age, you do not know how relieved I am.
Maybe we should start the Dyslexic fingers club.;}
 

Mamos

Member
Messages
691
Location
Falmouth Cornwall
I think it is like anything that takes practice.

When you first start to learn something you have to think of everything and nothing is automatic.

Remember when you were learning to drive. You would come to a roundabout and have to slow to a stop whether there was anything coming or not. Now you can go straight over a roundabout with a mere glance to the right.

As you get more familiar with sight reading you will be reading the note ahead of your playing and anticipating what is to come.

mamos
 
OP
MartinL

MartinL

Member
Messages
378
Location
Bilston, United Kingdom.
'just practice' is right. Try playing the fast piece slowly at first, until you have mastered it, then increase your speed bit by bit until you reach the required speed.;}
That famous barrier between 8wpm and 12 wpm, but once done its a breeze.....

I know, PRACTICE.. and I am.

I got lost in a fast piece at band practice last week, i don't want it to happen too often so I'm inspired now and pushing myself. I think i feel improvement in just a week... :welldone

Thanks too Mamos, I know... I was hoping for an inspired exercise maybe..
 

Pee Dee

Member
Messages
425
Location
Dorset
Remember when you were learning to drive. You would come to a roundabout and have to slow to a stop whether there was anything coming or not. Now you can go straight over a roundabout with a mere glance to the right.
Yes, I've nearly been clobbered by crazy Cornishmen on roundabouts before. Mind you, I was towing a caravan:)))
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,982
Location
Just north of Munich
Remember when you were learning to drive. You would come to a roundabout and have to slow to a stop whether there was anything coming or not. Now you can go straight over a roundabout with a mere glance to the right.
I still prefer to go around the roundabout, even in a Landover. ;}
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
I have read elsewhere and heard direct from my teacher who as many of you know is Karen Sharp (she won best tenor sax player of the year just recently), the key to playing fast is practicing the right things, scales, arpeggios, chord tones, sequences, licks etc SLOWLY and 100% accurately. The brain builds what's called muscle memory and this can only be done through slow repetition.

You need to be able to just play stuff without thinking about it, sort of automatically, to play really fast. It needs to be internalised.

So get to know your scales up and down, play each mode up and down, start anywhere. it just takes time.
 

fishpond

Member
Messages
143
Location
Havant, Hampshire
"The brain builds what's called muscle memory"

I need a brain transplant.
Can you have one done on the NHS?:w00t:

As always,
you are all right and its back to the 25 hours a day practice!

Yes, sometimes I can play a scale, arpeggio etc without really thinking about the notes I am playing.
Other times, I think I try too hard and struggle for a while, then I relax and all seems to go reasonably well.
Being relaxed, concentrating, practising until it becomes second nature.
 
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AdamBradley

Member
Messages
134
'Practise more' is the essence although it might be worth making sure you're using the time you do play efficiently. You can throw hours and hours at a tune but if you're not doing it in a way that works for you, you may find you don't make much progress for the time spent.

Usually you can pick out individual sections, phrases and bits of a piece that make it hard, it's pretty rare the entire thing is a nightmare. So I have a play through at a tempo good enough to hear the tune and get a feel for the piece. It's important that you keep playing if you screw up a turn or misread a note, don't stop and don't repeat the bar etc. Plow on, but make sure you remember the bits you couldn't do first time. Next go through and pick out the bits you need to work on, I often need to circle the odd note I keep misreading or forget an accidental etc.

So with a particular bit, depending on what you find hard with it - be it purely fingering or a combination of the notes aswell as the timing, I find it very helpful to take a step back from the stand and lower the instrument. Look at the phrase properly, think about the notes and what key they're in (I often get tripped up sight-reading triad arpeggio triplets, so I find it easier to think of it as a chord rather than individual notes).

Next, sing it. I try to sing the phrase while tapping my hand to the beat. It's important you get this bit right if you do it, because it should help form in your head what you're expecting to hear when you play, so you can be thinking ahead of the notes rather than just 'reacting' to the notes you see on the page. So as with playing, start slowly if it's a tricky rhythm.

Only once I'm absolutely sure I know how the phrase I'm trying to play is meant to sound do I try to play it on the instrument, and again make sure you do the full thing at a speed you can manage. Go as slowly as you have to, and only when you can play it 100% at a given speed should you try playing it faster.

If it's a new tune entirely I often start by singing the tune even if it's not difficult, just so I get it in my head. Over time you'll find the generic base speed at which you can attempt something to begin with will increase and the number of little bits that trip you up will be less, as instead of seeing a bunch of hemi-demi-semi quavers and thinking 'PANIC', you'll recognise it as an Am7 run or a chromatic etc. and you'll find your fingers can just about do it first go, from all those other times you slowed something right down and worked through a singular phrase perfectly.
--
That's the way I've always gone about learning the hard passages, the main thing that really helps is being able to sing it, it sort of changes the mental process of reading the music into preemptively thinking ahead what notes you're going to play next.

It might not work for you, but you should give it a go next time you find you just can't get your head (or fingers, rather :D) around a phrase. Sometimes a fresh approach makes all the difference.
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,421
Location
Coulsdon, London/Surrey
I think the driving analogy is a good one. It's practice, muscle memory and things your brain does largely subsonsciously - like putting the clutch in to change gear and sumultaneously taking your other foot off the accelerator.

I find my speed is improving but in written music I am missing dynamic markings - p, f, cresc. dim. etc - almost as though they weren't there. I conclude its just that it's all too much to take in at once wht everyting else to do, but I am gradually becoming more aware of them.

