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Beginner Tempo and beginner exercises

wakyct

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I am just curious about this topic and not asking about a prescriptive 'correct tempo' to play exercises at. That said I am interested to hear people's experiences of how they started playing basic exercises from a slow to fast tempo/bpm, when they started playing faster and their thoughts on that.

As context I've just finished a month of weekly lessons and due for another lesson in two weeks (the school has a one week break), just about done with the first part of the Rubank intro book. Over this time I've been playing everything (including scales, tunes, etc) between 40-70 bpm. Toward the end of this month I felt like I wanted to dig a little deeper and discussing it with my teacher we set some higher targets for these same exercises that I'm working up to, like 100-120 bpm, before moving on with more Rubank exercises and more scales (at the moment I'm practicing G, C, D and F).

Again, not to say 'one must play fast', but I'd like to hear what people think about this topic.
 
According to a Johnny Ferreria video where he discusses playing faster, he recommends starting at a tempo that you can play through without mistakes. Then gradually speeding up as you memorize the piece. I have heard that in these forums also. His take on it is that all of the notes must be automatic so that you have time to work on playing in tune with good tone / even volume, and then embellishments I reckon. I often try to play with my eyes closed and only glance at the music to see changes and such.
On the other hand, when I am trying to learn sight reading music then I would allow some mistakes are acceptable as I try to improve my skill. I still get tripped up on sharps and flats. I struggle with remembering that an Ab is the same as G# as well as others and getting very far above the stave is difficult for me.
 
It's good to push yourself as fast as you can go while keeping it clean and even, without pauses or do-overs. If you go faster than you can handle, it gets sloppy. So it's easy to regulate yourself using that rule. If you don't hear yourself getting sloppy, your teacher will.
 
Sounds good.
IMHO using a metronome is a learned skill. Get it deeply embedded and it'll serve you well. Don't rush, you are building brain and that isn't fast... Depending on you on your age...

To add, what I've found useful is staying at the same tempo but moving from click per best to; click on every other best, click on one... Both improves the inner metronome and - for me, click/beat above 130 or so is just noise anyway....
 
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Two things that really helped me in my journey…

* Try to hear the subdivisions higher than the notes you are playing. So when playing a scale as eighth notes, think sixteenth notes as you play. This helps keep you more precise.

* For jazz studies, make the metronome play on 2 and 4, like a hihat or backbeat. This took me a while to do, but really helped lock in with rhythm sections in the real world.

As far as playing fast goes, the key to playing fast is playing slow. Accuracy is everything. So play today at 60 BPM, tomorrow at 63. Next day play at 60 AND 63. Stay there for a week. Then 63 and 66 the next week. Don’t advance speed if you notice any sloppiness.
 
For jazz studies, make the metronome play on 2 and 4

I've heard this now from a few folks, I don't think my little Korg tuner/metronome can do that but there must be a bunch of apps that would.

skeller047 said:
Try to hear the subdivisions higher than the notes you are playing. So when playing a scale as eighth notes, think sixteenth notes as you play. This helps keep you more precise.

Thanks I'll try this, my eighth note time does feel a little loose right now.

mizmar said:
To add, what I've found useful is staying at the same tempo but moving from click per best to; click on every other best, click on one... Both improves the inner metronome and - for me, click/beat above 130 or so is just noise anyway....

I like this idea too -- time to look for an app I guess.
 
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time to look for an app I guess.
Sure, an app simplifies all that and more; and excuse me if the following is obvious ...

BUT, first, get used to: for example, playing at 80 with click on 1 and 3? Just means setting the metronome to 40. With click on 2 and 4? Metronome on 40 and Count the beats as two and for. Click on 1? Set metronome to 20.
 
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For now, I haven't found a metronome useful. I am still in the 'guide sax' beginner phase. That's where you try to match the sax on Tomplay, or Youtube. If I am just starting on something then my playing is too ragged for a steady beat. I am just trying to get my fingers use to different playing the notes of the harder passages. Then I try to play sections of the piece at a slowed way down. Yesterday I finally managed, Over The Rainbow arranged by Yasuhiro Fujii at 86 bpm with almost no mistakes (D#/Db still trip me up). I have been working regularly on the song for a week or two now and is supposed to be played at 144bpm, it will still be a good while before I manage that. Before I get there I will start practicing it as the backing track only without Yashiro playing.
 
Sure, an app simplifies all that and more; and excuse me if the following is obvious ...

Obvious for some I'm sure, but worth pointing out as it never occurred to me. ;)

colin-the-bear said:
I don't understand exercises. Once you've mastered them, what have you got?
Scales and arpeggios aside, spend the time learning a piece.

It's a fair point, I guess when you're just starting out the exercises can isolate and practice basic things more effectively than a piece? On the other hand you could say it's not as musical as a piece. The Rubank usually includes a simple duet with each (one page) lesson.
 
I've heard this now from a few folks, I don't think my little Korg tuner/metronome can do that but there must be a bunch of apps that would.
If you are playing a piece at quarter note = 120, set the metronome at 60 and learn to count so that the clicks fall on 2 and 4.
I don't understand exercises. Once you've mastered them, what have you got?
Scales and arpeggios aside, spend the time learning a piece. Pick a song, tune etc. Once it's up to speed you have something to treasure. I'm still playing Misty and Autumn leaves after 50 years.
I practice patterns all the time. What I’ve got from it is

a) facility, because practicing a short phrase in all keys and all ranges ensures I can play different passages everywhere

and

b) vocabulary, a pattern becomes a musical phrase when I’m improvising.

