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Animisha #3208147 04/10/22 11:55 PM
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The piece I'm working on is a slow movement (Adagio). In the middle are 16th notes followed by 32nd notes. Even at a slow tempo, the short notes can make you fall behind the beat. Have to lighten the touch and play well articulated. Don't have time to "read" the fast notes so need to run them through many times to lock in the muscle memory.

If finger muscles start to tense up, you're going to fall behind the beat.

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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
The piece I'm working on is a slow movement (Adagio). In the middle are 16th notes followed by 32nd notes. Even at a slow tempo, the short notes can make you fall behind the beat. Have to lighten the touch and play well articulated. Don't have time to "read" the fast notes so need to run them through many times to lock in the muscle memory.

If finger muscles start to tense up, you're going to fall behind the beat.

I frequently see reference to finger muscles on this forum, but there are no muscles in the fingers. I learned this from my Physical Therapist when I had a finger injury. See the definition of how the fingers work (from Medicinenet.com)

Fingers are constructed of ligaments (strong supportive tissue connecting bone to bone), tendons (attachment tissue from muscle to bone), and three phalanges (bones). There are no muscles in the fingers; and fingers move by the pull of forearm muscles on the tendons.

I’m not sure what muscle memory is and how it applies to piano playing. But I’m guessing that it refers to really understanding the harmonics of a piece, being able to hear it in your head, and knowing it so well you don’t have to think about where to place your fingers on the keys.



Moo :) #3208174 04/11/22 03:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Moo :)
I think Kevin the advice you were given was just wrong. I have posted some suggestions how to practice. I don't think age the reason.

I also tried advise you provided in the responses to my questions at the time without anymore success. I do disagree with you about age. It means it takes more time and practise to learn to play fast than it would for a child. I'm pleased to say I am making progress, it is slow but happening, but my decision to not push at just trying to increase speed to get to the correct tempo has certainly helped to reduce tension in my fingers.

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Originally Posted by PianogrlNW
Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
The piece I'm working on is a slow movement (Adagio). In the middle are 16th notes followed by 32nd notes. Even at a slow tempo, the short notes can make you fall behind the beat. Have to lighten the touch and play well articulated. Don't have time to "read" the fast notes so need to run them through many times to lock in the muscle memory.

If finger muscles start to tense up, you're going to fall behind the beat.

I frequently see reference to finger muscles on this forum, but there are no muscles in the fingers. I learned this from my Physical Therapist when I had a finger injury. See the definition of how the fingers work (from Medicinenet.com)

Fingers are constructed of ligaments (strong supportive tissue connecting bone to bone), tendons (attachment tissue from muscle to bone), and three phalanges (bones). There are no muscles in the fingers; and fingers move by the pull of forearm muscles on the tendons.

I’m not sure what muscle memory is and how it applies to piano playing. But I’m guessing that it refers to really understanding the harmonics of a piece, being able to hear it in your head, and knowing it so well you don’t have to think about where to place your fingers on the keys.


It's just a saying. People know that fingers don't have brains. It's just a word for things you do so often that you can do them without thinking about it. Like driving a car. Like Bennevis said, when you want to turn to the left you don't have to think about every action you need to do for the car to turn left. You need your current awareness and your thinking for observing the situation, other traffic and making the right decisions, like when and where do you stop and when is it save to drive.
When you just started with driving lessons you can't do that yet and you have to think at so many things at once that you probably turn to the left very slow or make mistakes.
Brains can't do two things where you need your conscious mind for at the same time. Multi tasking does not exist. You can do two things right after each other, but not at the same time.
So what if you are going to play a piece with fast left and right hand arpeggios, a singing voice with your right hand and also inner voices with the left and right hand? I'm really wondering if there are people who can play every note consciously without 'muscle memory'.

KevinM #3208180 04/11/22 04:10 AM
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Originally Posted by KevinM
I suspect strongly that gaining speed is just slower for older people than young ones.

