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How do you go about developing good tension free speed in scales and arpeggios? Do you use a metronome? If yes, how do you build up the speed? For example, would you start with 1 note per click say at 100-120 then do two notes per click 60-120, then triplets, and so on. There seems to be so many ways you can do it is there a preferred method that's a common approach in this?

When someone plays at very high speed how do they even use a click? It literally seems impossible that they're tracking to a click when going very fast. I'm referring to those advanced pianist where they make a scale sound like a glissando.

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I've seen videos of Josh Wright setting the metronome to something like 200 (B major scale). It's in one of his ProPractice videos. He uses a "Pier" method, play 9 notes at a time, so that it lines up with the metronome. You'd have to watch the video to understand. I found this in his YouTube channel. I haven't watched this, it appears to be different than the one in his ProPractice series.

Is this best method or only method? No smile



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I tend to imagine the pulse rather than play it. However, I can play with a metronome at 160-180 too. I think the key is to practice auditing scales at that speed. Half of the battle is mental. Once you feel comfortable thinking at that speed, it will get easier to play.

Don't use a metronome all the time. Why would you? If you are at a stage where you're playing scales at that speed, I would assume your sense of pulse is already developed. Yes, you can use the metronome occasionally for short periods of time, but I would personally hate it. And it would make me sound mechanical.

You don't track to the click. You internalize the pulse, and know when the click is going to come. You understand in your mind the speed at which you want to play, and then you imagine a scale being played at that scale in your head. And then, you put your fingers on the keyboard and actually play it. That's how I do it, at least.

Another way I've found useful is to alternate. Something like 160 - 80 - 145 - 110 -184 - 150 etc. Playing even faster primes you to feel a speed which is "just fast" to be manageable. Also, individually think about hand movements and points of inefficiency, if any, and isolate them and tackle them separately.

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If you wish to build speed there are better methods than playing with the metronome. I would suggest to practice in rhythms (long-short, short-long). The other thing to practice really what the difficult part of the scale is. E.g in C major the thumb under part is where you would expect to lose it on. You can do E-F-G and practice the fingerings 3-1-2. Then play this very very quickly or make it into a continuous exercise. I have never used a metronome for scales. I am not particularly strong at scales and arrpeggios but I think even for the hardest of the piano exams you do not need to play it ridiculously quick. If you are reasonbly skilled already maybe there are pieces that could help skill up the scales and arpeggios. K545 1st movement ?

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I don't use a metronome unless I'm checking my speed and rhythm, and I only do that when I'm starting a new RCM level. For me, it wasn't about increasing metronome speed, it was about effectively using forearm rotation.


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I think playing scales fast is useful for repertoire, rather than exams. If you're at a reasonably high level already, maybe a Chopin etude could unlock some more speed for you. I personally found working on the Revolutionary Etude to be beneficial for the left hand. Even if you can play it at half tempo, it requires significant left hand dexterity. Bach inventions are also helpful for that. There are a large number of possible ways to go about it -- you just need to figure out what works for you best. You can also study something like the Taubman technique, which can increase your comfort and hence speed. I usually find the best approach for me follows a "push and retreat" formula. I will try to do something difficult or challenging, and then I will practice easy material and see if I can translate any of the insights gained. Once these insights become somewhat ingrained over a week or so perhaps, then I will push again.

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Thanks for the replies!

I practice scales daily and I do a variety of technique with them too. However, I never focused on adding speed. I play them at whatever speed is comfortable (smooth and no tension) which is a mix of slow, moderate, and fast with occasional attempts at higher speed but I have no idea if my speed is improving. I would assume that fast scales are not a by-product of scale practice unless you work at increasing the speed. Such as, I assume I could practice my scales for years to comes and doesn't mean that I'll be playing at higher speeds or does it?

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I don't think many people in the Adult Beginner Forum are ready for the Revolutionary Etude, ranjit. 🤣

However, I agree that there is a mental aspect to it. As you get faster your mind kind of compresses time and the fast ticking doesn't feel so fast anymore. But the physical aspect is still the most important. You have to become comfortable with the motions and in full control at a slow tempo.

There was a recent thread about that:
http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/3126832/gonew/1/piano-scales.html

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Originally Posted by Sebs
Thanks for the replies!

