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My argument for the concept of learning to pluck fast by starting out really slow

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Matthew_84, Dec 21, 2013.

  1. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    I've read on here numerous times if you want to pluck really fast, start plucking really slow, make sure your technique is 100% solid and then increase the tempo... I do not agree with this concept at all.

    I seriously tried to do this for years, and for most of that time, I was a slower plucker than most. I have never kept the exact same movement nuances that I tried to maintain at slower tempos at blazing fast tempos. In fact, if I really did try to, I could not keep up that pace, and would have to slow down.

    I never allowed myself to go really fast, because I kept noticing my fingers weren't as close to the strings as I decided they had to be at all times, my attack got more powerful than I wanted to, and all the other crap I told myself.

    In all honesty, no one is going to maintain that stuff while playing at blazing fast speeds.

    Also, you may make up some mental barriers, when you know you lose your ideal (slow) technique at say 16ths at 90 BPM. Next time a passage comes up and you know it exceeds that tempo, you will never be able to perform it well, because you'll be stuck with the knowledge that you can't do it, or the knowledge that your technique is "sloppy".

    News flash, everyone's plucking technique gets sloppy at fast passages, but they still maintain the speed.

    My advice for plucking fast is to not pay attention to what BPM your metronome is set at, just set the metronome to a fast speed and accomplish it, set it faster and accomplish it. Don't analyze every stupid movement your fingers, and knuckles make, just play at that speed and get quicker.

    How to learn songs while playing them initially at a slower tempo? Don't just set the metronome to a slower setting. Download a program like Audacity for free, and slow the recording down to roughly 30%, nail it, and then only slow it down by 20%, then 10% then play along at full tempo. You'll have no idea what your speed limit is, you'll only know that you can play that really fast song.

    The end. Start the arguing if you wish. I used to follow the strict rules you are arguing for and it messed up my development for years. Beginners, please do yourself a favour and don't listen to them.

  2. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    No argument here. Merely an observation.

    I don't know who you'd been listening to, but in all my years of playing I've never encountered anyone who advised players to execute a fast passage exactly the same way one would play it at slow speed. It's a non issue as far as I'm concerned.

    AFAIK, the basic advice is to focus on good technique before you begin to focus on speed. That's all. And that advice remains as sound today as it was when it was first uttered or published.

    Of course some adjustments to one's technique and phrasing must be made when transitioning a piece from a relatively slow tempo to a very rapid tempo. Is it possible that you've been laboring under a misunderstanding - and a misconception - all these years? :eyebrow:

  3. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    Seems like your argument is more for keeping your mind on the music and less on the physical aspect of playing. I agree with that. But you do mention slowing (with Audacity) and then going to faster tempos.

    You might try reading Barry Green's "Inner Game of Music". I think you'd find it an interesting read and very much in line with what you are saying.
  4. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    I think maybe I should clarify something here.

    What I mentioned in the original post is strictly related to one learning how to pluck faster. I don't believe one should play against a metronome at a steady click and over-analyze their plucking technique and ensuring all of their finger movements are perfect and getting the most efficient strokes as possible, and then increasing the tempo only when they are satisfied. And then at the new tempo, agonizing over their plucking technique and focusing on nothing else until it is perfect before increasing the tempo further.

    I realize my initial post did not clearly state this though, so I went back and made a few modifications.

    Michael, please see my clarification above. I truly believe I have read those very same recommendations on here many times. But as you suggested, I may have misunderstood the advice - I do tend to over-think things.

    I do agree that one should develop a decent technique and be competent at playing easier songs, before transitioning to quicker, more technical ones.

    I'm not sure if you understood exactly what I was trying to say in my original post, so the first part of this reply hopefully clears it up. Regarding the above quote, what I believe you're saying goes beyond what I was talking about regarding analyzing one's plucking technique, and goes into the general process of learning a piece of music.

    If that is true, then I'm not sure I agree with this statement. In my opinion, if one is learning a song at a slow tempo with the intent to play it at a very rapid tempo, then I think the player should analyze their fingerings and technique at the slow tempo, so that they know what they'll have to do at the faster tempo to play the piece cleanly. They should be practicing those fingerings and such at the slower tempo so no adjustments would be needed at the quicker tempo. Nip the bad habits in the bud, so to speak.

    Thanks Chuck, I have read a few pages out of that book, with the intent to read it all one day, and you are correct - it is very much in line with what I'm saying.

    Again, I don't have issues with players playing something at a slower tempo and then increasing the speed once they can play the piece successfully. I do this and would encourage this from others as well.

    My issue was directed solely at the concept of playing mindless plucking runs against a metronome and analyzing one's finger movements in a mirror and trying to make them perfect before moving on.

    You are correct, my argument is more for keeping your mind on the music and less on the physical aspect of playing.
  5. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    The idea behin practicing slow before going fast is more like when you try to learn a riff and you can't do it at speed. so you slow down until you actually know the riff by heart and then you start to increase the speed ... so in the end you will play it fast.

    In case of original music I think the idea is more about working and ostinato slowy and then increase speed as part of a dealy routine so you can actually play fast, practice arpeggio slow and increase speed.

    But again if you want it to not be sloppy ... you need not be sloppy at slow speed. You know, speed isn't that important, the idea behind playing fast is to have enough headroom that you won't struggle at slower speed.
  6. ZenG


    Dec 13, 2013
    Near the fridge
    Same concept as playing fast piano....

    To play really fast on a keyboard you have to change up your style a bit compared to playing slow.

    There's a good vid on YouTube about this.

    It shows (on keyboard) that you play "groups" of notes fast and your finger position adjusts for this.

    If you played these notes slow you wouldn't make an adjustment because there is no need.

    But the style dictated for "textbook" playing doesn't work at high speed because the ergonomics are different.

    Speed is efficiency of movement.

    To get more speed you have to move more efficiently.

    Walking down the street fast will get you to a certain
    speed....but if you want go faster you have to run....which means changing several things up.....(simple explanation)
  7. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    Ah, I like that. makes a lot of sense. This is possibly what Michael was referring to above about adjusting technique and phrasing from slow to fast tempos - maybe the word "phrasing" threw me off...

    Anyways, you said it better than I ever could, LOL. I just wish I knew this years ago.