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How to learn faster scales - learning strategy (Read 6012 times)

Offline timothy42b

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How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
« on: February 21, 2007, 11:32:41 AM »
I want to play scales faster.

Granted there may be no discernible benefit, I want to do it anyway.

What I'm doing now isn't working, so I'm looking for another strategy.

I spend a week per scale.  When I stopped getting faster at two octave scales, I cut it down to five note fragments.  Each day I spend a few minutes playing with the metronome.  I play one octave scales as quarter notes, then two octave scales as eighth notes, then I start taking five note pieces as sixteenth notes.  I play notes 1 - 5, then 2-6, 3 - 7, etc.  I'm up to MM 180, and stuck for 5 note chunks at sixteenths, but the whole scales stay stuck at eighth notes. Or, alternatively, as sixteenth notes at 90. 

I hear other people play scales rippling up and down, I can't do it.  Any idea what to try next?  Usually when I'm stuck, I don't need to work harder, I need to work smarter. 
Tim

piano sheet music of Major Scales


Offline molto-marcato

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #1 on: February 21, 2007, 01:03:31 PM »
Hmmm, baically i think you are practicing the right way.

When i want to increase speed of scales or scale-like figures (or in fact everything) i have to focus on very active fingers. I play a little louder and with accuracy, more strength in your fingers, but no stiffness. Usually if you do this even at a slow pace until the pattern is in your Head/fingers you can increase tempo.

So i'd say practice slowly and with great accuracy, active fingers. Hope this is what you wanted to know.

Offline counterpoint

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #2 on: February 21, 2007, 02:39:35 PM »
Hmmm, baically i think you are practicing the right way.

When i want to increase speed of scales or scale-like figures (or in fact everything) i have to focus on very active fingers. I play a little louder and with accuracy, more strength in your fingers, but no stiffness. Usually if you do this even at a slow pace until the pattern is in your Head/fingers you can increase tempo.

So i'd say practice slowly and with great accuracy, active fingers. Hope this is what you wanted to know.


That's interesting, because I do just the contrary  :D

I tend to have much too active fingers, so I always try to play as passive as possible. I do not move the fingers but only the arm. The fingers act like a rubber cogwheel.
That's only for legato scales of course. For non legato and staccato scales, I try to strike the keys with straight fingers from as high as possible.
If it doesn't work - try something different!

Offline molto-marcato

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #3 on: February 21, 2007, 03:32:57 PM »
Maybe "my" method fits me well because in my youth i tended to play not precisely, without a true feeling for brilliance and control. I played fast runs very blurry and with weak fingers. With this i got maybe 90% of the notes on time, which for me was of course very dissatisfying. Since i grew older my analytical abilities improved and also a new teacher gave me the momentum to radically change my practice strategies. So, with this background what works best for me is to practice anything slowly but very accurate to work against my old habits maybe.

Even if i can play a difficult section in tempo or above i will always return to "slow mode" once per session.

Offline counterpoint

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #4 on: February 21, 2007, 06:40:57 PM »
Yes, of course, practising slow is for me as important as for you!

I have only some doubts about  the practising with "strong" keystrokes. Because force (or let's say hammering) doesn't bring clearness. It only seems clearer because it's louder and you can hear the notes better if you have a problem with your ears  ;)

The clearness comes from the ears, not from the fingers.
If it doesn't work - try something different!

Offline rc

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #5 on: February 22, 2007, 07:14:40 AM »
I have only some doubts about  the practising with "strong" keystrokes. Because force (or let's say hammering) doesn't bring clearness. It only seems clearer because it's louder and you can hear the notes better if you have a problem with your ears  ;)

I would disagree, I've been using strong hammer fingers from time to time and I've found it useful...  It's not directly for the strength or force, but when you attack the keys with hammer-fingers it means you must be accurate - the fingers must be in the right position from the air.  Hammer-fingers isn't for force or volume, it's for accuracy.  It helps in learning how to 'set' the fingers.

