PDA

View Full Version : Improving speed minus the slop



Piecomics
06-01-2016, 05:54 AM
I am curious if anyone has suggestions on improving speed, without getting sloppier. I know the suggestion to just play it slowly without erreo and gradually increase speed. However I think there are changes in mechanics that happen as you get faster, but I seem to be missing them. I find when playing that I can get to a certain speed and then beyond that I'm unable to progress. Any thoughts? I am thinking primarily about finger style or claw hammer right now.

Thanks!

Ukejenny
06-01-2016, 05:59 AM
In my music education, I was always taught, the slower and more methodically you start, the better/faster/more proficient you will be in the end.

I also find that, if I get nervous about a certain tempo target, I can get tense unless I think about staying relaxed and still focused. To me, tenseness and energy are two different things. I want the energy, the vivacity, but not the tension.

Time, time and more time, I'm afraid, for my own progress, which is often times very slow.

brimmer
06-01-2016, 06:17 AM
Great question. Try a metronome, and practice cleanly before increasing the tempo. This is the tried and true way to do it. Of course some players are born awesome, and they don't need to work at it. Not me, though. I have metronome apps on my ipad and ipod, and I use them all the time.

janeray1940
06-01-2016, 07:42 AM
I've struggled with this for years - I'm far more about precision than speed, and much of which I choose to play reflects this (zero interest in shredding/rocking out!). But one can't just play slow songs, so... my approach is to play the piece in question slowly and precisely, over and over, until I have it down at a slower tempo, and gradually increase. Sometimes I'll just play it at the fast tempo a few times, doing the best I can but not getting too stressed out about mistakes, and then bring it back down to a more moderate (but not super slow) tempo - and more often than not, I'll find that more moderate tempo manageable. Then I'll use that moderate tempo as my new "slow" tempo, and increase from there.

Another thing that helps is identifying the phrases that are tripping you up - for me it's not usually the whole piece but a challenging measure or two. If you can isolate these, determine the most comfortable fingering for them, and practice those phrases on their own, over and over, it might help.

Ukulele Eddie
06-01-2016, 10:03 AM
Not that I should dispensing musical advice, but I have found (1) memorizing a song and then (2) playing along with Amazing Slow Downer (an app that you can import a song into and change the speed without affecting the tone) and gradually picking up speed to be what works best for me. Also, I sometimes practice with my Zoom recorder setup as a mic and use headphones so that I can really hear what I'm doing. This really helps magnify what you're playing.

Let us know what works for you!

Eddie

Nickie
06-01-2016, 01:50 PM
I have the same problem. The only way I can overcome it is to slow down to a speed where I make NO mistakes, not even a fret buzz. Then I try to gradually speed back up, until I goof again.

Luckylibby
06-01-2016, 01:52 PM
I have the same problem. The only way I can overcome it is to slow down to a speed where I make NO mistakes, not even a fret buzz. Then I try to gradually speed back up, until I goof again.

Whats wrong with mistakes ? They're learning opportunities .

Joyful Uke
06-01-2016, 03:04 PM
[QUOTE=janeray1940;1857064]
Another thing that helps is identifying the phrases that are tripping you up - for me it's not usually the whole piece but a challenging measure or two. If you can isolate these, determine the most comfortable fingering for them, and practice those phrases on their own, over and over, it might help.[/QUOTE

Not that I play well, but when I'm trying to play fast for me, I think you've nailed the things that trip me up. It's usually a certain measure or 2, and the problem might:
1. I don't really know it as well as I thought, and have to think too much about what I'm doing at that point and/or
2. I need to change the fingering, or move the notes to another string (or strings) either to make it flow better or to keep my cranky fingers from trying something that they can't do at that speed. Or sometimes I have to realize that I need to alter something about that measure or 2 to prevent pain, and change the notes completely, (or play a single note instead of more than one), so I can play through the spot vs. not play it at all.

Neal
06-01-2016, 03:18 PM
You are dealing with actual muscles and tendons in your upper body and programming your real own brain, not a computer app.. You are not a computer generated super ukulele hero, its going to take maybe 5 years of working out every day to achieve what you are after. Great guitarists like Jimmy Page and Keith Richards spent 5 - 10 years of their youth in their bedrooms practicing and learning before they became overnight geniuses in their early 20s. Patience and consistency are your friend. The above advice has worked for the greatest musicians on the planet for the last 300 years, for musicians of all body shapes and many nationalities.
Would you all please read the above. It is the only answer pertinent to this topic, and needs no embellishment. But I will. Slow. Patience. Wait, that WAS no embellishment, I'm just repeating the answer to the OP, without the embellishment it needs, which was provided in Bill's post that is conveniently reproduced for you above.

