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Playing fast for adult returners #2849992
05/19/19 11:52 AM
05/19/19 11:52 AM
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KevinM Online content OP
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I am beginning to suspect there is an issue for adult players who learnt as a child.

A lot of their knowledge and experience can come back quickly. But essentially their fingers are slow, at least that is what I suspect about myself.

I am beginning to think I need to find a few pieces that require speed that are otherwise comfortably within my ability to play. I just can't seem to make my fingers move fast enough, for two reasons my older hands will never have the flexibility they had 40 years ago, but also they have forgotten how to run, though they can still walk. With the right kind of practise hopefully a lot speed can be regained.

Perhaps there just needs to be time spent on pieces that require fast play that are otherwise simple and give the fingers the time they need to learn to run again.


Mendelssohn Song without Words 19,6, Jensen Sehnsucht 8,5. Chopin Nocturne C# Minor. Schumann Hasche Mann from Kinderszenen Op15,3. Beethoven Bagatelle 119.4 https://soundcloud.com/sheffieldkevin
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Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: KevinM] #2850043
05/19/19 02:19 PM
05/19/19 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by KevinM
With the right kind of practise hopefully a lot speed can be regained.



That is indeed the key, and lots of it - and patience and perseverance.


Roland LX7

South Wales, UK
Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: KevinM] #2850049
05/19/19 02:38 PM
05/19/19 02:38 PM
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I think to develop this skill you simply need to practice it. You need to find some faster pieces and work at it. These are the pieces I have played that I felt have helped develop speed fluency. You need to practice in specific ways - slowly, dotted rhythms, faster.

C.P.E. Bach - Solfeggietto in C minor - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rDGc69FQcY
Mendelssohn - Songs without words op 102 no 3 (Tarentella) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rt25qJV4-_I&t
Grieg - Llyrical pieces - March of the Dwarfs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUALkw0T2xc

I do not really play that many fast pieces. I often stumble or play unevenly at pieces that are very fast and dont find it a very interesting skill to practice. Some people love it and would love to spend many hours working at Chopin Etude 1. I would hate it. I think there are plenty of etudes and preludes that can help with develop speed so you need something that is doable and enjoyable. I'd ask your teacher to suggest a piece.

Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: Moo :)] #2850065
05/19/19 03:22 PM
05/19/19 03:22 PM
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KevinM Online content OP
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Originally Posted by Moo :)
I think to develop this skill you simply need to practice it. You need to find some faster pieces and work at it. These are the pieces I have played that I felt have helped develop speed fluency. You need to practice in specific ways - slowly, dotted rhythms, faster.

C.P.E. Bach - Solfeggietto in C minor - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rDGc69FQcY
Mendelssohn - Songs without words op 102 no 3 (Tarentella) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rt25qJV4-_I&t
Grieg - Llyrical pieces - March of the Dwarfs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUALkw0T2xc

I do not really play that many fast pieces. I often stumble or play unevenly at pieces that are very fast and dont find it a very interesting skill to practice. Some people love it and would love to spend many hours working at Chopin Etude 1. I would hate it. I think there are plenty of etudes and preludes that can help with develop speed so you need something that is doable and enjoyable. I'd ask your teacher to suggest a piece.


I think those pieces above are either well above my skill level or near the limit of what I could learn right now. I'm honoured that you think I could even consider those Moo.

I don't think I'm ever going to be fast and I don't feel the need to be a fast player. But I do feel like I hit a wall with the pieces I'm learning with getting them played at the speed they should be, even approximately and these aren't necessarily fast pieces. Getting my fingers used to playing faster than they can now on pieces that are otherwise well within my capability except need to be played quickly might help.

I'm thinking this might be the difference with adult returners and new adult learners. New adult learners like children gradually increase the speed their fingers can play with the usual progression of the pieces they learn to play. Whereas I have had a shortcut in one sense but my fingers are slow from little use and age. One of those can be fixed.


