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The elusive quest for speed...

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
It feels like everything is speeding up except me, and I don’t want to be left behind!

I’m currently working on ‘I Got Rhythm’ and ‘But Not For Me’ from ‘Gershwin by Special Arrangement’ and although I’m really enjoying them, I’m struggling with the tempo. ‘I Got Rhythm’ is at ♩= 186 and ‘But Not For Me’ is at ♩= 156, I’m using Transcribe to slow the backing tracks down so that I can play along, which is great, but as I increase the tempo back up to around 70% I suffer from *** (Flailing Fingers Syndrome, previously know as: Finger Articulation Response Timing Syndrome) and it all goes desperately wrong!

Today I got my copy of ‘In Session with Charlie Parker’ and started work on ‘Billie’s Bounce’, which is a possible Grade 6 Jazz piece for me, the CD has two versions of it, one at ♩= 184 and the other at ♩= 136 and luckily it’s the ♩= 136 version that’s specified in the regs but even so, it feels like it pulls along at a fair rate.

So all you speed demons out there, how do you do it? And how did Charlie Parker manage to do ‘Anthropology’ at ♩= 304?

I’m guessing it’s the same old thing, practice and more practice, start slow and build up the temp and efficiency of movement.

Humbly yours at a snails pace,

Chris
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Chris,
Why do you want to do "But not for me" at such a pace?
Read the vocals, listen to some good singers and find the version that emotionally appeals to you. That is the pace that is yours, it might alter but you'll be playing what you believe.
The early beboppers often used very fast tempos because they could and it deterred others, kept an exclusive club. Most of us can kick a ball, but do we possess the same skill level as Messi?
Apologies to ManU fans and for being serious.

Edited to add:-Having just learnt that Barcelona paid twelve million for the right to carry the UNICEF logo on their shirts, apology to ManU fans withdrawn.
 
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Pauline

Senior Member
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Hull, UK City of Culture 2017
"Having just learnt that Barcelona paid twelve million for the right to carry the UNICEF logo on their shirts, apology to ManU fans withdrawn."

Well said OG! How great is that?! Good on yer Barcelona!
 
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Chris98

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
Chris,
Why do you want to do "But not for me" at such a pace?
Read the vocals, listen to some good singers and find the version that emotionally appeals to you. That is the pace that is yours, it might alter but you'll be playing what you believe.
The early beboppers often used very fast tempos because they could and it deterred others, kept an exclusive club. Most of us can kick a ball, but do we possess the same skill level as Messi?
Apologies to ManU fans and for being serious.

Edited to add:-Having just learnt that Barcelona paid twelve million for the right to carry the UNICEF logo on their shirts, apology to ManU fans withdrawn.
Good afternoon OG,

The quick unconsidered answer is because the tempo on the CD backing track is at that pace! But you have given me pause for thought, the CD traps you into a specific tempo, where as a band or accompanist would be much more flexible. I’d certainly rather play the piece well but at a slower tempo than poorly fast.

When I play "But not for me" at a slower tempo I feel more in control and so can impart a bit of personal expression into it, if I try at the ‘correct’ tempo I’m technically not in control and so it falls apart. I should add that the version I’m working on is, ‘Jazz-style arrangements with a “Variation”’ so they are not intended to be strict versions of the originals, I find the main melody is fine at the tempo set, it’s the solo that gets me.

Personally I like more lyrical and melodic playing, fast is often, to my ear at least, impressive from a technical stand point but emotionally unengaging, take for example Charlie Parker’s ‘Anthropology’ it leaves me totally cold and I have no desire to play or listen to it, but I’ll listen to his “Meandering”, “Billie’s Bounce” or “Lover Man” any day.

I don’t want to be fast for the sake of throwing a load of notes out there at breakneck speed but I’d like to be able to handle moderate fast music with confidence.

The only version, "But not for me" I have of is by the Chet Baker Quartet and I think it’s slightly faster than what I’m attempting, any other versions you’d suggest?

All the best,

Chris
 
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Chris98

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
"Having just learnt that Barcelona paid twelve million for the right to carry the UNICEF logo on their shirts, apology to ManU fans withdrawn."

Well said OG! How great is that?! Good on yer Barcelona!
Hi Pauline,

You know it's quite intimidating to see two members of the official Croydon and Sarf Lundun Massive posting one after another on thread you've started!