I practice scales daily and I do a variety of technique with them too. However, I never focused on adding speed. I play them at whatever speed is comfortable (smooth and no tension) which is a mix of slow, moderate, and fast with occasional attempts at higher speed but I have no idea if my speed is improving. I would assume that fast scales are not a by-product of scale practice unless you work at increasing the speed. Such as, I assume I could practice my scales for years to comes and doesn't mean that I'll be playing at higher speeds or does it?
Please see my reply in the other thread. I can assure you that your speed will increase as you get more comfortable without ever practicing for speed.

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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by Sebs
Thanks for the replies!

I practice scales daily and I do a variety of technique with them too. However, I never focused on adding speed. I play them at whatever speed is comfortable (smooth and no tension) which is a mix of slow, moderate, and fast with occasional attempts at higher speed but I have no idea if my speed is improving. I would assume that fast scales are not a by-product of scale practice unless you work at increasing the speed. Such as, I assume I could practice my scales for years to comes and doesn't mean that I'll be playing at higher speeds or does it?
Please see my reply in the other thread. I can assure you that your speed will increase as you get more comfortable without ever practicing for speed.

Thanks! That's interesting. Your findings are saying that speed will develop as a natural by-product. Say I never use a metronome or try to "add speed" and I keep playing scales and arpeggios at my comfort level to maintain smoothness, good sound, and no tension, then naturally over time the speed at this comfort will increase? Does that mean I may not even notice it? For example, today I might be 4 notes per click at 40bpm then without even noticing it, 1 year later same comfort level might equate to 4 notes per click at 50bpm, etc.

I will also add that I'm not saying I need faster scales, I was curious if I should be trying to add speed or measuring speed in my technique routine. I'm happy to keep just playing them as I do with no metronome or measure.

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Developing speed in piano playing - whether in scales & arpeggios or anything else - is part of general technical development. There's no rocket science involved (- I know quite a bit about rocket propulsion, so I can attest to that whistle).

In fact, you don't need anything other than your own fair hands. Discard your metronome - and I mean pronto.

What else is required? A good pair of ears, and lots of patience, and lots of perseverance. Did I mention practicing at being patient and persevering at practicing, and therefore persevering at being patient?

Why do you need your ears? Because you want to listen intently at all times when practicing. If things sound lumpy, it's because you're playing lumpily. Playing a scale at a speed you cannot manage will make it sound lumpy, and it does your technique no favors, because it's likely you're playing with unnecessary tension. That is why you should discard your metronome (don't dispose in your trash bin - it's recyclable: just donate it to someone you really dislike). Apart from the fact that if you're listening to the ticking, you cannot concentrate on the sound your fingers are producing, and as I've said, if you cannot play the scale or arpeggio smoothly, you're playing it too fast and with no control. Don't.

Apart from practicing scales and arpeggios - and remember, only practice the ones you're actually going to use in your pieces: no point practicing D#minor (harmonic, melodic, natural or unnatural) if you're not playing Scriabin's Op.8/12. Never spread yourself out so thinly that you never get fluent in anything, because you're trying to cram everything in (like all unnatural scales & arpeggios in all modes). Just C, G, F, D and B flat majors and their respective relative minors are more than enough to be starting with.

And not least - always have fast pieces in your rep, whether you're learning or keeping. I've lost count of the number of adults I've seen who only ever play slow pieces (like the slow nocturnes and waltzes of Chopin), and they wonder why they still can't manage K545 even though they've been playing for ten decades. You want to have fast pieces from the Baroque and Classical era to develop speed, and fluency at speed. Why? Because they have lots of runs and scales & arpeggios, and passagework comprising of many twists & turns using scales & arpeggios, for instance:




Your fingers have to get used to moving fast with control a lot of the time, because they can then think that it's natural to move fast - which it is.......

That's why students who are happy to learn whatever their excellent teachers give them, rather than choosing their own pieces progress fastest, because then they'll learn all the technical skills in a properly progressive manner: developing more fluency and speed and control with subsequent pieces which build upon what they have already learnt - and they cannot just pick Chopin's slow stuff just because that's what they like (and likely also because they don't require so much physical effort to learn.......).