I agree! I think it has to do with the changes in our brain.

I remember when I was eight years old, I had a tiny role in a play. While practising my lines at home, I rushed out those lines as quickly as I could. My parents told me to slow down, but it didn't help, and at the play, heart pounding, I said my lines so fast that nobody heard a word.

There is even a thread here on the teachers forum here: Getting kids to slow down.
"Kids these days! Well, lets just say children have a hard time slowing down their practice. I will see in lessons an uneveness in their playing. I will show them how to play slowly, even through the easy sections. I tell them not to play too quickly, even setting metronome markings on their music. This works for many, but there are always those few renegades who just want to play as fast as their fingers will allow, at the expense of an even, steady beat! "

As an adult beginner, practising slowly has never been a problem.

Originally Posted by KevinM
I wish you a better experience than I have had Animisha. I have come to accept that is the way it is and have mostly managed to let go of being overly concerned by it.

It is a struggle. But I try to get the fast pieces as fast as I can, and when I have reached my limit, I let it go.


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Seeker #3208182 04/11/22 04:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Seeker
It suggests to me that the problem you are having is not a physical one, rather it is a mental / musical one.

I agree with you!

Originally Posted by Seeker
  • Practice playing the last bar of "A" through the first bar of "B" until you can do that up to speed from memory. This is the beginning of learning "A2B" mentioned above.
  • Extend the length of "A2B" one measure at a time backward into A, forward into B. Follow the same procedure you did to learn and memorize that first 2 measure bit.
  • Keep going, adding a measure at a time.
  • Test going from A to B. If you can't do it yet, add another measure to your practice as prescribed.

I usually practise a phrase + first measure of the next phrase, or half a phrase + first measure. It helps, but it doesn't help all the way.

My explanation for this is that when I play A2B many times in a row, after a while this becomes a manageable bit for my working memory and I play it well at the speed that is today's goal.
Then I play B2C many times in a row, until also that part becomes a manageable bit for my working memory and I play it well, and at speed.
I continue with C2D, D2E etc.

However, these sections are not yet firmly consolidated in my long term memory. So when I want to play the whole piece ABCDE, instead of handling a short passage at the time, suddenly my working memory needs to handle a whole lot more, and all memory for A2B, B2C, C2D etc needs to be available immediately, without pause for thinking, and that is when the mistakes get in.

So when I practise, I alternate between sections and the whole piece, and if I play the sections for instance at final speed of 100 bpm, I play the whole piece at 85 bpm. Next day, I hope to increase the speed to 105 and 90.


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LarryK #3208183 04/11/22 04:40 AM
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Originally Posted by LarryK
I’m sorry, you’re wrong. A race time/pace at a shorter distance is predictive of the pace you are capable of running at a longer distance. All race times, at any distance, depend on your training.

Please go plug some of your race times into the McMillan Race Pace calculator. The results are enlightening.

Racing is just pace over distance.

I’m not saying you will run the predicted pace in a longer race, just that you have the fitness to do it.

I think we can agree to disagree, and I will not bug the thread more than this. But the fitness or ability to run a 26 miles can not be measured by running 10k races. Thats why some people hit the wall in marathons when they run perfectly well 10k and even 20k.The speed at which you can run the marathon is limited by your ability to maintain a proper mix of energy consumption over the 26 miles.

This pace calculator works for a category of people who fulfill a particular profile and training plan.

If you look at a typical marathon training plan, you should run 30 or 32 km just to get your body used to run such a distance, irrespective of your fitness level.


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LarryK #3208184 04/11/22 04:44 AM
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Originally Posted by LarryK
This muscle memory stuff irks me to no end. The muscles in your fingers have no structures that remember their movements. The brain sends firing instructions to the muscles in the fingers in order to accomplish some task. You may feel that it is at an subconscious level but your brain is working all the same. You don’t have anything in your fingers stored up that allows you play a piece without engaging your brain.