Pier
06-02-2016, 01:06 AM
another interesting trick most musicians do is this:

you reach you higher speed, let's say 100 bpm, and you can't even get to 105 bpm, what would you do?

you set 110 on the metronome, and start playing at that speed, with all the errors and struggles it will get. you can also alternate half-tempo (for example, 16ths are played like 8th) and the right tempo, just to get used to the beat.

after a while, stop the 110bm and set 105bpm.

you'll feel it slower than it really is, because your ears and hands got used to a faster tempo.

probably you'll play cleaner at 105 now.


this kind of method is used in every sport, like weight-lifting, and music excercises are not different, they are just excercises for muscles and tendons, and muscular memory.

let's imagine the same situation with lifting: you can't get past 100kg, so instead of trying 105kg, you try a set with 110kg, even doing less repetitions or incomplete movements.
then go back to 105kg to feel it lighter.

it's the exact same mechanism of your body getting used to an harder "situation".

jddennis
06-02-2016, 01:36 AM
One thing I would suggest is practicing scales with some kind of sheet music. Either standard notation, tabs, or a finger chart. Before you really start playing, notate what you're going to be playing with each hand.

For the left hand, use the following notation:

1 - Index
2 - Middle
3 - Ring
4 - Pinky

For the right hand, use the following:

P - Thumb (Pulmar)
I - Index
M - Middle
A - Ring (Anullar)

Once you have the notation figured out, practice slowly. I'd recommend using a metronome (as others have). But instead of just practicing plucking the note, practice how you'll place both hands. So on the first click of the metronome, get both hands set up. On the next click, pluck the note. Do this, ascending the scale and descending it, until it feels natural. Make sure to analyze what went wrong, so you'll know what to smooth out next pass. Then speed up gradually. For example, go to 100 beats with the set-play method. Then go down to 50 beats, but eliminate the setup beat. Do that in the down time. Then go back to 100 beats, always playing on the click.

coolkayaker1
06-02-2016, 02:47 AM
I had the exact same dilemma as you, Pie. Stuck in a slower gear. I noticed, watching YT videos, that most amateurs are stuck in the same slow to moderate gear. I, and they, even choose slower songs to learn...songs that match my/their slow natural pace. I'd say "I wish I could play like Kalei Gamiao", then I'd pick Hotel California to learn (a great song, played superbly and intricately by some...just not a speedy song). Huh? How will I ever play like Kalei, or Jake, or Taimane, if I don't start to emulate them?

So I broke with all conventional wisdom about a year ago and pushed my pace. I threw out all advice to slowly work through bits for the purpose of muscle memory and all that jazz. Precision? Who cares...it'll come. At first, I took little snippets that I already knew well and I pushed the tempo. Sloppy, sure, but I was astonished to find that, in short order, I could play it faster. Much faster! And precision at higher tempo came quicker than I thought, in a matter of a couple weeks by playing it for maybe thirty minutes a day. I started taking slower songs that I knew well and pushed them abnormally fast just for fun. Wow!

Then I applied this principle to new songs for me. I first tried Jake Shim Kelly's Song 143, a moderately fast song, and learned it anew, took a little time to memorize the fingering (it's relatively easy fingering, but sounds lush and powerful). Still sloppy, though, at slow speeds, I pushed the tempo to play it more like Jake. Learn it well while simultaneously pushing the pace, I told myself. Bam! I made more gains than I would have with the old "keep going slow until its precise, then later push the pace" (which typically translates to: learn it slowly until I get sick of it and then move to another song before I ever get it to proper tempo...lol).
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PZBK2dEbRTs

Bonus to pace pushing: I had a ton more fun in the process! I'm much more confident with faster numbers now. Learning Kalei's Mach 4 at the moment. Can I play it slowly and precisely yet? No. Am I pushing the tempo yet? Yes!

Just my personal experience. What has worked for me to take me out of a moderately slow speed rut. Maybe it can work for you, Pie. Cheers.

Wicked
06-03-2016, 07:44 AM
Whats wrong with mistakes ? They're learning opportunities .

You may have been joking, but you are absolutely right. Fear of mistakes hold back the vast majority of burgeoning musicians. Most listeners won't even notice an error, unless you draw attention to it.

To paraphrase Miles Davis: "If you play a wrong note, play it again so everybody thinks you meant to do it."

JessicaM
06-05-2016, 03:03 AM
Lots of great advice here!

I'd add: if you haven't already, make sure your music is comfortably at eye level, sit up straight, and make sure your posture and form are supporting your playing. It's easier to play clean & fast if your not fighting against poor posture. A music stand can help considerably.

coolkayaker1
06-06-2016, 05:39 PM
I'd add: if you haven't already, make sure your music is comfortably at eye level, sit up straight, and make sure your posture and form are supporting your playing. It's easier to play clean & fast if your not fighting against poor posture. A music stand can help considerably.

That's sound advice. And a strap helps, too.