Yes, it's a bit like that jump from 8 to 12wpm in Morse too, but if you learnt the Koch method (learn each character at the speed you want) it is quite different. I've been OK at 12 for years (so I don't use Morse very seriously!) but I did re-learn using Koch at 15s and it went in to the brain quite easily. It's against conventional wisdom to consider doing the same for the sax - eg learning each scale at a fast speed, but I wonder if anyone has done any research on it.
Colin
 
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MartinL

MartinL

Member
Messages
378
Location
Bilston, United Kingdom.
Thanks so much for all the advice, especially Adam, you have put in a huge effort, thanks.

So we just practice and practice. It will get better, it IS getting better. I well recall the CW "wall" col, and it was right, once I got to 12 i was at 15 in no time, but now, not using it very often I would struggle at 10.

some good tips there to think about.
:welldone
 

Lambik

New Member
Messages
12
Location
Belgium / Germany
So what about the next hurdle, I'm sure everyone has reached it and I would like to know how YOU got over it. Playing faster. If I try to play a quick piece I cant "read" "compute" and "direct my fingers" fast enough.

Just practice I know, and I am trying to push my comfort zone a bit in my practice to improve it. I just hoped there may be some tips, exercises or even training pieces that could be recommended.
The following procedure was recommended to me by my teacher, and it works like a charm.

1) Play the phrases you're struggling with SLOWLY (this is common knowledge), but also

2) Change the rhythmic patterns.

Say you're experiencing difficulties with a phrase consisting of 8th notes. Instead of playing 8th notes, play dotted quavers (tata tata tata tata becomes tahti tahti tahti tahti and titah titah titah titah). Do this slowly, then more quickly, and lastly, play the phrase in 8ths. You can evidently also experiment with tonguing as well as with other rhythmic patterns.
 

RedBottom

Member
Messages
191
As the others have said, it does come, like driving or riding a bike, and usually without your noticing it. You'll get through a piece one day and realise that you actually made it without getting your fingers tied up in knots. But for what it's worth, here's my tip (because I was a beginner myself not so many years ago):

I moan about my distinct lack of skill in the improv department, but those whose improv skills put me to shame are the same ones who comment on my ability to sight-read. Apparently I do it quite well.

I can only put this down to my teacher's methods. He was a great one for putting an unseen duet onto the stand and making me play it alongside him. He wouldn't stop until the end and if I got lost, he'd just carry on playing and expect me to find my place again on my own. He'd coach me through it all afterwards, of course, but it was excellent practice.

If you can't get your teacher to do this, have you thought about getting yourself some play-along books? They can be a little sterile but are useful for making you 'carry on', especially if you hide the remote control for the CD player and play on the opposite side of the room. ;}

Also, do you play in a band yet? I found my sight-reading and my general playing came on in leaps and bounds when I joined my first band and it's something I've noticed in other novices as they now join the band in their turn. A lady who, two years ago, could play just a few notes and almost went to pieces at her first concert, she was so nervous, played alongside me in a quartet this Christmas, almost note perfect, in front of 300 people. Even she cannot believe how much she has improved.
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
"The brain builds what's called muscle memory"

I need a brain transplant.
Can you have one done on the NHS?:w00t:

As always,
you are all right and its back to the 25 hours a day practice!

Yes, sometimes I can play a scale, arpeggio etc without really thinking about the notes I am playing.
Other times, I think I try too hard and struggle for a while, then I relax and all seems to go reasonably well.
Being relaxed, concentrating, practising until it becomes second nature.
Make sure you practice well. This is where I have gone (and still do go) wrong spending too much time practicing badly. I currently split my practice into 3 areas:

  • Technical - scales, arpegios, 3rds, 4ths, intervals etc
  • Reading - playing by sight tunes I know a bit and sight-reading music I don't know
  • Improvising - sometimes following chord progression, sometimes ignoring them and working within the key/melodical embellishment
Of course, at each point I am listening to how I sound. I also do a long tone warm up.

So no 25 hours a day practice, just focus for 30 minutes, or maybe an hour or 90 minutes at a time if I am lucky.
 

Derek A

New Member
Messages
27
Location
Watford, Herts
Me too. Thought it was just me. But the (younger) guy who is trying to teach me improvisation says he always had the same problem and had to play phrases thousands of times before they sank in.
So that's three of us retards.
But one piece of advice he gave me - play a couple of bars absolutely accurately and CLEANLY before you move on to the next bars. And use a metronome, especially when speeding up.
 

Lodger

Member
Messages
108
Location
Darwen, Lancashire
Another little practice tip

Another small optional tip to try, as well as all the excellent suggestions already mentioned:

at a recent ensemble training session the tutor had us play through a new piece, then worked on ironing out the problems by starting at the end (i.e. the last problem bit in the piece) and working forwards. This is just a psychological device to encourage you, because as you play through a difficult bit you always end up at the part that you have already mastered, rather than always arriving at the next problem.
 

jadoube

Member
Messages
150
Location
Fleet, Hampshire
Another small optional tip to try, as well as all the excellent suggestions already mentioned:

at a recent ensemble training session the tutor had us play through a new piece, then worked on ironing out the problems by starting at the end (i.e. the last problem bit in the piece) and working forwards. This is just a psychological device to encourage you, because as you play through a difficult bit you always end up at the part that you have already mastered, rather than always arriving at the next problem.
A variant on this. My teacher has, on occasion, had me play the actual notes backwards. I'm not convinced it works but it certainly makes you concentrate :)
 
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