I understand that b) may not be a beginner idea, but learning all 12 keys and improving facility is helpful to all levels. I started playing saxophone after a year of clarinet lessons, and self-started with the DeVille Universal Method, which is full of exercises of all sorts. I think they are vital, and useful when playing Autumn Leaves, to say nothing of Cherokee.
 
I found this just from random searching but it seems like a pretty good video
A bit waffley for my taste.
about why to count on the 2 and 4,
Just keep in mind that the metronom for "on the 2 and 4" in 4/4, 2/4, 3/4 , cut time etc. played at the same tempo has the same click rate (or half the same rate).
The metronom will not help you capture the feel of a style, it's just a useful tool.
 
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My teacher is great at giving me exercises and then he'll produce a piece or tune that incorporates what i have learnt in that exercise. I have been struggling with my chromatic fingering recently so, rather then just playing the scales I've been learning Entry of the Gladiators, Play it through until I have it right and then build up the speed, either metronome or playing along with a recording. But, it's pointless playing it fast if you're playing it wrong.
 
I haven't watched the video's but I fully support @Hoosierken's comment. I'm an amateur player but all my tutors and MD's over the (25) years have advised one thing: learn to play the 'tricky' (= fast/comp[licated) bits by first practicing slowly. And - as your 'muscle memory' for these bits gradually develops, - gradually increase the tempo towards the 'performance tempo'.

My - uninformed - take on this is that (with the exception of professional musicians) - amateurs need to gradually build up a 'muscle memory' in order to play fast or complicated sections. The best way of doing this seems to be by starting off slowly and gradually increasing the tempo. In my personal experience, this is not always a 'linear progresson'. You may occasionally find that you've increased the tempo by more that you can comfortably cope with (and make mistakes). And need to dial back the tempo slightly to that you can can play comfortably.

OT but I (long ago) used to run. I still remember that our training schedule was never a 'linear progression'. More a weekly series of a 'less intensive' monday session, a more intensive wednesday session and a less instensive frday session. Over time, the intentisty of all sessions gradually increased, But the difference in intensties between monday, wednesday and friday remained.

Relating this OT comment to sax playing, don't worry too much if you you don't get a 'linear progression' from practicing. Sometimes, your chops, fingers and concentration may just need a 'less intensive' practice.
 
OT but I (long ago) used to run. I still remember that our training schedule was never a 'linear progression'.

Funny that you mention that, because I had the same thought recently about a (possible) similarity between running pace and practice tempo. Personally I feel like it's easy to get stuck in at a certain tempo when you're starting out and do everything at that speed, when it might be a good idea to do some things significantly faster -- or even slower. It doesn't always seem easier to play things more slowly.
 
Something that I have really noticed is that I am using the sheet music as a memory crutch. That and I still get tripped up by sharps and flats. Ab=G# etc. The more concentration I have to devote to the notes the slower that I have to play and the less time that there is for staying in tune, tonguing, etc. When we read in a language we are very proficient at all of the vowels can be left out and you can probably still read it just fine. Heck you can leave out many of the words and your brain will fill those in for you. I think that the trick to speed may be becoming so familiar with the language of music and how it relates to your instrument to have your brain filling in the missing pieces automatically. You don't need to read or remember every note because the patterns are so familiar that you know what they are. Does this make sense?
 
Professionals need to start slow and build up too. There is no difference between a professional and an amateur except a paycheck.

Bob Reynolds famously recommends practicing everything very slowly. He sets his metronome on 60, or even 40, to do his scales.
 
Yes, don’t elevate Pro players to a “mystical “ level. They started the same as everyone else - day one.

Unless you put in an absolutely hatful of hours nobody knows for sure how good you might get. But, unless you do…

Sight-reading at speed is down to preparation - the idea that you have covered almost everything that a piece of music could throw at you - that’s practice. You gain control and facility on the instrument and then practice the things that are likely to come your way.

For many (most??) the time-honoured way is by learning scales and arpeggios and the playing of etudes to complement each particular key.

Orchestral players will learn orchestral excerpts from all the major, oft played works - they don’t turn up to orchestral auditions unprepared.

Jazzers follow a similar path and will know Standards. Their prep will be extended to include patterns and licks - either their own or modified as to have some originality.

If you can’t nail a phrase playing slowly, then play more slowly. Don’t kid yourself either. Maybe don’t bump the bpm up until you’ve played the phrase correctly 10 times. Don’t increment the bpm too much in one go either, it has to be gradual. Maybe 2-3 bpm each time.

If you have a decent facility already, you might find that you don’t have to increment the speed. Just teach your fingers the passage slowly, and it’s programmed.

There are short cuts in learning music, but not golden bullets. The short cuts are knowing exactly what to practice and how, in order to achieve your goal - and then you woodshed.
 
As an aside: when I was at college I realised that everything you play is programming your brain - “ah, ok, I’ll remember that”, says brain.
Problem is, that goes for wrong notes too. So for example, if you play a scale or phrase with some wrong notes, you have to delete them - so the best way to learn is try and not play wrong notes. Hard yes, so play more slowly. You should learn faster this way.
 

Similar threads... or are they? Maybe not but they could be worth reading anyway 😀

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