Offline teresa_b

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #6 on: February 22, 2007, 06:27:28 PM »
You said it yourself:  work smarter.  Try to analyze why the rapid scales are giving you a hard time (other than the mere fact that rapid anything is more difficult than slow). 

Are you wasting energy with any excess movement, for example?  Look at your arms, wrists, elbows, etc to see if you're trying to do too much moving when you cross your thumb under (or over, depending on the technique).  My technique is to keep my arms very level and not to apply a lot of arm weight in light, fast scales.  If I want to crescendo, or whatever, I lean my whole body a little bit in the direction of the scale.

Do them hands-separately before together (that's the usual).  Use discipline and don't speed up if you find you're not playing clearly.  Go back a notch on the metronome. 

Good luck--hope that helps!
Teresa

Offline keyofc

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #7 on: February 28, 2007, 11:43:38 PM »
Timothy4
that's interesting to read - because that is what I am working
on myself.  I try to play all scales every day - and then work more on one.

Today - I noticed I was not moving my arm enough.  Then I tried figuring out why certain movements are not done with as much ease as others are when I am playing fast.

So I'm working on those movements. 
It seems to help if I roll my arm forward on the blacknotes - and come down lower with my fingers on the white notes
Let me know if it helps at all or anything you find.
thanks

Offline ted

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #8 on: March 02, 2007, 03:37:38 AM »
I play few scales per se but for any consecutively fingered runs in general you could try splitting them up, not by set numbers of notes but by convenient grips and positions hands separately - (1,2,3)   (1,2,3,4 ) or whatever ones you use. Play each one flat out within itself with a rest between each pair of grips and, over time, reduce the microsleeps until they all join up. At very high speed the thumb won't be passed under much anyway. Mix this up with playing them more slowly and in other ways too though, for physical variety.
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline pianoteacherkim

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #9 on: March 02, 2007, 07:53:11 PM »
Have you tried varying the rhythm and/or articulation?

I practice scales with various patterns of articulation (I have a set of, oh, about 10 different articulations that I use while practicing flute scales, and transferred them to my piano work). 

It can also help to vary rhythms -- for instance, play with a dotted eighth-sixteenth rhythm.  Sometimes your brain, pattern-seeking device that it is, needs a bit of a shakeup!  :)

Best,

Kim
Yes, you're musical....
You can play piano!

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Offline zheer

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #10 on: March 02, 2007, 08:37:42 PM »
  Here is something you can try. Take the c minor harmonic scale. With your RH play the first 2 notes one after the other, not  like a grace note  but as 2 clear singing notes. Play the 2 notes so that they sound fast, take your hand away from the piano, in your head visualize the third note being played after the two notes, then place your finger tips on the piano and play the three notes.Once again visualize the fourth then place your finger tips at the piano and play the three notes followed by the fourth. Make sure your finger tips are as close to the key as possible. Continue this pattern as much as you can till you can reach 2 octaves .
" Nothing ends nicely, that's why it ends" - Tom Cruise -

Offline jeremyjchilds

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #11 on: March 02, 2007, 08:44:13 PM »
Speed comes from controll...

I realize that many of the pointers people have given are ways to gain controll

food for thought.
"crave controll obsessively, and the speed will take care of itself..."
"He who answers without listening...that is his folly and his shame"    (A very wise person)

Offline rc

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #12 on: March 04, 2007, 09:43:53 PM »
  Here is something you can try. Take the c minor harmonic scale. With your RH play the first 2 notes one after the other, not  like a grace note  but as 2 clear singing notes. Play the 2 notes so that they sound fast, take your hand away from the piano, in your head visualize the third note being played after the two notes, then place your finger tips on the piano and play the three notes.Once again visualize the fourth then place your finger tips at the piano and play the three notes followed by the fourth. Make sure your finger tips are as close to the key as possible. Continue this pattern as much as you can till you can reach 2 octaves .