Not knowing a thing about football or ManU, I only have a vague idea of what you're talking about but if I've got the gist of it, I say good on Barcelona.

Chris
 

kiwi simon

New Member
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26
Location
chch, nz
Hi Chris,

It's all relative thou eh ? What's fast to you might be medium to me. I wudn't sweat it. Your sound is more important.

You know how its done, startin slow, use a timekeeper. Patience is the hardest thing. I've found takin a break of a day or two from a practising a fast bit is worthwhile too - yer mind seems to figure things out away from the sax.

Sarf Lundun rep-re-sent, aye!
Simon
 

Young Col

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Coulsdon, London/Surrey
Wasn't going to, but as the rest of Croydon etc is piling in I thought I would too. Where's our getaway driver Smiffy?

Chris, I've got "But Not for Me" in Guest Spot Gershwin and its at 110. Much more relaxed and wistful. I wouldn't worry too much about Charlie Parker's speed. Remember that when he first sat in with a band in KC he got laughed off he was so bad. That's what led him to do about 6hrs a day practice for years - "woodshedding" - even when he started playing professionally with Jay McShann. And he was a genius.

Simon, I was really looking forward to seeing the kazoo museum, but OG says its not open to the public (what hold does he have then ....), so that's a pity.
Colin
 

half diminished

Senior Member
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1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
I read somewhere that the key to fast playing is slow practice with great breath control and tone and listening to fast playing - lots of listening. Apparently its the mind that gets in the way of the fingers.

Dunno if that's true or not but I am getting faster myself. Course I'm still rubbish - tone and speed - but I am trying! Off to practice right now!!
 
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Chris98

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
Hi Chris,

It's all relative thou eh ? What's fast to you might be medium to me. I wudn't sweat it. Your sound is more important.

You know how its done, startin slow, use a timekeeper. Patience is the hardest thing. I've found takin a break of a day or two from a practising a fast bit is worthwhile too - yer mind seems to figure things out away from the sax.

Sarf Lundun rep-re-sent, aye!
Simon
Hi Simon,

I see that the Croydon and Sarf Lundun Massive arm of influence has now reached you too, I feared as much when I read OG’s account of his visit to your esteemed establishment.

You’re certainly right about speed being relative, I’m sure my fast is your walking pace or slower! I’ve also noticed the awkwardness of the rhythm, relative pitches of notes, the key and the number of accidentals also have a significant affect on the speed at which a piece can be played.

All the best,

Chris
 
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Chris98

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
Wasn't going to, but as the rest of Croydon etc is piling in I thought I would too. Where's our getaway driver Smiffy?

Chris, I've got "But Not for Me" in Guest Spot Gershwin and its at 110. Much more relaxed and wistful. I wouldn't worry too much about Charlie Parker's speed. Remember that when he first sat in with a band in KC he got laughed off he was so bad. That's what led him to do about 6hrs a day practice for years - "woodshedding" - even when he started playing professionally with Jay McShann. And he was a genius.

Colin
Hi Colin,

I’m getting a tad worried, why’d you need a getaway driver? Or is it best not to ask? I’d just like to point out that if it came to it I can prove a less than tangible link to Croydon.

I’ll have to look out for that Guest Spot book, I seem to have a growing collection of them, although nearly all my music is for the alto so that might be a good one to get for the tenor.

I didn’t know that about Charlie Parker, it’s only been in the last week that I’ve got a compilation CD of his and looked at his music, I’d always put him in the ‘hard to listen to’ bracket, but have been surprised by how much of his stuff I like.

All the best,

Chris
 
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Chris98

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
I read somewhere that the key to fast playing is slow practice with great breath control and tone and listening to fast playing - lots of listening.
Hi Ian,

There is similar advice in a video tutorial on the Jody Jazz website.

It is interesting that you say:
Apparently its the mind that gets in the way of the fingers.
I think that's true for me and also a lack of confidence that my fingers will find the right notes.

I've also noticed that if I make a mistake the first few times I try a tune it will often take a lot of work to undo the impulse to repeat the mistake in subsequent run throughs, it's like it's hard wired somehow! And trying to play it initially too fast often leads to mistakes, so I think I need to pull back on the speed right form the off and really get it right before building up the tempo.

