building up speed

building up speed

Any good tips on building up my speed playing jigs and reels?
I find I can play them well at a moderate pace but as soon as I start to speed up I lose co-ordination
I do keep trying though

Re: building up speed

It comes with time really. Start playing faster in small increments first by 5 bpm or so, and increase 5bpm every time.

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Re: building up speed

If, after three to four hours of practice, you’re playing faster than you were after thirty minutes, then practice - i.e., building synapses, memory, and muscle - is your answer. If not, have someone who really understands bowing spend an hour evaluating your technique.

Re: building up speed

A moderate pace is good. I’ve played for many years, but not especially fast. It’s a skill easiest for some than others, but one I’ve never found necessary or desirable. Keep working at it, if it blows your skirt up. If you can keep up at a session, that’s fast enough.

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Re: building up speed

I agree with Boyen that ‘it comes with time’.
I’m just beginning to be faster - sometimes ‘there’ and sometimes ‘nearly there’.

For me, what helps is being very used indeed to playing a tune. Then, when I’m playing with others, I find that with a bit of effort I’m able to keep up. On YouTube, I slow the tunes down, then when I really know them, I put them back to where they should be.

But I also try to do things that help me to speed up - use very short bows, slurs where I can & it doesn’t spoil the tune, leave out ornaments like bowed triplets/ birls because I can get bogged down on them if going fast, but keep any roll or flick that helps me move forward by acting as a short cut. If a phrase is utterly impossible for me to play at speed, is it possible to simplify without sounding too naff?

Et cetera.
What works for me might not be the best thing for somebody else. It’s good to look into how you play and how you learn. As the Chinese proverb has it - ‘Know yourself; know your opponent. In a hundred battles, win a hundred victories’. :)

Re: building up speed

> I find I can play them well at a moderate pace

Try slowing them down to around 75% (use a metronome to check) of the speed that you can play them at. Practice at that speed until it feels easy and relaxed and unthinking. Then see what happens when you take the speed back up.

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Re: building up speed

I find speed comes with the willingness of letting go rehearsed patterns, e.g. ornaments. Cooley‘s for example - my best reel but they play it at such lighting speed I can’t play a single ornament, even strategically leave out eighth notes to leave just a backbone of the tune. play with rhe lightest touch both left and right hands…

Re: building up speed

Here’s what my teacher recommended:

Play the tune at a speed that’s comfortable (using a metronome, yes, I know)
Then bump up the speed to a pace that is just on the verge of being comfortable, but is a challenge (i.e. on the edge of your ability).
Bump it up once more to a speed that is faster than what you can play; try to keep up as well as you can.
Then go back to the "on the verge" speed, and see how it feels; usually it is then much easier.
Repeat this process, until the "on the verge" speed is now the "comfortable" speed.

Re: building up speed

Relaxation is a key element. If you watch videos of the best players playing, they generally make it look really easy, and that’s because they’re relaxed, and not pushing too hard. Our natural inclination is to play harder when we want to play faster, just like running. If you want to run faster, you run harder. But with the smaller movements required to play an instrument, economy of motion is important. If you’re playing "harder" then you are likely ruining your economy of motion, and you end up fighting your own musculature to try to play faster.

When I get in a situation where the music is pushing past my normal speed threshold, the only thing that works for me is to force myself to relax.

Also, there are a lot of people that will preach that speed kills the musicality, but I don’t buy that. It may change the musicality in some ways, but speed can also offer new perspectives on the melody, because the twists and turns become more like a rollercoaster thrill ride. I do like variety in my sessions, and if it’s going a million miles an hour all night, it can grow wearisome. But almost all of my endorphin-producing, addictive moments in sessions that keep me coming back are when it’s great musicians that get in the groove and let it fly. So it’s a good thing to work on being able to play at a wide range of tempos!

Re: building up speed

One quote I heard regarding speed: "Speed is only a byproduct of exactness."

What is meant by that is that you first have to practice a tune with the most rigid watch on playing it exactly "right", by which I mean don´t play any wrong notes, get the intonation right, don´t make unnecessary movements, watch your technique. All that in a really slow tempo and without any but the most basic ornaments so you can pay attention to all of these aspects at the same time. Do this with a tune you know really well. Play it three times through in this slow manner. Then try playing it fast. If you notice any mistakes - obvious ones like wrong notes but also hidden ones like unwanted tension or bad intonation - then immediately go back to the slow but exact thing. Repeat this daily. After a while you´ll notice that the fast thing will work. As always with practicing music you won´t see immediate results but have to keep going. It´ll be all the more satisfactory once it all works out.