I've never heard of this method before, but it sounds great!  The bulk of the work in learning scales is organizing it in the mind.  I'll give it a try! thanks

I like your idea on control too Jeremyj.  When I get playing quick, I'm not thinking of it as speed, but it seems more like my perception changes...  It's not 'speed' but simply 'scale', and the mind is just moving faster.  I don't really hear it as fast in that mindset.

Offline a-sharp

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #13 on: March 17, 2007, 10:19:43 PM »
Tim.42b - you play ALL the scales every day? Have you tried just working on "perfecting" one [for say, a week] before you work on another one? Have you done 1-2-3 & 4 octv's [qtrs, 8ths, triplets, 16ths] with metronome - sometimes accenting the 1st note of the group - (hope that makes sense), or just 2 octaves for each?

You have more patience than I  - I typically will warm up with a couple of specific scales or arpeggios that is based on pieces I'm working on - then some kind of hanon or etude - also to work on a specific weakness I'm having the moment. I'd go crazy [translation: get bored] trying to do all the scales every day - but if you don't - good for you!! :)

Offline danny elfboy

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #14 on: March 18, 2007, 12:15:38 AM »
Increasing the metronome day by day doesn't work
Or better yet it works only in the moment in which you finally do something that you should have done before

Movements that work at slow speed don't often work at fast speed
This is a ver basic fact

When you play with slow speed you get away with all unefficient and ample, big and non-accurate movements

If you keep increasing the speed while maintaing these movements you reach a point where their unefficacy blatantly shows up

What many students do at this point is practicing everyday careless of this obstacle
At some point though the hands and you brain "instinctively" leads towards different moments that work better for the higher speed and this is when the student finally becomes able to play that practiced for hours and days and weeks piece at higher speed

Only that you don't need to reach that stage and wait for days or weeks or months while your body tries to figures out by itself what not working.
You can save a lot of time and already using movements and position that are efficient for the fast speed

The way to do this is to play "fast" first as an exploratory mean to know what kind of positions and movements will work with that speed and to make sure you don't "internalize" movements that you can just get away with at slow speed

When you'll know what movements work for fast speed you will just maintain those (same short, small movements and hand positon) even when you play it slower

I will try to make an example
Let's say you're installing a chandelier in your living room and it's full morning
Are you going to spend a lot of time making sure to install the chandeliers and the bulbs well just to find out that "when it's night" the light is too "feeble" "strong" "annoying" or whatever. Or maybe it's better to first bring down the curtains so as to "explore" the effect of the light at night. Once you know what the best light at night you'll just process with installing it in the morning, but first you need an "exploratory artificial night" to make sure you're not installing something that you can get away with just because it's full morning that would NOT WORK at night

It's the same principle if you know what I mean

Fast speed practice and Slow Speed Practice are both useful and necessary but they serve different purposes

Fast Speed Practice is used to:

1) Figure out what fingering works with full speed and what doesn't
2) Figure out how to use the arms to quicky move the hands to different zones
3) To figure out the "dancing" aspect of the music
4) To figure out movements that are efficient at fast speed and not just at slow one
5) To figure out what elements need to be added to make the piece "musical"

Slow Speed Practice is used to:

1) Practicing accuracy
2) Indentify the feeling of each note and chord under the fingers (kinesthetic sense)
3) Practicing how the most "relaxed" (non tensed) but firm to play "each note"
4) Practicing the interpretative aspects of volume, dynamics and articulation
5) Practicing the use of the pedal in the piece
6) Figure out how to syncrozine right hand and left hand in the early stages
7) Practice memory

As you can see different practices are for different goals and as such you can't go from "slow" to "fast" (let's say slow practicing on monday and ending up fast practicing after 6 days in sunday). No! You need to incorporate in your daily practice both fast speed practice and both slow speed practice. Going from slow to fast is just time consuming and uneffective

The question is: how can you play fast something you haven't accurately learned yet and that would require slow practice to be learned accurately?

You make it small!

Ideally you section shouldn't be longer than five notes because that's the maximum amount of notes you can play per "muscle impulse".
You can't keep your muscles contracted all the time
Speed depends on the speed of releasing a contracted muscle before contracting it again. A muscle impulse is a contraction and a release, a falling and a lifting.