Mendelssohn Song without Words 19,6, Jensen Sehnsucht 8,5. Chopin Nocturne C# Minor. Schumann Hasche Mann from Kinderszenen Op15,3. Beethoven Bagatelle 119.4 https://soundcloud.com/sheffieldkevin
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Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: KevinM] #2850074
05/19/19 03:44 PM
05/19/19 03:44 PM
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Solfeggietto I looked it up. It is a Grade 6 piece and you could play this with ease I think. I think it is easier than Songs without Words op 19 no 2 which I know is Grade 6 piece because I played it myself in a Grade 6 book! Tarentella is at the moment Grade 7 piece. I think it is hard for this level but again not out of reach within a year or two. Played slowly it is doable. It is not a great example of Mendelssohn but a more of an exercise to play faster. I was required to play it before I could learn Rondo Capriccioso. That was a mistake but the second time I tried to learn it I got through it slowly. Now I always get my teacher advise on learning a piece beforehand. Mendelssohn has a lot of very fast pieces that are difficult. I have only more recently been able to access some of them but I've had about 5 years lessons now as a returning adult. At the moment I've been playing this one for fun myself. Still we all have limits. I can play most of it but I have no idea how to play the end and have not the motivation to practice it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHVdJAed8_4

Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: KevinM] #2850084
05/19/19 04:07 PM
05/19/19 04:07 PM
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KevinM
My experience as an ‘older than dirt’ adult returning after more than. 40 years, is that speed can be increased... for me, an important part of the progress was believing I could do it. I am tackling one really fast piece at a time.😊 and it is slowly but surely getting there. My first conquest is ‘Montagues and Capulets’ which is over the hump in getting to performance tempo. Thinking ‘yes I can’ has been the winning ticket for me.

By the way, I never really played fast very much as a child student so it is really a new skill.
YMMW but try it

Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: KevinM] #2850093
05/19/19 04:22 PM
05/19/19 04:22 PM
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Montagues and Capulets really is a horrible piece with the piano. I gave up with it. Bydlo was suggested instead. Its from pictures from an exhibition and written for the piano and similar in feel with Montague and Capulets without any of the complexities that make that piece horrible !

The only other piece i really gave up on was this. My nemesis piece. Grade 8 book. I found it utterly impenetrable then and several years later I still utterly impenetrable. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4Ch8MSzJNI

Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: KevinM] #2850103
05/19/19 05:04 PM
05/19/19 05:04 PM
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When I studied piano as a teen I was very convinced that I could not play fast. When I returned to piano playing 7 years ago, I learned some tricks like "chord attacks" and once my teacher made the spontaneous comment that "you can really play fast!" so obviously it was all about mindset. Of course you need to practice a lot to get back to old speed, but I believe your major issue is that your mind blocks your movements. You think it is hard and then you tense up and it really gets hard.

I have also looked at the Chopin 10:1 etude ... and found it too demanding, as my handspan is not big and doing the movements was a bit painful to me. I like the Revolutionary Etude much better - not at all that hard, although it sounds very impressing. And ... well, you don't HAVE to play Chopin very fast. His etudes sound good even at low speed!

Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: KevinM] #2850154
05/19/19 08:12 PM
05/19/19 08:12 PM
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A lot of what we do to gain speed is to get your muscles to work the most efficient way. You can't just push your fingers to play a piece a few beats per minute faster without understanding the best ways to get your hands to play with minimal effort. Practicing long hours may lead to repetitive strain injury.

When we took a long break, start with slower pieces & slow movements of pieces and gradually work your way up to faster pieces.

Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: KevinM] #2850195
05/20/19 12:10 AM
05/20/19 12:10 AM
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You may find doing warm-up exercises such as Hanon to be of use. I start every practice session by playing a page of Hanon. Really gets the finger muscles warmed up!


Chris

Yamaha P-515, Yamaha Reface CP.
Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: KevinM] #2850213
05/20/19 01:50 AM
05/20/19 01:50 AM
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Originally Posted by KevinM

I'm thinking this might be the difference with adult returners and new adult learners. New adult learners like children gradually increase the speed their fingers can play with the usual progression of the pieces they learn to play.


