Piano World Home Page

Playing fast for adult returners

Posted By: KevinM

Playing fast for adult returners - 05/19/19 04:52 PM

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.
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/19/19 07:19 PM

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.
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/19/19 07:38 PM

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.
Posted By: KevinM

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/19/19 08:22 PM

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.
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/19/19 08:44 PM

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
Posted By: dogperson

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/19/19 09:07 PM

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
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/19/19 09:22 PM

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
Posted By: ghosthand

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/19/19 10:04 PM

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!
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 01:12 AM

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.
Posted By: Cheshire Chris

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 05:10 AM

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!
Posted By: sinophilia

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 06:50 AM

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.
Posted By: cmb13

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 11:33 AM

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.
Posted By: KevinM

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 11:51 AM

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.
Posted By: cmb13

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 12:14 PM

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.
Posted By: KevinM

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 12:36 PM

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.
Posted By: cmb13

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 12:51 PM

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.
Posted By: KevinM

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 01:22 PM

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.
Posted By: Dr. Rogers

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 01:53 PM

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.
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 03:48 PM

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.
Posted By: RogerRL

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 04:36 PM

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.
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 05:58 PM

Originally Posted by RogerRL


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.

Pointless yes and rather wordy - just listen to Graham
Posted By: petebfrance

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 06:52 PM

My twopence worth. I think that if you have been doing a lot of slow practice (which you mentioned somewhere or other) it's possible that you have got into a kind of 'slow playing rut' which is difficult to break out of. I think it would be helpful to pick up some nice pieces that are enjoyable to play so that you can get into 'fast playing mode,' and, assuming you are restarting at about grade 6 ABRSM, I recommend the Bach Musette in D and the Clementi Sonatinas OP 36. Kind of 'let rip!' Those pieces are really enjoyable to play and don't have the complexity of such things as the likes of Montagues and Capulets - heavens, I enjoy listening to that but the amount of time I'd have to invest in practicing to it outweighs any pleasure I'd get from it (although, I have to admit I'd happily play a simplified version of that, it's a fun piece but to me no more than that.)
Posted By: KevinM

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 08:45 PM

I tried cmb13’s exercises. I think I am going to make them part of my daily routine for a while. I can’t do a lot of repetitions at once as I find them hard on my hands. Particularly for my right hand getting my wrist to rotate to play them feels necessary and that kind nd of feels like the point.

Thanks again Craig.
Posted By: KevinM

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 10:21 PM

Originally Posted by petebfrance
My twopence worth. I think that if you have been doing a lot of slow practice (which you mentioned somewhere or other) it's possible that you have got into a kind of 'slow playing rut' which is difficult to break out of. I think it would be helpful to pick up some nice pieces that are enjoyable to play so that you can get into 'fast playing mode,' and, assuming you are restarting at about grade 6 ABRSM, I recommend the Bach Musette in D and the Clementi Sonatinas OP 36. Kind of 'let rip!' Those pieces are really enjoyable to play and don't have the complexity of such things as the likes of Montagues and Capulets - heavens, I enjoy listening to that but the amount of time I'd have to invest in practicing to it outweighs any pleasure I'd get from it (although, I have to admit I'd happily play a simplified version of that, it's a fun piece but to me no more than that.)


I remember both of the Bach Musette in D and the Clementi Opus 36 from learning as a child. I have avoided going over material I learnt as a child. I did not want that comparison. But the Clementi Sonatina is the kind of thing I was thinking of. Fairly simple and can be played quite quickly.
Posted By: cmb13

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/20/19 11:25 PM

Originally Posted by KevinM
I tried cmb13’s exercises. I think I am going to make them part of my daily routine for a while. I can’t do a lot of repetitions at once as I find them hard on my hands. Particularly for my right hand getting my wrist to rotate to play them feels necessary and that kind nd of feels like the point.

Thanks again Craig.


Great! Hope they help. I’ve been doing them for a few weeks and I think I have a few more to go before exhausting the potential. Only about 20 min per day. If nothing more, it’s a fun warmup.
Posted By: Sibylle

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/21/19 08:52 PM

I believe this is different for everyone. Myself, I don't have the problem of being slow, in fact speed is one of the few things I seem to have retained over my 15 years of absence from the piano. What I've lost is the *control*. I can play fast, but it sounds uneven or - worse - like it's being played by someone who's just not very musical. I hate that.

I could probably handle it if I was simply back to being a beginner. I'd just bite the bullet and do it all over again. But to have retained part of the skill and lost the other half, is very frustrating.

