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Dkahn04 Offline OP
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Hello all, I’m not truly an adult beginner, because I played regularly until I was about 18, but am now 38 and trying to pick it back up. I’m impressed with how quickly my muscle memory is returning on songs that I used to play in my youth, but I could use some tips on how to develop it on new pieces.

Right now, for instance, I’m trying to get the chromatic part of the Phantom of the Opera theme (DUN DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNN) and having problems if I try to play it at tempo. I’ve probably run through that scale in both directions several hundred times and still can’t get it if I play it in the actual piece, while using both hands and at tempo. Is it best to just run over it hundreds of times slowly? I played this all the time as a young man, but I never got the chromatic part, because I was just lazy and took an easier route. Now that I’m relearning, I want to play it correctly.

This is just one example of course, as there are any number of other pieces I want to learn to play. I’m starting on Moonlight Sonata 1st movement, which does not require fast fingers, but there are others I want to learn that do, so maximising my development of muscle memory will be important to me.

Thanks

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Originally Posted by Dkahn04
Right now, for instance, I’m trying to get the chromatic part of the Phantom of the Opera theme (DUN DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNN) and having problems if I try to play it at tempo. I’ve probably run through that scale in both directions several hundred times and still can’t get it if I play it in the actual piece, while using both hands and at tempo. Is it best to just run over it hundreds of times slowly? I played this all the time as a young man, but I never got the chromatic part, because I was just lazy and took an easier route.
"Fast fingers" is basically all about technique.

And the acquisition of piano technique takes years of dedicated practising. Preferably with a good teacher, who will know how best to develop technique, step by step. All too often, self-learners try to run before they can walk, so not only do they never get where they want to be, they often also develop insurmountable bad habits trying to force their hands and fingers to do things they can't (- like a toddler trying to jump before he has developed the balance and leg strength to stand), which become so ingrained that to progress, they have to unlearn them over months or years. Most just give up, and stick to stuff they can play - i.e. slow simple uncomplicated stuff. Which is fine, if they're happy just doing that.

But if you want to develop speed with control, so that you can (eventually) play more advanced stuff, you should (re-)start by developing your piano technique properly, from the basics. All those whizz-kids you see on YT videos who play fast brilliant stuff, seemingly effortlessly, have had intensive training with good teachers over years. They didn't get there just by playing slow fun stuff all the time, and fudging bits that they can't manage.

You haven't said whether you ever had a teacher, nor what you were able to play (properly) at 18. There's a huge difference between someone who was taught well by a good teacher for several years as a teenager, and who reached an advanced standard before giving up piano (and therefore has developed a complete range of technical skills, including chromatic scales and octaves), and someone who only ever just played for fun by himself for the same number of years as a teenager, and never took it seriously.

If I'm getting the correct bit of what 'chromatic part' of Phantom you're talking about, it's basically a short section of a chromatic scale. If you're playing it as single notes in each hand, with hands one octave apart, it requires finger agility and control to play it fast. If you're playing it as double octaves, you need rudimentary octave technique. In other words, a different technical skill altogether, using a different set of movements.

Did you ever play scales when you were playing regularly?


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Originally Posted by Dkahn04
having problems if I try to play it at tempo
A tempo problem means for me "it doesn't sit well". So slowing all the way down is the solution. I practice a lot at a very low tempo, then I'd slowly go up.

Playing chromatic scales helps a lot, of course.


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My experience is that there is only so much I can do in order to speed up. Some things that I do:

* spend a lot of time on technique
* alternate between slow and fast
* work with the smallest section possible and enlarge that. That is, play two consecutive notes (intervals/chords) first slowly and gradually up to the final speed, than add one note (interval/chord) so you play three consecutive notes (intervals/chords) first slowly and gradually up to the final speed, etc.

However, whatever I do, I reach a final tempo that may be lower than the given tempo, and there is nothing more I can do about it. I let it go, and move on to the next piece.


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Originally Posted by Dkahn04
Hello all, I’m not truly an adult beginner, because I played regularly until I was about 18, but am now 38 and trying to pick it back up. I’m impressed with how quickly my muscle memory is returning on songs that I used to play in my youth, but I could use some tips on how to develop it on new pieces.

Right now, for instance, I’m trying to get the chromatic part of the Phantom of the Opera theme (DUN DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNN) and having problems if I try to play it at tempo. I’ve probably run through that scale in both directions several hundred times and still can’t get it if I play it in the actual piece, while using both hands and at tempo. Is it best to just run over it hundreds of times slowly? I played this all the time as a young man, but I never got the chromatic part, because I was just lazy and took an easier route. Now that I’m relearning, I want to play it correctly.

This is just one example of course, as there are any number of other pieces I want to learn to play. I’m starting on Moonlight Sonata 1st movement, which does not require fast fingers, but there are others I want to learn that do, so maximising my development of muscle memory will be important to me.

Thanks
Sometimes wrong fingering can be the issue and your finger speed. If these are double octaves remember it is 5/1 and 1/5 on the white keys and 4/1 and 1/4 on the black keys. Just that simple fingering change can speed up those chromatics if the are double octaves.


Working on:

Bach/Busoni Chaconne in D minor BWV 1004
Preludio: Bach/Rachmaninoff E Major Sonata for Violin
Chopin: G Minor Ballade


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Originally Posted by Animisha
My experience is that there is only so much I can do in order to speed up. Some things that I do:

* spend a lot of time on technique
* alternate between slow and fast
* work with the smallest section possible and enlarge that. That is, play two consecutive notes (intervals/chords) first slowly and gradually up to the final speed, than add one note (interval/chord) so you play three consecutive notes (intervals/chords) first slowly and gradually up to the final speed, etc.

However, whatever I do, I reach a final tempo that may be lower than the given tempo, and there is nothing more I can do about it. I let it go, and move on to the next piece.
+1 to this advise.

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Another thing you can do is pay attention to exactly where the stumbles happen when you try to play faster, and then slow down to examine how you're moving/fingering at those spots.

BTW be careful about 1-4 octaves especially if you have a small hand. I've been advised by those who know to play them all 1-5.


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Originally Posted by Animisha
My experience is that there is only so much I can do in order to speed up. Some things that I do:

* spend a lot of time on technique
* alternate between slow and fast
* work with the smallest section possible and enlarge that. That is, play two consecutive notes (intervals/chords) first slowly and gradually up to the final speed, than add one note (interval/chord) so you play three consecutive notes (intervals/chords) first slowly and gradually up to the final speed, etc.

However, whatever I do, I reach a final tempo that may be lower than the given tempo, and there is nothing more I can do about it. I let it go, and move on to the next piece.
Yes this is very very good advice and a good way to overcome technical difficulties such as this. One of my teachers used to call it block training or something like that.


Working on:

Bach/Busoni Chaconne in D minor BWV 1004
Preludio: Bach/Rachmaninoff E Major Sonata for Violin
Chopin: G Minor Ballade


Shigeru Kawai SK2
Kawai VPC-1

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