All the best,

Chris
 

Linky Lee

Member
Messages
182
Location
Salisbury, UK
One bit of advice I've been told several times that hasn't cropped up here yet is learn it off by heart slowly first.

Then when you're playing it you not worrying about reading the accidentals, thinking about the key signature or reading the notes.

It doesn't mean you need to know the whole piece of by heart either.
Start with the head, and breaking it down into manageable chunks, learn little bits at a time.

Are you practicing it without the backing track at slower speeds with a metronome?

As someone has already said. The early bebop stars played at such ridiculous tempos so that they could control the genre. I too find immense speed rather hard to listen to, and not something I desire to achieve but appreciate it's technical demands.

I've found the hardest thing with playing at speed is to keep the articulation and clarity, making sure that the notes don't blur into a mess.
If you listen to Charlie Parker every note he plays is very clearly defined, you just get a nano-second to hear it. That's where the art in playing fast is.
 

AlanU

Member
Messages
628
Location
Enfield, North London
I agree with Chris that one can learn mistakes, and they become difficult to shake off. They somehow seem to fall under the fingers.

And as Linky implies, players like Parker sound like they have all the time in the world even at the most extreme tempi. Alas, very few of us will ever have that facility.
Sure, they worked at it, and played every night in testing situations, but some people seem to start from a higher level, and move up from there.

It's the old 'nature or nurture' argument.
Unless you choose to believe in what folks refer to as 'talented/gifted etc.'

Discuss on one side of the paper only.


ps. Although I don't aspire to be a speed merchant, isn't it thrilling to hear someone like Peter King playing Donna Lee at breakneck speed?
 
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half diminished

Senior Member
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1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
I agree with Chris that one can learn mistakes, and they become difficult to shake off. They somehow seem to fall under the fingers.

And as Linky implies, players like Parker sound like they have all the time in the world even at the most extreme tempi. Alas, very few of us will ever have that facility.
Sure, they worked at it, and played every night in testing situations, but some people seem to start from a higher level, and move up from there.

It's the old 'nature or nurture' argument.
Unless you choose to believe in what folks refer to as 'talented/gifted etc.'

Discuss on one side of the paper only.


ps. Although I don't aspire to be a speed merchant, isn't it thrilling to hear someone like Peter King playing Donna Lee at breakneck speed?
I am sure that the key to speed is slowing things down initially and practicing short 'riffs' or passages or parts of scales etc and then gradually speeding up. If you make a mistake - stop and start over - never continue (not when practicing). Also listen to a jazz piece or phrase played fast over and over- then try to play it as fast. That's what I read anyway.
 

Martin

Member
Messages
212
Location
Grenada, West Indies
One technique that I have found to be useful when I’m unable to play a phrase at speed, is to practice it in a lilting sort of way.

What I mean is this: If the phrase is, say, all semi-quavers, I would practice it first by dotting the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th,etc note of the phrase (not of the scale) and correspondingly reduce the notes between (the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th,etc ) to demi-semi-quavers. I would play it like this as fast as I could, which would certainly not be at full speed.

Next, I would practice by dotting the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th,etc notes of the phrase and reducing the notes between (the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th,etc) to demi-semi-quavers.

After the above, when I return to play the piece with correct phrasing, I have often found that I am able to play a previously impossible phrase.

Can’t guarantee it, but it has worked for me.
 

Jobylou

Member
Messages
322
Location
Chipping Campden
I realise that this post is 5 years old but had to reply!
I am just working on exactly the same pieces Gershwin, I got Rhythm from the Special Arrangement Book and Billies Bounce!
I am using the Amazing Slow Downer but even with that am getting increasingly frustrated and beginning to seriously doubt whether I will ever get fast enough!
So I wondered how you were getting on 5 years later, is there hope for me?
Also do you have any suggestions for other books that I may enjoy, at about that level, I have quite a few for tenor but not so many for alto.
Thank you so much
Jo :)
 

jazzdoh

Well-Known Member
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2,109
Location
West Midlands
And how did Charlie Parker manage to do ‘Anthropology’ at ♩= 304?


Chris
It is said that Charlie Parker at the beginning of his career practised 11 hours per day every day for 3/4 years,thats how he did it,loads of shedding.
Speed playing comes with time,slow the tunes down until you can play them with your eyes closed and gradually speed up.
 
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