I can speak only for myself, but I don't think this is the case - on the contrary, starting as an adult is even worse and a huge disadvantage especially for speed! I think it's more of a brain/ear problem than a finger problem. It's also psychological to some extent - I found that if I push myself I can improve a little, even if I'll never get some pieces to the required tempo. This summer I'm going to work on classical sonatinas and etudes (Burgmuller op. 100 and maybe even some Czerny), which are my nemesis, and see what I can do.

Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: KevinM] #2850281
05/20/19 06:33 AM
05/20/19 06:33 AM
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I was quite convinced you’re right - until about 2 weeks ago. Sorry - I know this is long, but it might be helpful. Bottom line, it’s all about technique, and it isn’t obvious or through sheer practice - it must be taught properly.

My first teacher used to push me to play faster and faster. At 45 years old, with no real handicap such as arthritis, you would think I could do it. He had me playing Hanon exercises and that damn Clementi sonatina week after week until I began to hate them and resent it. Eventually I left him, and this frustration with incessant drive to play a piece until it it to an unobtainable speed was among the reasons.

Fast forward a few years later, I’m still playing, much happier, and had resigned to playing the romantic pieces, and nothing with really fast passages. True, there are some fast runs at the end of a Chopin Nocturne I learned, but they were brief and I used Rubato to cover while playing as quickly as I could.

However, I recently began with a new teacher. She’s a full professor at the university down the street, and far superior to my prior teacher. She has me playing an arpeggio exercise I mentioned in another thread. She took wants me to build speed, but she has several very specific methods to do this.

First, with the arpeggio, she had me playing the 3 notes (eg C-E-G) then jumping to the right to land the thumb on the next C, and so on for 3 octaves, then back, landing on the G with 3 on the way down. Same with the L, although I play C-E-G-C and land the 4th finger on the next E on the way up, and on the C with the thumb on the way down. One hand at a time slowly, with a horizontal ( very little vertical) jump until accurate, then faster and then together. The C is immediately followed by Cm, then Ab, then Am, then F, then Fm, then back to C - all beginning and ending in the C. Again the next day, same order of events.

She asked me to see how quickly I could move my arm across the keyboard. As if I were throwing a ball sidearm, the answer is very quickly. There’s no reason I couldn’t play the arpeggio quickly.

Next, she has me playing a specific Hanon exercise (I think it’s 9) but has me focusing on wrist rotation. She says the entire point of the Hanon is technique, something lost on me 3 years ago. My prior teacher never really explained how to do it properly. With rotating the wrist back and forth, I am developing a technique that also improves speed and efficiency. These are just two examples of technique enhancements that nobody had bothered to correct for me in the past.

Yesterday I went outside my comfort zone and tried the run at the end of the Chopin Nocturne and found I could play it much, much faster. More smoothly also. It really surprised me. I have been doing the above exercises for about 3-4 weeks, about 5-10 min per day. They haven’t become boring, and I view them as a specific means to an end.

Hope this helps.


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Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: KevinM] #2850288
05/20/19 06:51 AM
05/20/19 06:51 AM
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Sheffield, UK
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KevinM Online content OP
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Originally Posted by "cmb13"
I was quite convinced you’re right - until about 2 weeks ago. Sorry - I know this is long, but it might be helpful. Bottom line, it’s all about technique, and it isn’t obvious or through sheer practice - it must be taught properly.


What you describe here sounds like exactly the sort of thing I need to be doing, so thanks for this.

I don't think it contradicts what I was saying though. You would hope that any student progressing through the normal course of repertoire and scale/arpeggio practise through the grades will be taught this or similar technique to be able to play at the required speed. Whereas a returning learner could easily have lost or forgotten the required technique and without this kind of direction could easily be frustrated when much of their former skill had returned fairly quickly. So the ability for them to learn relatively complex pieces is contrasted against not being able to play at speed until a suitable technique is learnt/relearnt.


