Velocity, Choice of Practice Speed

Get up to speed as quickly as possible. Remember, we are still practicing HS. Playing so fast that you start to feel stress and make mistakes will not improve technique because playing with stress is not the way it will be played when you become proficient. Forcing the fingers to play the same way faster is not the way to increase speed. As demonstrated with parallel play, you need new ways that automatically increase speed. In fact, with parallel play, it is often easier to play fast than slowly. Devise hand positions and motions that will control the phase angle accurately and that will also position everything in such a way that the coming transition to the next parallel set is smooth. If you do not make significant progress in a few minutes, you are probably doing something wrong -- think of something new. Repeating the same thing for more than a few minutes without any visible improvement will often do more harm than good. Students who use the intuitive method are resigned to repeating the same thing for hours with little visible improvement. That mentality must be avoided when using the methods of this book. There are two types of situations you will encounter when increasing speed. One involves technical skills you already have; you should be able to bring these parts up to speed in minutes. The other involves new skills; these will take longer and will be discussed below. Technique improves most rapidly when playing at a speed at which you can play accurately. This is especially true when playing HT (please be patient -- I promise we will eventually get to HT practice). Since you have more control HS, you can get away with much faster play HS than HT without increasing stress or forming bad habits. Thus it is erroneous to think that you can improve faster by playing as fast as possible (after all, if you play twice as fast, you can practice the same passage twice as often!). Since the main objective of HS practice is to gain speed, the need to quickly attain speed and to practice at a speed optimized for technical improvement become contradictory. The solution to this dilemma is to constantly change the speed of practice; do not stay at any one speed for too long. Although it is best to bring the passage up to speed immediately, for very difficult passages that require skills you don't already have, there is no alternative but to bring it up in stages. For this, use speeds that are too fast as exploratory excursions to determine what needs to be changed in order to play at such speeds. Then slow down and practice those new motions. Of course, if you lack the technique, you must go back to shortening the passage and applying the parallel set exercises. To vary the speed, first get up to some manageable "maximum speed" at which you can play accurately. Then go faster (using chord attacks, etc., if necessary), and take note of how the playing needs to be changed (don't worry if you are not playing accurately). Then use that motion and play at the previous "maximum speed". It should now be noticeably easier. Practice at this speed for a while, then try even slower speeds to make sure that you are completely relaxed. Then repeat the whole procedure. In this way, you ratchet up the speed in manageable jumps and work on each needed skill separately. In most cases, you should be able to play a new piece, at least in small segments, HS, at the final speed during the first sitting. In the beginning, such feats may seem unattainable, but every student can reach this objective surprisingly quickly.