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Author Topic: Playing fast  (Read 14232 times)

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arty

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Playing fast
« on: June 12, 2013, 09:19:14 PM »

I have been learning for 10 months now and I am really pleased with my progress. I love it!

Working my way through Dave Mallinson's absolute beginners book, I have got as far as 2 lovely tunes: 'Rakes of Mallow' and 'Davy Davy Knick Knack'. I have also added 'Winster Gallop' to these as they seem to fit well together. I can play them accurately at quite a fast pace but nothing like as fast as my local session plays them. They go at breakneck speed! I really want to be able to join in with the session but obviously can't until I have got the speed up.

What is the best way to increase one's speed? Is it to practise slowly? Are there exercises to help build one's speed? Or does it just take more time and practise?
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strad

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2013, 09:22:04 PM »

As I'm finding out, just time and practice, practice, practice.

Nigel
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Chris Ryall

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2013, 09:30:48 PM »

Speed has very little to do with good folk music IMHO. Once a session becomes a race I generally fold my bellows and wait for the next tune, or go to bar, or gents. I can generally play that fast, but it's all become (can't think of a better word) crap.

Practice? Just play it through repeatedly, and faster, and faster each time. But once the notes blur into each other… [see above]  ;) A clean delivery and learning to "express" the tune will do you more good in the long term. If you can do that at some speed, you'll be able to do it even better at the proper speed. Practice is never wasted on a musician. Enjoy your box  :D
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Theo

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2013, 09:51:07 PM »

What is the best way to increase one's speed? Is it to practise slowly?


Yes

Quote

Are there exercises to help build one's speed?


Yes!

Quote

Or does it just take more time and practise?


Yes!

You have hit the nail on the head!
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playandteach

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2013, 11:19:59 PM »

A good tip is to play short chunks repeatedly , you can build up the speed of these chunks - but you still have recovery time between repetitions.

Let's say it was a C major scale you were trying to play - then you could play 5 notes - CDEFG, CDEFG 4 times in total, with as much rest in between as it took to play the notes - then try it with a click or metronome at around crotchet = 60. Then move up a note; DEFGA, DEFGA etc. and up. Then slip the metronome up a notch or two. Then go back to the first tempo, but play the notes twice as fast - allowing a longer recovery. This combination of finger speed and mental recovery is important. You need to be practising things accurately or you will achieve the very opposite of what you intended.
Remember also to stick to the fingering you would use in the real passage - don't just move your hand into a better shape as you go up.

Once you've done that, play the longer passage or scale at a very slow tempo but with a very snappy dotted rhythm - so the basic tempo is slow, but you are playing pairs of notes very close together (starting with a: slow, quick-slow, quick-slow pattern. Then reverse the rhythm so you start with the quick note (a scotch snap).

If you then play the passage in context you'll be upset how it still isn't any better, but the next day your brain will have assimilated the learning.

The good thing about chunking the music is that you don't just learn a tune up to speed, but you develop the technique to play other things faster (better) too.

I find it best to separate technique from trying to learn tunes. It saves frustration, but use the tricky bits to design your own exercises - they will then have the most targeted effect on your progress.

It really is hard to put exercises into words.If you can read music I could type out some exercises like this for you to try, but the basic concept is to use a variety of rhythms for the same set of notes. If you were really interested (bearing in mind that I am anything but a skilled melodeonist) I could demo a passage in practice.

Finally - I don't actually practise (no pun) what I preach very much on the melodeon, but I did on an instrument I needed to play well. The same techniques apply to any instrument - and seeing that the melodeon is largely free from tone and intonation input from the player, building clever fingers is well worth it.
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Stiamh

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2013, 02:05:22 AM »

In addition to all the sage advice given above, I would say that the most important factor in being able to play fast is economy and efficiency of movement. If you don't play in an efficient manner then playing fast will always be a struggle. If you struggle with your instrument then you can't be efficient and economical.

You know what everyone says when they see a brilliant player: he/she makes it look easy. Well, it is, for him or her, and it has to be that way.

On the box I would look carefully at how you are handling the bellows and how your right-hand fingers are moving around. Watch great players - ones that make it look easy - and ask yourself what looks different about how they do it.  And keep working towards that goal of efficiency and economy.

Finally, I don't see how you can learn to play fast merely by playing slowly. Of course you have to build solid technique. But at some point you are going to have to try playing fast. You may well find that different things have to come into play. But keep coming back to slow playing in between your attempts.  ;)
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Lester

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2013, 07:05:39 AM »

<grumpy old git alert>
I can't see why anyone would play Rakes of Mallow, Davy Davy Knick Knack or Winster Gallop at breakneck speeds as it would only detract from the tunes.
</grumpy old git alert>

YMMV

RogerT

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2013, 07:25:21 AM »

A good example of fast playing is old JK(irkpatrick) playing Washington Hornpipe on the Garricks Delight CD that goes with his book. He is playing this on a one row... And a fab tune it is too. At the end he doubles his speed. Genius. Had the pleasure of seeing him do this at a workshop at Halsway to 'test' a one row box. There is also a great recording on YouTube by Dan Quinn so you can get a different take on this tune. The thing to do, according to JK is to play staccato, slowly, and this builds up the muscle memory for when you play faster, because defintion is lost when playing faster. You can always miss out the odd note, but if you have practiced staccato, it'll improve your playing, so said JK. Amen.

