How do I play fast?

This is a common question I get and yet my students are always a little confused when I tell them to start slow!


To play fast, you need to first learn how to play the notes in the sequence that you want to play. More importantly, you need to play them correctly. This generally means the passage has to be REALLY slow so that you give your brain enough time to process what the note is, what articulations are needed and how loud or soft you need to play the dynamics etc. By doing this, you are starting to build the pathways in your brain. If you play them too fast and incorrectly, then all you are doing is teaching yourself to play them incorrectly.

So I've played this passage wrong. Now what?

Well consider this, every time you play that phrase incorrectly, you have the play it 7 to 35 times correctly to relearn it! Each time you play something, you create a pathway in your brain. So if you've played something incorrectly, you need to go back and play it correctly at least twice; once to remove the wrong pathway and then again to start building a new pathway. To actually build that new pathway (as in, learn that new skill) you will need to play it 7 to 35 times correctly. It's just like a worn walking track in a forest or park. Imagine how many times people have walked on that same spot to create that pathway. Your brain is the same! Sounds like a lot of work :( so how do we actually do this?

Putting it into practice

Look at that phrase you keep stuffing up, or choose a scale that your piece is based on. Start your metronome (download for free or use the google one and figure out how fast you can play the passage or scale correctly. This might be 60bpm or slower. It might be 80bpm or even up to 100bpm. It doesn't matter how slow you start, so long as you can play it correctly!

Play it a couple of times until you are comfortable at that speed and then speed it up by 2 to 5 bpm. The idea is that you barely notice the increase in speed. If you do notice the increase then you've sped it up too much. You may also notice that at first you're able to move it up 5bpm but then as you hit faster tempos you need to drop it back to increases of 2bpm. This is normal!

This process takes time! You might only be able to move it up 10bpm in a day but that is still a progress of 10bpm faster than yesterday! Tomorrow however, you will need to take it down a little in speed. For example, on Day 1 you start at 60bpm and raise the tempo to 70bpm, then on day 2 you will need to start a bit slower than the max speed from the day before (e.g. start at 66bpm). Then continue to work up the speed again. This is because you are still creating those pathways in your brain.

If you found this article helpful, please like, share and leave a comment! Your support is greatly appreciated! And if you need any extra help or guidance or further tips, get in contact and book a lesson! Check out my Facebook page for discount codes. ;)

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