Of course, I dont think anybody believes muscles have any kind of conscious memory ! It is just a convenient term to designate kinetic type memory.


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Sidokar #3208193 04/11/22 06:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Originally Posted by LarryK
I’m sorry, you’re wrong. A race time/pace at a shorter distance is predictive of the pace you are capable of running at a longer distance. All race times, at any distance, depend on your training.

Please go plug some of your race times into the McMillan Race Pace calculator. The results are enlightening.

Racing is just pace over distance.

I’m not saying you will run the predicted pace in a longer race, just that you have the fitness to do it.

I think we can agree to disagree, and I will not bug the thread more than this. But the fitness or ability to run a 26 miles can not be measured by running 10k races. Thats why some people hit the wall in marathons when they run perfectly well 10k and even 20k.The speed at which you can run the marathon is limited by your ability to maintain a proper mix of energy consumption over the 26 miles.

This pace calculator works for a category of people who fulfill a particular profile and training plan.

If you look at a typical marathon training plan, you should run 30 or 32 km just to get your body used to run such a distance, irrespective of your fitness level.

Yes, we disagree.

Paces are correlated between races of different lengths.

Sorry, a 10k race time is a measurement of what you can potentially run in a marathon. The pace at which you could run a marathon is limited by the times you ran in training and in races.

The calculator works for all runners no matter how they train. You use a recently achieved race time and all potential paces are revealed.

Yes, nutrition is a huge problem in a marathon, which is what makes it such a ridiculous race, and one in which people underperform and blow up.

You don’t train for a marathon by running long distances just to get used to it, or, at least, this is not the major part of your training. When trying to hit a marathon at race pace you train at different paces and distances and you dramatically reduce both two weeks before the race. This is called the taper. It is actually the taper that allows you to perform your best in the race because it is the recovery period.

A headline you will never see:

“Seven minute miler Stephanie Slow turns in a stunning sub three hour marathon. She credits her time with the fact that her body is more used to running longer distances than shorter distances.”

Here is an anecdote for you. One of the runners in my club placed in the top ten finishers in the Western States 100 Miler. Week after week he would turn up at our track workouts, which were, say, 15x400m@5k pace, or our tempo runs, 8 miles, with the first 4 miles at 10k pace and the last 4 miles at 5k pace.

Shouldn’t he have been out there getting used to running 75 miles and not running intervals or tempo runs? The answer is yes and no. He did run maybe 50 miles on the weekends, or two thirty mile runs. I claim that his training at the paces in our workouts were just as relevant to his performance as the paces in the longer slower runs and that there is a strong relationship between all paces at all distances.

His real secret was that he worked in academia where the cafeteria had an all you can eat Monday, haha.

Last edited by LarryK; 04/11/22 06:36 AM.
Animisha #3208199 04/11/22 06:55 AM
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Here is a sample of race results of a runner from my old club, a young woman. Can’t you see the relationship between the paces at different distances?

[Linked Image]

Last edited by LarryK; 04/11/22 06:57 AM.
KevinM #3208211 04/11/22 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by KevinM
I'm pleased to say I am making progress, it is slow but happening, but my decision to not push at just trying to increase speed to get to the correct tempo has certainly helped to reduce tension in my fingers.
I think it's a wise decision. Just to put things into perspective for those who are struggling with speed, if it is any indicator, my top speed for fast passages has steadily improved at a rate of about 10 BPM per year since I started measuring a few years ago (playing in groups of four where each beat has four 16th notes). I think that is a realistic rate of improvement that adults can hope for. If you push too much beyond that it will only make you more tense.

