All profit supporting special needs music education and Help Musicians
SYOS

Beginner What are your thoughts re this?

Jeanette

Organizress
Cafe Moderator
Messages
25,901
Quite often I read about how when learning a new piece it should be played slowly then gradually increase the speed and I see why this would be taught.

However I was having a conversation the other night with someone who teaches woodwind and his theory was to learn at the speed you need to play it or it will be like learning a new tune when you try and play faster as your brain will remember it slow and he cited instances where a student originally learned a piece slow and towards the end of the piece would be slowing down to the speed originally learnt at.

What do other teachers think/do?

Jx
 

Pyrografix

Senile Member
Messages
1,026
Hi Jeanette,

Until recently my tutor advised me, as you suggested, to learn to play slowly and then build up to the correct speed, checking occasionally with a metronome, to make sure the speed throughout the piece is constant. At my last lesson, he chose a piece (which is fast at 112 crotchets/min, with loads of semi-quavers!), and sent me home to practice it straight off at the correct speed, with the instructions to 'keep going' regardless of mistakes etc., and to improve it every time I play. Think he's a bit of a masochist myself!
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
8,003
If working on a piece of music that has a metronome marking that is beyond a player's technical ability at the time, it makes little sense to try to practice the piece (or the challenging sections) faster than the player can play. My advice is to start at a tempo that is closer to the comfort zone of the player to learn the piece as a whole, and then gradually increase the tempo over time to come closer to the marked tempo of the piece.

I also like the idea of taking the challenging technical sections of the piece and woodsheding those parts separately, using the metronome of course. My adage to my students was always "Practice what you can't play---not what you can". In my experience students can sometimes reach a "plateau" in their technical speed that is difficult to go beyond at their stage of development. When this happens it is ok to put that particular lesson or piece aside, work on other things, and come back to it at a later time.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
I can't agree with this advice. By practising at full speed and ignoring the mistakes, you're practising those mistakes. I once heard Tim Henman say about tennis: "Practice may not make perfect, but it does make permanent". Play it slowly until you not only can get it right, but until you can't get it wrong. That way your brain has the pattern mapped out and speeding up (gradually) is relatively easy.

Another good tip for practising something which is technically challenging is to start from the end and work backwards. Play just the last two notes. Then the last three, and so on. Then when you play through the whole thing it gets more familiar as you go through it, rather than the usual situation where you keep starting at the beginning and giving up when it falls apart.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
Just re-read the question. To be honest, I'd be wary of taking advice from someone who describes themself as a woodwind teacher. There may maybe a few people out there who are experienced enough in playing flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, sax(es) and whatever else I've left out to teach them all well, but not many. And I don't think makes it OK if it's just for beginners. It can take a long time to unlearn bad habits you pick up at the start.

Edit: I seem to be in controversial mode lately. Don't take me too seriously.
 

muzza

Member
Messages
109
I kind of came to this process that was then told to me. Learning a new piece,

1) get the notes correct (note reading)
2) Timing - rhythm and speed
3) Breathing - phasing
4) Articulation
5) Dynamics
6) Intonation

I have found depending on complexity of piece more or less time is spend on each section. On difficult pieces/section I need to slow down to get finger and rhythm correct, before increasing speed. On easier piece, after a couple of run through getting notes and rhythm right, jump straight in at correct speed/turn on backing track and see what happens. Then target the problem areas and add articulation etc.

As mentioned in other posts, don't re-enforce mistakes which I guess as the teacher said don't re-enforce or waste time playing piece slowly once you know tune.
 

What

Member
Messages
314
What I find works for me is to learn the notes first. Once I get the notes down and can play the piece without the dots. I go to the backing track to get the rhythm and intonation in my head right. Once I am able to keep up well with the backing/play along track and get the song sounding right, I move to the metronome to perfect the timing. After all this I go back to the backing track to make sure I still have good intonation.

Now, I have no idea if this is a good method or even how effective it is, my only learning support comes from the good people of this forum, but it works for me and has gotten me through some challenging pieces.
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
Teachers/tutors/coaches are different people to their very different clients. Anyone who states "This is the only way." must be ignored as they do not accept your individuality. They should adopt whatever method is most effective with the individual, that is why you pay them.