Mendelssohn Song without Words 19,6, Jensen Sehnsucht 8,5. Chopin Nocturne C# Minor. Schumann Hasche Mann from Kinderszenen Op15,3. Beethoven Bagatelle 119.4 https://soundcloud.com/sheffieldkevin
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Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: KevinM] #2850293
05/20/19 07:14 AM
05/20/19 07:14 AM
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Originally Posted by KevinM
Originally Posted by "cmb13"
I was quite convinced you’re right - until about 2 weeks ago. Sorry - I know this is long, but it might be helpful. Bottom line, it’s all about technique, and it isn’t obvious or through sheer practice - it must be taught properly.

........You would hope that any student progressing through the normal course of repertoire and scale/arpeggio practise through the grades will be taught this or similar technique to be able to play at the required speed......

Except that the quality of education varies widely. I believe that many teachers do not have the tools to teach in this way. They may be excellent players themselves but not have learned how to teach what they long ago learned to do. Finding one who does may be just a matter of sheer luck and chance.


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Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: cmb13] #2850299
05/20/19 07:36 AM
05/20/19 07:36 AM
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KevinM Online content OP
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Originally Posted by cmb13
Originally Posted by KevinM
Originally Posted by "cmb13"
I was quite convinced you’re right - until about 2 weeks ago. Sorry - I know this is long, but it might be helpful. Bottom line, it’s all about technique, and it isn’t obvious or through sheer practice - it must be taught properly.

........You would hope that any student progressing through the normal course of repertoire and scale/arpeggio practise through the grades will be taught this or similar technique to be able to play at the required speed......

Except that the quality of education varies widely. I believe that many teachers do not have the tools to teach in this way. They may be excellent players themselves but not have learned how to teach what they long ago learned to do. Finding one who does may be just a matter of sheer luck and chance.


This is true.

In my own case I have no recollection of struggling to get pieces to be played at the required speed when I learnt as a child. Likely I was one of the lucky ones who was taught a technique that would allow me to do this. I had 3 teachers as a child, the first I stayed with for a few years until she retired, the next teacher I called the dragon woman, she was very strict and uncompromising with her approach and did not last more than a couple of months. The third was excellent.

Whereas it is clear to me now for where I am I need to practise a technique that will allow fast play.

I do hope I don't give the impression of wanting to just be able to play fast. I just feel there is something holding me back from being able to play the pieces I'm learning at something approaching the appropriate speed.


Mendelssohn Song without Words 19,6, Jensen Sehnsucht 8,5. Chopin Nocturne C# Minor. Schumann Hasche Mann from Kinderszenen Op15,3. Beethoven Bagatelle 119.4 https://soundcloud.com/sheffieldkevin
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Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: KevinM] #2850305
05/20/19 07:51 AM
05/20/19 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by KevinM

.......I do hope I don't give the impression of wanting to just be able to play fast. I just feel there is something holding me back from being able to play the pieces I'm learning at something approaching the appropriate speed.

Not at all. Even in the repertoire I like, Romantic Era, there are fast passages so the technique becomes more important as the level advances.


Steinway A3
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Bach Inventions
Grieg Sonata - Andante molto

"You Can Never Have Too Many Dream Pianos" -Thad Carhart
Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: cmb13] #2850316
05/20/19 08:22 AM
05/20/19 08:22 AM
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Sheffield, UK
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KevinM Online content OP
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Originally Posted by cmb13

Not at all. Even in the repertoire I like, Romantic Era, there are fast passages so the technique becomes more important as the level advances.


You and me both, the Romantic era repertoire is definitely what I like and want to be learning as well, and yes you are right speed isn't its focus but there are fast passages that need to be played sympathetically for the pieces.


Mendelssohn Song without Words 19,6, Jensen Sehnsucht 8,5. Chopin Nocturne C# Minor. Schumann Hasche Mann from Kinderszenen Op15,3. Beethoven Bagatelle 119.4 https://soundcloud.com/sheffieldkevin
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Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: cmb13] #2850333
05/20/19 08:53 AM
05/20/19 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by cmb13
I was quite convinced you’re right - until about 2 weeks ago. Sorry - I know this is long, but it might be helpful. Bottom line, it’s all about technique, and it isn’t obvious or through sheer practice - it must be taught properly.