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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by KevinM
I'm pleased to say I am making progress, it is slow but happening, but my decision to not push at just trying to increase speed to get to the correct tempo has certainly helped to reduce tension in my fingers.
I think it's a wise decision. Just to put things into perspective for those who are struggling with speed, if it is any indicator, my top speed for fast passages has steadily improved at a rate of about 10 BPM per year since I started measuring a few years ago (playing in groups of four where each beat has four 16th notes). I think that is a realistic rate of improvement that adults can hope for. If you push too much beyond that it will only make you more tense.


Sounds like a great plan, what I have seen from speeds pushed too quickly is uneven, missed or ghost notes. The musical result is not pleasing


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Animisha #3208220 04/11/22 08:29 AM
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Before people get obsessed with pure speed as measured by clicks on the metronome, let's remember that piano technique encompasses a wide range: it's much easier to play a straightforward scale-like or arpeggio passage fast (assuming one has mastered scale & arpeggio technique) than to play the twiddly stuff that doesn't use adjacent fingers - the kind of figuration one often finds in Chopin's fioritura, Mendelssohn's 'fairy-tale MSND/scherzo-like' piano passages etc, which require instinctive use of wrist rotation and rapid & accurate hand movements.

Depending on where you are in your learning, chromatics, octaves (scales & arpeggios, and broken ones) and chordal passages, as well as thirds also become a common feature of piano music. In other words, when building up speed with accuracy, one also needs to master other technical aspects without which overall increase in speed in many pieces cannot be successful.


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LarryK #3208222 04/11/22 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by LarryK
Yes, we disagree.

Sorry, a 10k race time is a measurement of what you can potentially run in a marathon. The calculator works for all runners no matter how they train. You use a recently achieved race time and all potential paces are revealed.

Yes, nutrition is a huge problem in a marathon, which is what makes it such a ridiculous race, and one in which people underperform and blow up. You don’t train for a marathon by running long distances just to get used to it.

Absolutely not. The calculator works for an average profile with an average training which is often the case for certain people that are in a club. I have plenty of counter-examples. There are people who are particularly suited for short distances or intermediary distances whose time on long distances will be uncorrelated. I know people who can run a very good 5k time or even 10k and were unable to finish a marathon or do it in 5 hours. It is a simplistic point of view to believe that once you run a 5k or 10k in a certain time, you can run a marathon with a predictable time by using some kind of mathematic formula, even though it is loosely correlated for certain average profile of people. It is not a question of nutrition but how the body uses energy internally. And the best way to get injured or have post race issues in a marathon is to only train on short of mid distances. Again, many examples in my running club.

But of course I understand people can think otherwise and like predictability.


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Animisha #3208243 04/11/22 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Seeker
It suggests to me that the problem you are having is not a physical one, rather it is a mental / musical one.

I agree with you!

Originally Posted by Seeker
  • Practice playing the last bar of "A" through the first bar of "B" until you can do that up to speed from memory. This is the beginning of learning "A2B" mentioned above.
  • Extend the length of "A2B" one measure at a time backward into A, forward into B. Follow the same procedure you did to learn and memorize that first 2 measure bit.
  • Keep going, adding a measure at a time.
  • Test going from A to B. If you can't do it yet, add another measure to your practice as prescribed.

I usually practise a phrase + first measure of the next phrase, or half a phrase + first measure. It helps, but it doesn't help all the way.

My explanation for this is that when I play A2B many times in a row, after a while this becomes a manageable bit for my working memory and I play it well at the speed that is today's goal.
Then I play B2C many times in a row, until also that part becomes a manageable bit for my working memory and I play it well, and at speed.
I continue with C2D, D2E etc.

However, these sections are not yet firmly consolidated in my long term memory. So when I want to play the whole piece ABCDE, instead of handling a short passage at the time, suddenly my working memory needs to handle a whole lot more, and all memory for A2B, B2C, C2D etc needs to be available immediately, without pause for thinking, and that is when the mistakes get in.