Pyrographic, heve you been reading Fifty shades?>:)
 

Jeanette

Organizress
Cafe Moderator
Messages
25,901
Another good tip for practising something which is technically challenging is to start from the end and work backwards. Play just the last two notes. Then the last three, and so on. Then when you play through the whole thing it gets more familiar as you go through it, rather than the usual situation where you keep starting at the beginning and giving up when it falls apart.
That was something else he suggested

Jx
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
Messages
12,125
I think there are two possible ways, according with your goal on a specific piece.
Jbtsax advice is the most solid if you have to learn a specific tune, but there is a practice, in particular in jazz improvisation, that requires you to "think fast".

I will try with two fast tunes as an example: Giant Steps and Mr PC
Mr PC is a minor blues, something an intermediate jazz player should have under his hands. The only difficulty is to think it fast. Playing quavers is not impossible under the fingers, it is just difficult to squeeze eight of them in a bar. I believe that thinking and singing fast will eventually allow playing fast.
Giant Steps is a very advanced tune. "Thinking fast" (within limits) will make you think of the harmonic form in a more fluid way, not simply like playing one chord after the other, but seeing the 16 bars as a whole movement.
I must say that I have regularly practiced Giant Steps for a couple of decades, and I am not ready yet to play it on stage.:blush:
 
Last edited by a moderator:

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
I must say that I have regularly practiced Giant Steps for a couple of decades, and I am not ready yet to play it on stage.:blush:

Really disappointed in you, Aldevis. Was the star of the CaSLM sponsored Croydon Jazz Festival, playing a twenty-three minute Giant Steps solo, one handed on my silver kazoo as the other was needed for support on gold Zimmer frame. Bought the house down. Mind you the local building inspection regime is....................................
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Another good tip for practising something which is technically challenging is to start from the end and work backwards. Play just the last two notes. Then the last three, and so on. Then when you play through the whole thing it gets more familiar as you go through it, rather than the usual situation where you keep starting at the beginning and giving up when it falls apart.
I've been doing this recently with my new teacher. Drives me nuts, cos you end up starting in the middle of phrases... Which makes it really difficult. But it's a really good exercise and I'm learning a lot/improving a lot from it. Especially to read.... Instead of half reading as I've been doing.

His theory is that by starting at the end and working forwards, you introduce something new each time you start earlier, but what follows is always playable, so you don't keep stopping or getting over faced by it.
 

tengu01

Member
Messages
725
I've been doing this recently with my new teacher. Drives me nuts, cos you end up starting in the middle of phrases... Which makes it really difficult. But it's a really good exercise and I'm learning a lot/improving a lot from it. Especially to read.... Instead of half reading as I've been doing.

His theory is that by starting at the end and working forwards, you introduce something new each time you start earlier, but what follows is always playable, so you don't keep stopping or getting over faced by it.
Uh oh! More homework. I'd never heard of that practice before, but I'm going to give it a try. I think it could be really useful.

With regard to the original question, I think having good time is important i.e. a metronome. Play the piece accurately first. Develop your speed second. If your fingers learn even motion, then adjusting the timing less of a challenge. I found when i started off too fast on a piece, I was tensing up, slapping the keys and practiced a host of mistakes. Slowing down really helped getting it right.

When it comes to playing, I think it's important to know what speed the tune was originally written for and aim for that after you've got it right. I had a horrid jam session experience when I called 'Impressions' by Coltrane. Unfortunately, I'd been practicing at the speed laid out in Jamie Aebersold's Maiden Voyage (volume 54?). The rhythm section counted off a fast four and I found myself in some difficulty. The bass player quietly suggested I learn the song for next time once they'd finished dragging me around the tune at 200 bpm.