Rllink
06-07-2016, 03:12 AM
I had the exact same dilemma as you, Pie. Stuck in a slower gear. I noticed, watching YT videos, that most amateurs are stuck in the same slow to moderate gear. I, and they, even choose slower songs to learn...songs that match my/their slow natural pace. I'd say "I wish I could play like Kalei Gamiao", then I'd pick Hotel California to learn (a great song, played superbly and intricately by some...just not a speedy song). Huh? How will I ever play like Kalei, or Jake, or Taimane, if I don't start to emulate them?

So I broke with all conventional wisdom about a year ago and pushed my pace. I threw out all advice to slowly work through bits for the purpose of muscle memory and all that jazz. Precision? Who cares...it'll come. At first, I took little snippets that I already knew well and I pushed the tempo. Sloppy, sure, but I was astonished to find that, in short order, I could play it faster. Much faster! And precision at higher tempo came quicker than I thought, in a matter of a couple weeks by playing it for maybe thirty minutes a day. I started taking slower songs that I knew well and pushed them abnormally fast just for fun. Wow!

Then I applied this principle to new songs for me. I first tried Jake Shim Kelly's Song 143, a moderately fast song, and learned it anew, took a little time to memorize the fingering (it's relatively easy fingering, but sounds lush and powerful). Still sloppy, though, at slow speeds, I pushed the tempo to play it more like Jake. Learn it well while simultaneously pushing the pace, I told myself. Bam! I made more gains than I would have with the old "keep going slow until its precise, then later push the pace" (which typically translates to: learn it slowly until I get sick of it and then move to another song before I ever get it to proper tempo...lol).
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PZBK2dEbRTs

Bonus to pace pushing: I had a ton more fun in the process! I'm much more confident with faster numbers now. Learning Kalei's Mach 4 at the moment. Can I play it slowly and precisely yet? No. Am I pushing the tempo yet? Yes!

Just my personal experience. What has worked for me to take me out of a moderately slow speed rut. Maybe it can work for you, Pie. Cheers.I agree with you Coolkayaker1. If you are going to get faster, you are going to get a little slop to start out in the process. It is unavoidable. There is a big difference between bad habits and a little slop. The slop will get cleaned up as you progress. I'll just add, that some people are so afraid of getting bad habits, that they are afraid to push. I've picked up my share of bad habits along the way, and I've broken a lot of bad habits along the way. Frankly, sometimes it is easier to break a bad habit, than it is to just plod along making no progress. New flash, you can retrain your muscle memory. I do it all the time.


you set 110 on the metronome, and start playing at that speed, with all the errors and struggles it will get. you can also alternate half-tempo (for example, 16ths are played like 8th) and the right tempo, just to get used to the beat.

after a while, stop the 110bm and set 105bpm.

you'll feel it slower than it really is, because your ears and hands got used to a faster tempo.

probably you'll play cleaner at 105 now.


this kind of method is used in every sport, like weight-lifting, and music excercises are not different, they are just excercises for muscles and tendons, and muscular memory. I used to belong to a competitive swim club. The coach used to have a training exercise that he called hot laps. we did them every training session. Forget form, forget technique, swim four sets of four at the fastest cadence that you can physically do. We followed it up with four sets of four where we didn't think about speed, just concentrate on technique and form. I use that same approach every time I practice my uke.

VoiceofTJ
06-07-2016, 03:24 AM
Whenever I get stuck on a tough song or part, I go learn two or three others that are 'easier'. When I come back to the one I was having trouble with, I find I can suddenly play it. And I now have three other songs in my repitiore as a bonus!

(I also noodle constantly, and am lucky enough to have a wife that loves my playing!)

Lori
06-07-2016, 07:34 AM
[QUOTE=janeray1940;1857064]
Another thing that helps is identifying the phrases that are tripping you up - for me it's not usually the whole piece but a challenging measure or two. If you can isolate these, determine the most comfortable fingering for them, and practice those phrases on their own, over and over, it might help.[/QUOTE

Not that I play well, but when I'm trying to play fast for me, I think you've nailed the things that trip me up. It's usually a certain measure or 2, and the problem might:
1. I don't really know it as well as I thought, and have to think too much about what I'm doing at that point and/or
2. I need to change the fingering, or move the notes to another string (or strings) either to make it flow better or to keep my cranky fingers from trying something that they can't do at that speed. Or sometimes I have to realize that I need to alter something about that measure or 2 to prevent pain, and change the notes completely, (or play a single note instead of more than one), so I can play through the spot vs. not play it at all.
:agree:
When looking at your fingering, try and figure out the most efficient finger fretting movement. If you can figure out how to go from note to note, or phrase to phrase with a minimum of finger movement, it will be easier to speed up the tempo. That sometimes means playing notes on different strings, or seeing if you can create a pattern that is easily moved up or down the neck. Sometimes you can use open strings to play notes as a transition from different locations on the neck.

For the right hand, fingerpicking speed can be increased by alternating fingers when possible (like a classical guitar style). This won't really work on Claw hammer style. It tends to be a looser style anyway.
–Lori

coolkayaker1
06-13-2016, 07:45 AM
Pie? Piecomics?