So when I practise, I alternate between sections and the whole piece, and if I play the sections for instance at final speed of 100 bpm, I play the whole piece at 85 bpm. Next day, I hope to increase the speed to 105 and 90.
Great. So we know this approach DOES work for you.
What I would recommend now is experimenting to determine how many of these segments and segment to segment transitions you can play at speed without freezing up, glitching, getting tense. Once you know your limit, you can push against it and increase the duration. It IS possible, even for those of us who are older (and I am certainly one of them) to continue to develop increased strength, endurance, flexibility, dexterity. It's harder than when we were younger in most cases, but it's not impossible.

Feel free to DM me here if I can help you further.


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Animisha #3208245 04/11/22 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by KevinM
I suspect strongly that gaining speed is just slower for older people than young ones.

I agree! I think it has to do with the changes in our brain.

I remember when I was eight years old, I had a tiny role in a play. While practising my lines at home, I rushed out those lines as quickly as I could. My parents told me to slow down, but it didn't help, and at the play, heart pounding, I said my lines so fast that nobody heard a word.

There is even a thread here on the teachers forum here: Getting kids to slow down.
"Kids these days! Well, lets just say children have a hard time slowing down their practice. I will see in lessons an uneveness in their playing. I will show them how to play slowly, even through the easy sections. I tell them not to play too quickly, even setting metronome markings on their music. This works for many, but there are always those few renegades who just want to play as fast as their fingers will allow, at the expense of an even, steady beat! "

As an adult beginner, practising slowly has never been a problem.

Originally Posted by KevinM
I wish you a better experience than I have had Animisha. I have come to accept that is the way it is and have mostly managed to let go of being overly concerned by it.

It is a struggle. But I try to get the fast pieces as fast as I can, and when I have reached my limit, I let it go.
I think to play fast you need to be able to make smooth even connections between notes only increasing tempo when you are able to do so. If you only train to connect phrases you might find you are pausing between phrases when you try to play a piece at a faster tempo.

Sidokar #3208253 04/11/22 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Originally Posted by LarryK
Yes, we disagree.

Sorry, a 10k race time is a measurement of what you can potentially run in a marathon. The calculator works for all runners no matter how they train. You use a recently achieved race time and all potential paces are revealed.

Yes, nutrition is a huge problem in a marathon, which is what makes it such a ridiculous race, and one in which people underperform and blow up. You don’t train for a marathon by running long distances just to get used to it.

Absolutely not. The calculator works for an average profile with an average training which is often the case for certain people that are in a club. I have plenty of counter-examples. There are people who are particularly suited for short distances or intermediary distances whose time on long distances will be uncorrelated. I know people who can run a very good 5k time or even 10k and were unable to finish a marathon or do it in 5 hours. It is a simplistic point of view to believe that once you run a 5k or 10k in a certain time, you can run a marathon with a predictable time by using some kind of mathematic formula, even though it is loosely correlated for certain average profile of people. It is not a question of nutrition but how the body uses energy internally. And the best way to get injured or have post race issues in a marathon is to only train on short of mid distances. Again, many examples in my running club.

But of course I understand people can think otherwise and like predictability.

The math holds for all runners. It is a measure of the potential, not of the actual. Of course, one has to train for longer distances, learn about how to fuel themselves in long races, etc, I never questioned that.

Perhaps the Purdy calculator does a better job of of predicting potential race paces. It pretty much nailed my friend’s marathon time from inputting her mile time.

https://tools.runnerspace.com/gprofile.php?do=title&title_id=801&mgroup_id=45577

Are you really calling my friend’s results and training average? Haha, if so, that is ridiculous. Her race results show how excellent training, racing, and recovery, can allow one to hit predicted paces spot on, in a four month window. The same could apply to any runner, at their paces.

For those in your club who underperform in the marathon, it’s not a surprise. They’re probably too heavy and pay a tremendous weight penalty. The best marathoners weigh around 100-120lbs, generally speaking.

Last edited by LarryK; 04/11/22 10:18 AM.
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Beating a dead horse.


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