Although there are many ways to skin a cat, my personal leopard-skin rug was made slowly :)
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
Messages
12,125
I had a horrid jam session experience when I called 'Impressions' by Coltrane. Unfortunately, I'd been practicing at the speed laid out in Jamie Aebersold's Maiden Voyage (volume 54?). The rhythm section counted off a fast four and I found myself in some difficulty. The bass player quietly suggested I learn the song for next time once they'd finished dragging me around the tune at 200 bpm.
This is another perfect example of my previous post: you could play Impressions now, on piano (white keys on Dm6, black keys on Ebm6) but you need to feel a fast tempo. It is not about finger's speed, it is about mind.
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
13,073
I've had that from both sides. Sitting in as a guest and having the band leader announce a tune you know well at walking pace then counting it in at a gallop, and a guest guitarist sitting in and playing half the speed. Very funny. Lots of sideways looks.

I think if you're learning a new piece and you can play it at full speed, you've learned it already. Pick something harder.

When you can play it fast and slow and swing it and change time sig and waltz it, pick it up from any place if you drop it and whistle it all the way through, you're ready to try it with the band.

If you've got the lead, you count in the band. Don't be shy. "Hey guys! Let's try a change of tempo, I'd like to try this."
 

Targa

Among the pigeons
Subscriber
Messages
8,895
I think there are two possible ways, according with your goal on a specific piece.
Jbtsax advice is the most solid if you have to learn a specific tune, but there is a practice, in particular in jazz improvisation, that requires you to "think fast".

I will try with two fast tunes as an example: Giant Steps and Mr PC
Mr PC is a minor blues, something an intermediate jazz player should have under his hands. The only difficulty is to think it fast. Playing quavers is not impossible under the fingers, it is just difficult to squeeze eight of them in a bar. I believe that thinking and singing fast will eventually allow playing fast.
Giant Steps is a very advanced tune. "Thinking fast" (within limits) will make you think of the harmonic form in a more fluid way, not simply like playing one chord after the other, but seeing the 16 bars as a whole movement.
I must say that I have regularly practiced Giant Steps for a couple of decades, and I am not ready yet to play it on stage.:blush:
There's a church at one end of the road and a crematorium half a mile away.
When I play Giant Steps the hearse slows down as it passes; I am improving though, at least now the corpse doesn't get out and walk.
 

trimmy

One day i will...
Messages
10,272
I must say that I have regularly practiced Giant Steps for a couple of decades, and I am not ready yet to play it on stage.:blush:
The last time i played Giant steps my improv lasted 15 minutes, i got a standing ovation but i didnt get to finish....... " Kevin are you awake yet " i must finish that dream !!
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
The last time i played Giant steps my improv lasted 15 minutes, i got a standing ovation but i didnt get to finish....... " Kevin are you awake yet " i must finish that dream !!
No, why spoil it?

You must have heard the story about Coltrane telling Miles he was having trouble finishing his solos. Miles' reply: "Just take the f****** horn out of your mouth."
 

Profusia

Senior Member
Messages
984
I think possibly there's a subtle difference here between learning a piece, and learning to play technically difficult passages within a piece. For instance, if wanting to learn a piece by ear so as to play it without sheet music there might be advantages to always playing it at tempo, but if trying to master a piece that has passages of notes that don't yet come naturally to a player I see little advantage in playing them wrong over and over and developing/reinforcing an incorrect memory (and muscle memory) of that passage.

One thing that I've found useful quite by accident recently (and this may only be of use to real newbies like myself) has been noodling/improvising in blues scales. By simply learning blues scale in C and noodling question and answer phrases I quickly found that hitting Bbs and Ebs became much more natural. Adding in blues scale in D added G# to the list. I'm hoping that blues scale in G will do the same for low C# (might take a bit longer!)

When I went back to some pieces with what were for me at least somewhat difficult fiddly passages with those notes in as accidentals I was pleasantly surprised to find that I automatically was able to play them MUCH better.

The downside of this theory is that if you noodle in something like C blues scale too much your brain/fingers may refuse to play a D ever again! ;}

Some really good stuff on this thread as always. I look forward to trying the learning the piece backwards bit by bit idea.
 
Saxholder Pro

Staff online

Help!Mailing List
Top Bottom