Chris Ryall

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2013, 09:03:44 AM »

<grumpy old git alert>
    I can't see why anyone would play Rakes of Mallow, Davy Davy Knick Knack
   or Winster Gallop at breakneck speeds as it would only detract from the tunes.
</grumpy old git alert>

About once a year Lester and I truly agree on something  ;)

A good example of fast playing is old JK(irkpatrick) playing

My own mileage is that I've seen so many (mostly male) young players trying to push decent tunes at lightspeed .. that I've come to see it a testosterone thing. Someone will PC complain at this, but I'd offer that they also do it in cars? I first met John in 1970 when he was still an amateur, recall him playing "Blaze away" flat out in the Folk Camp local pub. I'd say his style then became much more considered and that his notes are "placed" I would also say that of quite a few people I've kept an eye on over the years.

There is also quite a difference between a "double up last time" and a devil take the hindmost session "race"? I personally see double up as yet another style variation, but there's scope for debate.

A bit of a consensus seems to be emerging. Plenty of ways to practice speed, lot more than I'd ever imagined! I am pleased to see others stressing clarity - does anyone here argue that a tune reduced to "mush" is in any way beautiful?

Beyond that, I'd say we should all play 10% or slower less than what we might be able to do on amphetamines? And agree again with Lester, that some tunes just don't take it. Anyone for a flat out "Monks March"?  :|glug
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2013, 10:23:30 AM »

I don't know your playing style, arty, and so I don't know if it would help you to say that finding a playing and strap position that keeps the right hand side rigid is a necessary condition of playing fast and/or with accuracy and drive (which I guess we would all like to be able to do, fast or not!)  Practising right hand style is of course another necessary requirement, but it can never compensate for poor playing position.
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Rob2Hook

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2013, 11:55:32 AM »

[ Anyone for a flat out "Monks March"?  :|glug

I believe the Parliamentary leaders would have liked that!

Rob.
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Rob2Hook

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2013, 12:01:05 PM »

Don't sweat on it too much.  It sounds like you're in the phase where the muscle memory is learnt.  You will find a tune that doesn't seem as limiting as the others, so you can speed it up a bit - and strangely the others will follow!  When it becomes comfortable you're no longer worrying about the mechanics of your hands, your fingers will be dancing to the music.

Rob.
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george garside

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2013, 09:34:29 PM »

- never play faster than you can!

- playing fast will sound totally crap if phrasing and dynamics are lost in the process ( which they often are!)

- keeping bellows 'tight' and using delicate wrist movement for 'crisp' ins and outs  will sound far better than trying to wave  extended bellows around  so as to look 'flash' which  it won't!!

george
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arty

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2013, 09:46:54 PM »

Thank you so much, all of you, for your advice, ideas and methods to improve. I shall certainly incorporate a lot of what has been suggested.

All of your comments however, do make me wonder about the session I go to listen to each week. It is the only session where I live and it seems to be 'controlled' by one person (a melodeon player). He has a huge repertoire and has been playing for 25 years plus but he is known for not taking prisoners. He won't slow down for the less experienced, doesn't like it when another musician starts a slow piece (e.g. a waltz), loves to play fast and I must say, he does it extremely well! There are several equally experienced and proficient musicians who attend, playing a variety of instruments. I go each week to familiarise myself with the music and I enjoy listening, it's a great evening.

I have thought a few times though, that the speed at which they play so many tunes spoils it. It is exciting to listen to but you lose the music in the speed if you know what I mean. Does that make sense?

Maybe in the future, it would be good to start my own session with the emphasis on playing music instead of breaking speed records!

Thanks again !
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george garside

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2013, 10:20:06 PM »

but you lose the music in the speed if you know what I mean. Does that make sense?

 !

may well be!

george
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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #15 on: June 13, 2013, 10:37:20 PM »

Another Grumpy Old Man Alert -

Playing fast?  Why Bother!

Tunes have a speed at which they work, they sing, you can dance to them, they come alive, they are music.  As soon as you concentrate on playing them as fast as is possible you lose all the beauty that makes them worth playing in the first place.

Steve
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EastAnglianTed

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2013, 11:53:45 PM »

    Speed proves nothing in my opinion. Feeling and expression are redeeming qualities to me, and often this is what people respond to. Still practice, practice, practice if you want to play fast  >:E >:E >:E
    There's no QUICK solution.     


See what I did there?  ;)
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AirTime

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #17 on: June 14, 2013, 04:54:57 AM »

I sympathize with your dilemma arty. Playing with other people ought to offer inspiration & encouragement. It sounds as if, in your situation, it's rather the opposite.

As a learning player myself, I completely endorse the idea that "phrasing & dynamics" are everything. Better to concentrate on those & let the speed come with time & practice.

In addition, I rarely find "fast playing" sounds all that appealing, in fact, in my judgement, if a tune's not worth playing slow ... it's probably not worth playing.  There are many examples of fabulous slow interpretations of dance tunes, one of my favourites is Forrest's version of Orange in Bloom/Sherborne Waltz.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSO7o8VSdsg&feature=related
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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #18 on: June 14, 2013, 08:35:35 AM »

Arty, sounds very much like you need to start a new session - you may well find a lot of the musicians at the other one will come and support you!
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Lester

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Re: Playing fast
« Reply #19 on: June 14, 2013, 08:53:55 AM »

Arty, sounds very much like you need to start a new session - you may well find a lot of the musicians at the other one will come and support you!

Or invite some thick skinned mel.net chums along for slow tunes at the session  ;)
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