Amen! This is so true. Trying to build speed without technique is a fool's errand, which is one reason why a good teacher is so important (at least for "classical" music). Proper technique, mastered at slow speeds (slow practice focusing on using proper technique to produce beautiful results at the slow tempo), will yield great dividends at faster tempos.


Austin Rogers, PhD
Music Teacher in Austin, TX
Baldwin SD-10 Concert Grand "Kuroneko", Baldwin Upright, Yamaha P-255
Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: KevinM] #2850382
05/20/19 10:48 AM
05/20/19 10:48 AM
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I would think that the technique of adult returners would not be a particular problem, unless not learnt properly to start with. In which case you become a beginner. Otherwise the 3 p's should do it - practice, patience and perseverance.


Roland LX7

South Wales, UK
Re: Playing fast for adult returners [Re: Colin Miles] #2850411
05/20/19 11:36 AM
05/20/19 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
I would think that the technique of adult returners would not be a particular problem, unless not learnt properly to start with. In which case you become a beginner. Otherwise the 3 p's should do it - practice, patience and perseverance.
That kind of smacks of the old joke of how do you get to Carnegie hall - practice. While true, it doesn't really help answer what to practice or how.

KevinM, have you tried fast-slow practice? Everyone in this forum is quick to suggest slow practice, which of course is fantastic advice, but I think the other half of the equation is full speed practice.

"But I can't play full speed dummy!" you protest. Sure you can. Take a run of 3-4 notes. Play only notes 1-2 at tempo. If these are thirds (2 notes per beat) maybe just play the top note or bottom note. You should be able to play it at some absurd speed - 400bpm/16ths, for example. But play it at tempo, with the right dynamics and articulation (staccato/legato/detached/whatever). Should be pretty easy. Do it a few times. Then play only notes 2-3. Same thing - at tempo, correct phrasing. Then notes 3-4. Now, start chaining. 1-2-3. 2-3-4. Always at tempo. Always listening for evenness (or correct uneveness if the rhythm is wonky). I play a lot of polyphonic stuff, so after a few minutes I'll switch to the other hand and then practice what I need to with that hand.

I like to do these in very short segments. No more than 5 minutes at a time, preferably less. I find that as soon as my neurons start building it into muscle memory I start to falter and slow down or make a mistake. That is the STRONG signal to stop. Not so much because you don't want to practice mistakes (you don't), but because your brain is rewiring stuff. Let it do its thing. You learn this sort of thing more when you are resting then when you are playing.

Go back a bit later and start it again. Sometimes it will seem like you have gone backwards, but that is just your brain in the middle of relearning what to do, and at the moment there are some conflicting instructions. Just do what you can, then stop, let your brain do it's thing while you are not playing.

I think if you pay a lot of attention to exactly how your learning process is going you'll pretty quickly figure out an efficient path towards learning this stuff. Basically any 2 note chain should be nearly effortless, so you need to sense what is going wrong when you have notes on either side of that phase that slows you down or is 'difficult'. It'll be thing like subtle issues of hand/wrist position, unequal finger lengths requiring slightly uneven firing to get even hammer releases, and so on. Tiny changes in alignment often drastically changes the difficulty level for me.

I wrote this as if you only would do it with one hand practice, but of course you need to do with with both hands together as well. At every point it is a matter of trying a very, very short segment, seeing if anything is going wrong, and if not, then practicing segments overlapping on each side, then putting them together, seeing the problems, isolating, fixing, returning to the longer run to ensure it is all working together.

Anyway, it's how i try to practice - either extremely slow or at full tempo, not weeks and weeks of slowly cranking the metronome up a click. I don't always succeed at that, but when I do it does really seem to be an entirely different and much more successful kind of practice.

Graham Fitch has several videos on youtube where he goes into this sort of practice in depth, with examples. There's all kinds of ways to vary the practice that he goes into, and that seems pointless for me to type out when he is a teacher and I am not.


Shigaru Kawai SK-2, Kawai MP11SE
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