You surely can't play immediately fast 4 bars of a new piece
You would tense, you would get pain in your forearm, elbow and upperarm
So you must decrease the section.
2 bars? Probably it's too much
1 bars? What about just a couple of musically meaningul note. A music impulse?
Surely you can play 5 notes at full speed from the beginning
That's what you have to do.
Observe how you move your hand and fingers in the "instinctive" first full speed playing of a very small section. Those are the movements you'll always use. You've found them, you don't have to waste time figuring out what is unefficient and what is not ... you know, from that on is just a matter of practicing

Ideally a piece is learned by the hardest fragments
The hardest fragments may take days to be learned as far as virtuoso pieces are concerned but it's still less time than the unefficient "slow" to "fast"

When all the fragments are so perfectly mastered that you can't play them wrong EVEN IF YOU WANT you start joining them in pair ... till you complete your "musical" patchwork

With scale what you need to do if you have problems with speed is:
Take the scale of C major

C D E F G A B C B A G F E D C
1 2 3 1 2 3 4  5 4 3 2 1 3 2 1

Again same principle
You must play if FAST before you can play it SLOW otherwise you'll just ingrain all sort of unefficient hand position and movements that will never work at fast speed and are sabotaging your ability to play the scale at fast speed

How do you "explore" fast movements if you can't even play it slowly
You choose small fragments

C D E
F G A B C
C B A G F
E D C

These are your 4 fragments
You can play them fast immediately and observe what movement you use
Then you can maintaining the same movements "slow the speed a bit" and work on thing that you can work on only at slow speed like tone, eveness, accuracy
Then again a speed to make sure you're ingraining the correct movements and so on

You make long pauses bringing your hands to your laps between each fragment
So each small fragment will end up from a point of relaxation and will end with relaxation
Even when you'll be playing the whole scale without "rests" the relaxation impulses will keep underlying the whole structure of your playing (muscle memory)

When you'll practice your scales like this for at least a week you will realize clearly that what is limiting your speed if the "passing of the thumb"
So isolate the passing of the thumb (F G - F E) using the same principle of FAST first to understand the correct motion, slow later for accuracy

When you'll be able to play at super fast speed each small fragment (totally relaxing your muscles between them) and each passing of the thumb (totally relaxing your muscles between them) you JUST WON'T BELIEVE how naturally unbelievably fast your scales are when you join all the fragments and passing together and practice them smoothly

Offline rc

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #15 on: March 18, 2007, 02:29:48 AM »
I basically agree with that Danny, but I ran into some troubles when I was learning scales using that approach.  Not so much a fallacy, but I think it's prone to misunderstanding...  The same old problem: it's hard to put this sort of thing into words.

What happened is that I went to the piano thinking there were just two concrete motions to learn (fast and slow), and all I really had to do was figure out how to play fast.  But I found it more of a gradiation, the motions morph between the two extremes.

I took it too literally, and when I tried using the motion I learned for fast playing on medium/slower speeds it didn't work.  Because in faster playing the notes are shorter, you can get away with less connection between hand positions (you have to), and that motion wound up sounding very disconnected as I slowed down...  What really got me was right in the middle - where what worked for playing slow legato became impossible, but what worked for speedy scales was too choppy.  Scales are more forgiving, arpeggios made it disgustingly obvious :-\

So I think it's useful to mention an additional step for this approach: filling in between the two extremes.  The real danger we're trying to avoid is in trying to use the exact same motion for every speed.

What I found most useful in getting the whole thing figured out and balanced was throwing in some careful listening into the mix - listening that every note begins exactly when the last is done.  I was thinking of the legato of homophonic instruments, how it would be impossible for a flute to overlap two notes.  Listening to prevent overlap helped prevent my fingers from being on a note any longer than necessary, which automatically took care of most of my troubles between different speeds.

