I started this Playing Faster series of posts discussing six necessary skills for playing faster, or playing tunes up to tempo. In the second post, I explored economy of motion with the right hand by having a loose wrist and using the fingers more when bowing. In this post, I want to say a few things I have found about economy of motion with the left hand along with the other skills.
Economy of motion with the left hand means keeping the fingers low to the fingerboard, leaving the fingers on the fingerboard when they don’t need to be lifted, and not using to much pressure when depressing the strings. The higher the left fingers are raised above the strings when playing, the longer it takes to play each note. Ideally, the fingers should just hover above the strings, not be lifted above the strings. And, there are often times in tunes when the fingers can be left in place on the strings. I am guilty of lifting my fingers too high off the fret board and using more pressure than I need when placing my finger on a note.
Here is a good video from FiddleHed where he talks about lifting the fingers too high and practicing keeping them just above the strings. Around the 3:30 mark on the video is an exercise that may help. Minimize movement and energy. Try not to lift the fingers very much. Practice this without playing. Imagine a spider crawling across the strings. Don’t even bow, just slowly lift the fingers a millimeter above the fingerboard. Harder than you might think to do.
This FiddleHed video also deals with other exercises to help gain speed, so I have bookmarked it for easy reference.
- Play the tune many, many times.
- Play slow, medium and then fast.
- Use an external time source.
The best and simplest thing I can do to play something faster is to play it many, many times. Play it many more times than I think is reasonable. That alone I have found helps to a degree in playing faster just because of brute repetition.
In order to play really fast, I need to be able to play really slow. If I can play something extremely slowly, I’ll know that piece much more deeply and confidently. Then, I can begin to speed up in increments.
Using a metronome or the play-along track can also facilitate playing faster. Metronome practice can be hard, even at a comfortable medium tempo. This is because I have to be good enough at the tune to be listening and syncing to an external time source.
Ed Pearlman in his fiddle-online blog has some exercises for learning how to play faster that I am finding helpful. If you’ve read this far, I encourage you to check them out.
OK, all of this is a lot to digest, and a lot to learn! I am interested in your feed back, so please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or open a thread in the forum.