Kevin, do you find that more things come back to you the longer you practise? This has happened to me, like my fingers and synapses remember gradually what they're supposed to do.
Posted By: KevinM

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/21/19 09:48 PM

Originally Posted by Sibylle
I believe this is different for everyone. Myself, I don't have the problem of being slow, in fact speed is one of the few things I seem to have retained over my 15 years of absence from the piano. What I've lost is the *control*. I can play fast, but it sounds uneven or - worse - like it's being played by someone who's just not very musical. I hate that.

I could probably handle it if I was simply back to being a beginner. I'd just bite the bullet and do it all over again. But to have retained part of the skill and lost the other half, is very frustrating.

Kevin, do you find that more things come back to you the longer you practise? This has happened to me, like my fingers and synapses remember gradually what they're supposed to do.


It has definitely been a leapfrogging experience when part of one skill returned while others lagged, and then another would have a big jump in ability. At times definitely frustrating.

The thing I just seem to be lacking now in any consequential way from my childhood playing is being able to play quickly. It is like my fingers can't even move quickly enough. Having control just doesn't even come into it.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/21/19 11:04 PM

Originally Posted by KevinM

It has definitely been a leapfrogging experience when part of one skill returned while others lagged, and then another would have a big jump in ability. At times definitely frustrating.

The thing I just seem to be lacking now in any consequential way from my childhood playing is being able to play quickly. It is like my fingers can't even move quickly enough. Having control just doesn't even come into it.


Having once been able to play fast and accurately as a kid, it will always be much easier to regain (or come close to regaining) that capability than someone starting from scratch as an adult and trying to develop the ability to play fast. Unfortunately, expectations of past experience can scupper what would seem to others to be rapid re-acquisition of skills.....

And don't forget too that with the passage of time, one can also have a false memory of how fast one was actually able to play once upon a time. Kids are also prone to sacrifice accuracy for speed. They feel a need, a need for speed (as Mr Cruise once proclaimed).

I've chatted to many adult re-learners and seen and heard them play, so I have no doubt that the higher the standard you reached as a kid before 'retirement', the quicker it will be to regain lost skills as an adult - even many decades further on. And even progress much further. Assuming, of course, that you haven't developed joint/muscular/coordination problems in the meantime.

But to be able to play fast, one must practise playing fast. Which is why technical stuff like scales and arpeggios (or pieces incorporating a lot of them) are all-important, because they allow one to practise moving fingers and hands (and everything else) at a fast pace without adding awkward hurdles to overcome (like twisting fingers into unnatural positions, or big leaps).

One thing is for sure - if you want to (be able to) play fast, you need to choose fast pieces to play, so that you're spending most of your time getting your fingers moving fast. Many adults like to play slow Romantic pieces (like Chopin nocturnes) and spend almost all their practise time with them, then wonder why they can't play those filigree stuff that Freddy likes to add on a whim wink in otherwise slow nocturnes. Remember that said Freddy adored Mozart......
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/21/19 11:43 PM

Where have you been Mr Ben ? I was worried about your absence. I was about to search an online search party smile.

I am puzzled Kevin what exactly the problem you are describing is. When I saw the pieces you are playing Kevin you do appear to be playing slow Romantic pieces. I too play a lot of these pieces. But struggling to play your pieces faster is not in my view not being able to play fast. You are not playing any fast pieces so how do you know you cant play fast? The difficult you are describing is a difficulty in playing more complex polyphonic and texture music up to speed. This comes with practice.

As suggested I think you need to pick faster pieces. You need to fing faster pieces that have a simple in melody. Monophonic. Not dreamy and slow like a Chopin Nocturne. Even you want to play slower dreamy pieces you still have options. John Field Nocturnes is a good option for a slow nocturne with chance to play faster passages. I played this one but there are 18 to pick from in the book. Though a more complex in places there have some faster runs which are more classical and helps with the speed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFc4ji_NffU
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/22/19 01:09 AM

Originally Posted by Moo :)
Where have you been Mr Ben ? I was worried about your absence. I was about to search an online search party smile.

I was actually (on) a tiny speck in the middle of nowhere. Even my ancient trusty Garmin Geko (not a lizard) which I normally rely on to tell me that I've lost myself, said: "It does not compute".

But I did have a nice grand to play on...... grin
Quote
I think you need to pick faster pieces. You need to fing faster pieces that have a simple in melody. Monophonic. Not dreamy and slow like a Chopin Nocturne.

Nine years ago, when a piano suddenly materialised in my flat, the only pieces I wanted to play were all fast ones. Because (as I've often mentioned before) slow pieces tend to bore me. I like to live in the fast lane.