Offline claude_debussy

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #16 on: March 18, 2007, 08:37:44 AM »
It's been suggested before in these forums on other threads, but you might find some important help in C.C. Chang's Fundamentals of Piano Practice 2nd ed., available for free download at

http://members.aol.com/chang8828/contents.htm

free, although after reading the book I was so impressed I was happy to send him twenty five bucks (that gets you a hardcopy from Dr. Chang, a seriously heavyweight physicist who worked years at Bell Labs).

The turning-under of the thumb taught to beginning students actually becomes an enormous obstacle when it's time to attain high velocity.  Chang discusses the alternate 'thumb over' approach, which essentially requires turning the hands slightly with fingertips angling slightly more towards each other - if you lift your elbows slightly you'll move the hands in the right directions, but experiment to find what is best for you.  Then the thumb can move quickly without having to tuck way under the palm.   

Chopin taught the B major scale first to students for just this reason, Chang surmises.  He also quotes a student of list (Faye) who witnessed a transformation in Liszt's playing, which Chang correctly notes, has never been documented very well, using this approach.   Chang also says the chromatic scale fingering is useful because it naturally keeps the thumb in the 'thumb over' attitude.

Chang also suggests practicing hands separately - in fact he suggests that 100% of all technical improvement comes from HS practice, a radical idea that makes a lot of practical sense. 

Also start with one octave and try out the 'parallel set' idea Chang puts forth. 

The book has a host of other valuable ideas in it - good luck - 

Offline danny elfboy

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #17 on: March 18, 2007, 11:03:38 PM »
I basically agree with that Danny, but I ran into some troubles when I was learning scales using that approach.  Not so much a fallacy, but I think it's prone to misunderstanding...  The same old problem: it's hard to put this sort of thing into words.

So true

Quote
What happened is that I went to the piano thinking there were just two concrete motions to learn (fast and slow), and all I really had to do was figure out how to play fast.  But I found it more of a gradiation, the motions morph between the two extremes.

I took it too literally, and when I tried using the motion I learned for fast playing on medium/slower speeds it didn't work.  Because in faster playing the notes are shorter, you can get away with less connection between hand positions (you have to), and that motion wound up sounding very disconnected as I slowed down...  What really got me was right in the middle - where what worked for playing slow legato became impossible, but what worked for speedy scales was too choppy.  Scales are more forgiving, arpeggios made it disgustingly obvious :-\

So I think it's useful to mention an additional step for this approach: filling in between the two extremes.  The real danger we're trying to avoid is in trying to use the exact same motion for every speed.

Yes ... eventually speed motions are used for slow motion practice and fast motions are used for fast motion practice ... both are needed but it's always best to start with fast ones because the ones you begin with are the one your body will internalize and your muscle will remember. Unlearning something to replace it with something else is way way harder than learning something the first time. It's also the reason why prejudices, discriminations and brainwashing are so powerful

Also I think that the most important aspect of fast motion is hand position (what angle the hand and fingers are compared to the keyboard and keys)
Of course when going from fast motions to slow motions you must respect the basic movements and positions that work, for that piece, at fast motions ... but you also need to made those movements more ample to accomodate them to higher delay between the playing on note

The bottom like is that speed is a spectrum and going from slow to fast is just a difference in degree of the same spectrum. So the movements and positions are supposed to remain the same but the "same movement" change in degree by becoming more ample/wide and less short

Offline timothy42b

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #18 on: March 19, 2007, 09:08:45 AM »
Increasing the metronome day by day doesn't work
Or better yet it works only in the moment in which you finally do something that you should have done before

Movements that work at slow speed don't often work at fast speed
This is a ver basic fact


Yes of course, everybody knows that.

However it is completely nonuseful information for actually learning fast scales. 

You might as well have said to play scales fast, don't play them slowly.  (Doctor, it hurts when I do that.  Well, don't do that.)

Now I don't want to discount the efforts you've made.  The number of posts above are all helpful, though in different ways.  And they do answer part of the question.