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Originally Posted by Sebs
Thanks! That's interesting. Your findings are saying that speed will develop as a natural by-product. Say I never use a metronome or try to "add speed" and I keep playing scales and arpeggios at my comfort level to maintain smoothness, good sound, and no tension, then naturally over time the speed at this comfort will increase? Does that mean I may not even notice it? For example, today I might be 4 notes per click at 40bpm then without even noticing it, 1 year later same comfort level might equate to 4 notes per click at 50bpm, etc.
Yes, that is exactly what I'm saying. In my first 5-6 years I never practiced for speed. I only tested myself with a metronome once every few months. As you can see in my post I still improved tempo by about 10 BPM per year. Even now I rarely practice speed. Sometimes I use the Piers exercise mentioned above and some others like looping around the cross-overs, but I always look out for tension and go back to smooth comfortable playing afterwards.

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@bennevis - Got it! Thank you. I was hoping this is what I would read. I have no desire to use metronome with my technique work. Part of me was worried that everyone would say you need to use metronome and keep adding speed and trying to go FASTER!! I will happily keep working on them as I do now and patiently let the speed develop. I understand this can take years and years to get to higher speeds. You might notice I always say playing them comfortably as one thing I pride myself on is my technique work, I'm very picky with it and never over reach with speed I always aim to play smooth and without tension.

Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by Sebs
Thanks! That's interesting. Your findings are saying that speed will develop as a natural by-product. Say I never use a metronome or try to "add speed" and I keep playing scales and arpeggios at my comfort level to maintain smoothness, good sound, and no tension, then naturally over time the speed at this comfort will increase? Does that mean I may not even notice it? For example, today I might be 4 notes per click at 40bpm then without even noticing it, 1 year later same comfort level might equate to 4 notes per click at 50bpm, etc.
Yes, that is exactly what I'm saying. In my first 5-6 years I never practiced for speed. I only tested myself with a metronome once every few months. As you can see in my post I still improved tempo by about 10 BPM per year. Even now I rarely practice speed. Sometimes I use the Piers exercise mentioned above and some others like looping around the cross-overs, but I always look out for tension and go back to smooth comfortable playing afterwards.

Thanks! I can take a look at pier methods if I can find someone like PianoTV or Pianote teaching it. I can't watch Josh Wright laugh laugh laugh And to your point it sounds like it's not a must have.

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Change the rythym---I got faster when I started counting in subdivisions. I used to always practice scales 1-2-3-4, typical 16th note subdivisions. I would turn the metronome up and could kind of pull it off, but it wasn't until I really started practicing the scales in triplets, 6 to 1, 5 to 1, etc. that speed started to come.

It's not always about speeding up and sometimes it just about changing how you're counting.

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I like the advice about having fast piece in the rep. Why in particularly does this need to be classical or baroque pieces ?

I play a lot of faster mendelssohn pieces, I am sure many have lots of turns and even you have the opus 35 so some preludes and fugues also, so I think it can be found in other periods. I did go through about a year recently of learning baroque pieces and yes I did notice a couple of big difference here. Firstly there was s a lot of the pieces with the tune jumping into left hand so I think there is something about later music being more right hand focused. I was advised to pick baroque pieces with a lot of the left hand so I did this and think this has been very helpful. There is also the think of polyphonic music with lots of voices. I did however found that you can find later polyphonic music in later period. I am not very good at polyphonic music but it was painful to learn a fugue so it put me off !

I would to the OP that whilst it is good advice from people to not push the speed, to keep it nice and even etc, I have noticed that you do need to push the speed and when you first do it often falls apart and then it becomes uneven. And then you work at getting it even at speed and even. So to get speed you have to push out of your comfort zone. It is continuous improvement. It is painful practice to do this so my teach said even 5 mins a day focused on small phrases to get up speed can be very helpful. I will however remember the advice about always having fast pieces in the rep. Very helpful.

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Originally Posted by Sebs
I can't watch Josh Wright laugh laugh laugh

laugh

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hmm... maybe mostly slow mendelssohn pieces. are there any other options not baroque / classical period ? not a huge fan.

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I think many of the posts on this thread miss the point. Without excellent technical instruction from a teacher any approach to practicing or speeding up of scales is far less likely to succeed.

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What do people think about this video ?


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I certainly wouldn’t get rid of my metronome. I know first hand that I can’t 100% rely on my ears to ensure I’m perfectly on the beat for faster scales. The metronome shouldn’t be a crutch, but it does give good guidance. IMO we shouldn’t be thinking all or nothing.


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