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Joined: Jan 2010
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I have been playing slightly longer than 1 year and have a wonderful teacher.

My questions is regarding the ?need to play faster. My teacher has been wonderful at choosing a variety of short classical pieces that are challenging, but appropriate for my level.

My teacher does not seem particularly concerned about my tempo. On many pieces I can only play 1/2 to 3/4 of the suggested tempo, without making multiple errors. I do work hard on phrasing / dynamics, etc.

Is this ok? As a beginner (with very little talent / hoping hard work makes up for this lack of natural ability), should I try hard to play faster?

I practice approx. 1 hour per day / play scales / arpeggios / Hanon, etc.

Should I be setting metronome faster and faster, etc?

Or is it ok to play properly slower now and assume tempo comes with time and experience.

Thanks for your help.

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Hi scbeginner,

You are probably best asking your teacher this question, as this is the sort of judgement that, after all, you pay them for!

But, yes, it's pretty normal after a year to still be playing quite slowly, and it's more important to get it right, add musicality (dynamics, phrasing) than to get it fast. Sometimes metronome markings on pieces are ridiculously fast anyway.

If you do want to work on speed, the way to do it is with scales, hanons, or any passage you already know - increase the metronome setting day by day gradually. Don't accept too many mistakes - go back to the previous speed.

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The most important things are control and musicality, not speed. If you can make it sound lovely at the speed you're playing, great. If you start losing control at a faster tempo, you need to slow it down no matter what you're playing.
Some of the great great piano artists practice new pieces at ridiculously slow tempos, letting the music soak into their muscles and their souls. They know when they're ready to pick up the tempo. So will you.


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I have been playing for about 13mnths and I asked the same questions because my teacher is not concerned with speed. Her answer was that getting the notes, rythm, and dynamics right is more important at this stage than speed. She said speed will come naturally as we play more. My teacher has the same belief as ten left thumbs, the metronome markings in the books tend to be fast and not always what the original composer set the speed to.

I wouldn't be too worried at this stage about speed, keep practicing and have fun!


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Agreed with everything that was said above.

I'd like to add that some "tempo markings" do not indicate a certain tempo only but also hint to the character of the piece. If it says "allegro" at the top of your page, you need not necessarily play it at between so-and-so-many bpm. You might try to put more emphasis on the cheerful, happy (that is what "allegro" means) character of the piece when playing it.

You're the artist - find you own interpretation!


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Tempo is a tricky subject. Don't take the printed tempo literally. It is only a suggestion. I agree with what was said. So as long your chosen tempo makes the piece sound musical, that's all that matters. You will see that sometimes professional pianists play at slower tempo, not necessarily the same or faster than suggested tempo.

If the piece is marked Moderato by the composer, who cares if you play it slightly slower than the suggested tempo so as long it is within Moderato speed.

Your teacher is The best person to consult with.


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You should be able to play the piece a tempo, though.

Nothing as a total beginner would be too outlandishly fast or technical at a fast piece.

While everyone is in agreement that playing musically is more important, speed doesn't JUST HAPPEN. It does take effort and pushing yourself. However, the pushing is itself slow. But still there.


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I think you should keep it at a slower pace until you are fully confident with the music, and then pick the pace up. But do this gradually and maybe in smaller sections.
It's better to play it correct with good technique than play it too fast for your ability and it sound messy and have mistakes frequently.

Sounds like you are doing well, but speak to your teacher and see what they suggest too.

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I agree with above; musicality is most important but to get at speed you need to push it.

I did push it by myself some time ago and found that playing at speed needs quite some changes to the playing. If you are not aware of this, you may end up playing in such a way that creates a "speed wall". Therefore I think playing at your planned target speed (but not necessarily with both hands together) asap is important to avoid having to change things when you start speeding up.


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It helps me to find a "base tempo," which is just fast enough to be comfortable and ensure accuracy, and then to gradually speed up with a metronome from there. I'll increase the speed by two BPM and play several repetitions at that speed, then go back to my base tempo, then four BPM, and back to the base tempo again, etc.

The goal is comfort, ease, and accuracy, though. A tense, sloppy passage played at tempo is still tense and sloppy, and teaches you all the wrong things.

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I've found playing a song at a slow tempo for too long of a period of time gets you "used" to playing the song at that slow tempo! You can find yourself playing slowly, out of sheer habit, even though you could go faster. Start moving up the tempo as soon as you feel ready..not a moment later. I fell into this trap myself. Never again. Onward ho!


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Agreed. One of the dangers of slow practice is that you can get used to playing without the economy of motion that you need at faster tempos. Plus, a fingering that works at a slower tempo may not be right for faster tempos.

I guess the answer is to play it slowly, but not for too long, and with the faster final tempo always lurking in your thoughts. Sounds so easy . . . .

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I agree with all of the previous posters: accuracy and musicality first, then tempo. But do work consciously on gradually increasing the tempo when you are secure with the notes and expression; don't assume the tempo will take care of itself automatically. And do be prepared to work on fingerings and arm/hand movements that seemed okay at slower tempos but don't scale up.


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I agree with the concept that you need to be able to play well at slow tempo before advancing to a higher tempo. Having said that I find that mastering a piece at a slow tempo does not mean that it is easy to just increase the tempo. One thing which I found helpful was playing the first 20 Hanon exercises using a metronome and gradually increasing the tempo. It got my fingers used to playing at a faster pace and without any places to rest.

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While I agree, that given the choice, tempo is less important that accuracy, dynamics and phrasing, it does strike me as odd that your teacher does not make tempo one of your goals. Yes, it probably will come in time, but why not now?

I'd have a talk with your teacher so you can understand the strategy s/he is taking with respect to your lessons. I learned piano from method books, which gradually got harder and harder as my skills developed. They started with the simplest of songs, with the simplest of arrangements, with the simplest of, well, everything. So many elements were stripped out or simplified to the most basic of principles, that tempo was not a challenge. As I progressed and my skills grew, those stripped out elements were gradually put back in. As a result, tempo has never been a problem for me.

On the surface, it appears to me that the reason you are unable to play your assignments is because they are not appropriate for level. However, I'm not a teacher, so there could be something I'm not seeing (i.e. your teacher's strategy).


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