Of course, my fingers were all over the place, and were 'stiff' and uncooperative. A simple C major scale (think K545) sounded more clumsy than a beginner trying to play it with 1-2-3-4-5-4-5-4. Or a cat trying to play it with one paw. But things loosened up bit by bit, and I eventually found my fingers again, followed soon after by my wrists, forearms, elbows and upper arms.

After a few months, I started on my first slow piece (or rather, a piece that had slow bits in it), because by then I could play fast pieces properly........

Incidentally, I don't believe one need to always never practise faster than one has complete control. Every now and then, one should 'let oneself go' and go for sheer speed simply for fun, and more importantly, to get the digits used to moving speedily. Like a distance runner sprinting occasionally while doing fartlek, even though in races, he'll run at a controlled measured pace. But just like he has to know how fast he can run without hitting the wall towards the end of a marathon, a pianist must also know how much he can push himself in performance (as opposed to 'trying things out' during practising), which will get further if he regularly pushes his limits and beyond in practise.

On the other hand, just like a slow marathoner who only practises running LSD (long slow distance, not what some people might think of wink ) and ends up running a long slow marathon, if one only practises piano predominantly slowly because one doesn't want to ever lose complete control, one will never develop speed. Think like a child - which child will walk if he/she can run instead?
Posted By: spartan928

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/22/19 01:32 PM

Some mentioned Graham and I think his book series is great and touches on some interesting and effective ways of breaking down practice and developing technique. For my part, i'm very much beginner level but I think accurate speed for pieces was helped by slow practice broken in sections, light touch. I mean very light. Then working that up and playing maybe one measure or short series of notes higher than tempo over and over, then going back to slow, then at tempo. It's kind of individual I would guess, try a variety of methods. But for me, important not to overkill any one day, spread out over days a reasonable time, maybe 20 minutes and move on to something else.
Posted By: KevinM

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/22/19 04:09 PM

Originally Posted by "bennevis"
And don't forget too that with the passage of time, one can also have a false memory of how fast one was actually able to play once upon a time.


In my case I don't think this is the case. My father who was always the one who was keen on me playing the piano, always pushed Mozart and the the rapid scales mozart at that. Often disdainful of my wish to play the romantics. He wasn't oppressive about it but his opinion was clear, compliments when I played pieces he liked well, never a compliment on something I thought was played well but not something he cared for.

Playing fast and accurate was what he liked and that is what would get positive feedback.

Originally Posted by "bennevis
But to be able to play fast, one must practise playing fast. Which is why technical stuff like scales and arpeggios (or pieces incorporating a lot of them) are all-important, because they allow one to practise moving fingers and hands (and everything else) at a fast pace without adding awkward hurdles to overcome (like twisting fingers into unnatural positions, or big leaps).


I think this accurately captures my problem. I've been playing what I enjoy (Mendelssohn, Schumann and now some Chopin) and mostly missed out on, I have as a consequence left out playing anything which has any significant amount of fast play being required. Except for one Schumann piece, I can play nicely at half tempo but I can never get it up to speed and it is not a good choice for getting my fingers used to moving rapidly.

I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and accept relearning some pieces I learnt as a child again. The Clementi, Bach and Mozart simple but quicker pieces that have been suggested so far I learnt as a child. I have been resistant to doing so, so as not to compare myself to my child self.

Much as I like playing the slower pieces, to become a generally better piano player I need to do this.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/22/19 04:44 PM

Originally Posted by KevinM
I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and accept relearning some pieces I learnt as a child again. The Clementi, Bach and Mozart simple but quicker pieces that have been suggested so far I learnt as a child. I have been resistant to doing so, so as not to compare myself to my child self.

Well, that would be a choice if you wanted to revisit the pieces of your youth. There are many fast pieces at the level you are at now, which you've never played before. As just one example, I'm looking right now in one of the RCM repertoire books and I see Sonatina in A Minor, Op 94 No 4, by Albert Biehl is a common time piece which has a performance tempo of crochet/quarter-note = 144-160 BPM. (BTW, this piece is the same RCM level as Clementi Sonatina in C Major, Op 36 No 1, so if you were considering revisiting that particular Clementi sonatina, you could just learn this Biehl sonatina instead and not be retracing your steps of decades before.)
Posted By: KevinM

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/22/19 04:48 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by KevinM
I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and accept relearning some pieces I learnt as a child again. The Clementi, Bach and Mozart simple but quicker pieces that have been suggested so far I learnt as a child. I have been resistant to doing so, so as not to compare myself to my child self.

