There are a lot of great players out there who can play the crap out of a fast tune and make it sound really good. They play with rhythmic perfection, alluring ornamentation, and notes that are beautifully in tune.
The rest of us however, need to slow it down a little and learn how to really play the tune before we fire it off at lightning speed.
In my tune-learning experience, I find that in almost every tune, there is always that one little part that is either a challenge to bow, or there is an odd string-crossing, or the melody just doesn’t go naturally where you think it’s going to.
For some reason it’s our tendency to play these harder parts faster. Maybe we speed them up because we just want to get them over with. Kind of like pulling off that band-aid quickly so you don’t feel the pain for as long.
It seems the more unsure of a part we are, the more we tend to speed it up. I’m guessing though, just recognizing this can make a world of difference in our sound, how we play and how we practice.
How to practice
When practicing, it’s natural to want to hear yourself play something wonderful and have it sound amazing. But if you keep playing the parts you already know, that daunting part is never going to get better.
So, I challenge you (and myself) to work through them. Here are some ideas to help you work through the rough parts:
- Practice slowly – take the hard sections and play them slowly until you have them down. Only speed up once that section becomes easy and your fingers automatically know where to go. Use a metronome if you have to.
- Practice short sections – if there is a part of a tune that is tripping you up, break down the part into shorter sections and only practice those sections. Don’t go back to the beginning, do not pass go and do not collect $200, just play the rough spots until they are as easy as playing the rest of the tune.
- Repeat, repeat and repeat again – there is no better way to get to know a tune intimately than to repeat it until you’re sick of it and then play it again and again.
I find the most challenging tunes and the ones that take me the longest to learn are usually my favorite to play. So take your time, enjoy the process and remember to slow down if you’re moving too fast.