Well, that would be a choice if you wanted to revisit the pieces of your youth. There are many fast pieces at the level you are at now, which you've never played before. As just one example, I'm looking right now in one of the RCM repertoire books and I see Sonatina in A Minor, Op 94 No 4, by Albert Biehl is a common time piece which has a performance tempo of crochet/quarter-note = 144-160 BPM. (BTW, this piece is the same RCM level as Clementi Sonatina in C Major, Op 36 No 1, so if you were considering revisiting that particular Clementi sonatina, you could just learn this Biehl sonatina instead and not be retracing your steps of decades before.)


Thanks Tyrone, who needs google or Duck Duck Go when they have their own Tyrone.
Posted By: KevinM

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/22/19 05:00 PM

Seems I am out of luck for when it comes to immediate gratification. Henle doesn't list any Biehl and music notes where I have bought scores from in the past only has a Biehl Sonatina in C Major.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/22/19 05:06 PM

Originally Posted by KevinM
Seems I am out of luck for when it comes to immediate gratification. Henle doesn't list any Biehl and music notes where I have bought scores from in the past only has a Biehl Sonatina in C Major.

For Op 94 No 4, you can buy a PDF here, however if you spend more than the 60 seconds I spent searching for you wink , probably you'll find a completely free version on IMSLP or somewhere else. (BTW, this was the book I was looking in just now, but it wouldn't make sense for you to buy this just to get that one piece...)
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/22/19 09:35 PM

Playing fast is a technical problem. I don't think being an adult returner has much to do with solving this technical problem or any other technical problem. Having a good teacher and time are the two things needed.
Posted By: KevinM

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/22/19 10:30 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by KevinM
Seems I am out of luck for when it comes to immediate gratification. Henle doesn't list any Biehl and music notes where I have bought scores from in the past only has a Biehl Sonatina in C Major.

For Op 94 No 4, you can buy a PDF here, however if you spend more than the 60 seconds I spent searching for you wink , probably you'll find a completely free version on IMSLP or somewhere else. (BTW, this was the book I was looking in just now, but it wouldn't make sense for you to buy this just to get that one piece...)


I have had a chance to check that out now. I just don’t think it is fast enough To cause me much problem. I have been giving Mozart K545 a go. Surprised to find out that Henle rates that a difficulty of 5. Playing it as fast as expected is going to be fun though.

Thanks for the suggestion though.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/22/19 10:49 PM

Originally Posted by KevinM
I have been giving Mozart K545 a go. Surprised to find out that Henle rates that a difficulty of 5. Playing it as fast as expected is going to be fun though.



I would suggest that there's lots more where that came from (i.e. Wolfie), which you can use to build up speed - and enjoy yourself at the same time playing wonderful music.

Like K332 - the first two movements are fairly easy, but the finale is a wonderful workout to get your fingers building up to supersonic speed (but don't forget there's the sound barrier to overcome). It's actually easier than it sounds:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPaLcBD79L4
Posted By: Teodor

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/23/19 09:26 AM

I'd say, get back to the fundamentals. Incorporate scales and arpeggios into your practice, work with a metronome and slowly ramp up the tempo by about 5 beats or so until you reach your desires speed.

For fast pieces it is important to consider how you move on the keyboard. Are you making excessive/exagerated movements? You need to be precise. In a slower piece you can do pretty much anything and you will be able to play it. With faster pieces you need to have economy and efficiency of your movements.

I hope I'm making some sense. I'm a little rusty on my knowledge and playing. I just returned to playing yesterday myself but I remember my piano professor explaining something similar when I was struggling some years ago.

Don't rush it and enjoy the ride. I know I will be taking it slow.


Check this excellent video which covers the subject.

https://youtu.be/odfmWZTqogw
Posted By: Michael P Walsh

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/23/19 10:18 AM

Here's another one on fast playing (single notes). Very much like speed bursts, gradually increasing the number of notes played in succession.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-slj3cRewc&t=361s
Posted By: Fidel

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/25/19 03:28 AM

As an old guy who took 37 years off and in the interim accumulated numerous finger, hand & shoulder injuries some of which will never fully heal, it took me about 20 months of all sorts of practice to regain my "speed."

So how do you define "fast"? My absolute maximum speed in a scale is 13 notes per second. In general, all-around music it's much lower: about 8 notes per second. If the music consists of a forthright scale, say the Brahms Rhapsody in B minor, about 10 notes per second. Having to musically shape the sound, applying the right touch, that slows things down.

Now I know pros play faster but I do not believe much if anything is added to the musical experience playing faster than 10 notes per second. That's just my opinion not any sort of scientifically proven fact.
Posted By: Teodor

Re: Playing fast for adult returners - 05/26/19 06:37 AM

That kind of speed sounds amazing to me, Fidel. Surely good enough to play most things. I can only dream of that right now. I hope I can do it some day as well.
© 2019 Piano World Piano & Digital Piano Forums