The other part of the question is the specific strategy.  Some of you can play rippling scales so fast the notes just blend.  I know you couldn't always do that.  How did you get from "can't" to "can?"  Any personal experience with methods that did or didn't work?  Like, working two note fragments for a week, 3 note for a week, etc.? 

No, I don't do all scales every day.  I don't believe that playing scales is a major benefit to my playing, once I've assimilated the concept;  but it's an easily measurable technical skill.  I try to assign it the time relative to the importance.  Since scale fingerings are rare in actual music, I do 5 minutes a day.  After a week I add a sharp. 

I seem to hear fast scales in actual performance mostly in two places.  Some of the classical repertoire contains it - I can't give an example from memory but I recognize it when I hear it onBayern 4 Klassik radio.  <grin>  The other is piano jazz, their scales are slower but more continuous. 
Tim

Offline danny elfboy

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #19 on: March 19, 2007, 09:38:06 AM »
Yes of course, everybody knows that.

However it is completely nonuseful information for actually learning fast scales. 

You might as well have said to play scales fast, don't play them slowly.  (Doctor, it hurts when I do that.  Well, don't do that.)

You didn't absolutely read what I wrote, did you?
It seems like you just read something you misunderstood and stop reading because if the premise was "nonsense" the rest must have been also

If you had read the whole post instead of trashing it for the first statement you'd have realized that "slow motions don't work at fast speed" was the premise to explain a typical problem with scales speed and also to introduce the description of my "strategy" to overcome it

Quote
The other part of the question is the specific strategy.  Some of you can play rippling scales so fast the notes just blend.  I know you couldn't always do that.  How did you get from "can't" to "can?"

I just explained how I did to you ... don't know what other to say except to ask "why you keep asking if you don't care for the answers?"

Offline pianobabe_56

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #20 on: March 19, 2007, 03:30:50 PM »
I learned an EXCELLENT technique that I had never thought of before a month ago. My problem with scales was that every time I would cross my thumbs, my wrist would move vertically (wasted movement--slowed me down).

The teacher had me practice by grouping everything that wasn't a crossing of the hands. For instance, in C Major: 1 2 3 were played in a clump, then cross the thumb under for 4, then clump 5 6 7, cross, clump, etc. It got even more difficult when I tried it hands together! (Is this making any sense at all?)

I guess the point was that the cross-overs were slowing me down. So I practiced those exclusively. MAJOR difference--that's when my scales really took off! I highly recommend it!
<('.'<)   (>'.')>

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Offline a-sharp

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #21 on: March 19, 2007, 04:09:22 PM »
Quote
No, I don't do all scales every day. 

Forgive me, I could have sworn I read that, now your posts reads differently, or, I'm completely going crazy.  ???

I have used the 'grouping' [or "clumping"] method of gaining speed in passages, at least in particular the pieces I'm working on.... various rythms, and accents have helped too - epsecially working over & through the specific spots that tend to get more 'stuck' [I hope that makes sense...]

Offline rc

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #22 on: March 20, 2007, 11:25:36 PM »
Here are some simple, practical suggestions Tim:

Try practicing a scale for significantly longer, somewhere around 30 mins.  Sometimes I get carried away and find myself going for over an hour, strangely.  Though we've been told to keep scale practice to a minimum, and going too long is not productive, when I get zoning and wind up practicing scales for 1/2hr - 1hr is when I start gaining a lot of control over it...  Flying up and down at top speed, not missing a single note.  What it seems to me is that during the practice the scale is played more and more subconsciously (I don't have to think about fingering, then hand motions, then evenness, etc).  Which is ideal, I'd want to be able to just play a scale excellently whenever I wish to!

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, I feel I've made a lot of progress in these marathon practice sessions.  Eventually it takes less time to get the same level of control.

I also use some sub-goals within the larger practice session.  Some things we've heard horror stories of, but I've found useful afterall...  Like trying to play a scale note-perfect incrementally: 2 octaves, 3 octaves, 4 octaves/2X in a row, 3X in a row, 4X in a row (beyond 4 octaves 4X, you're pretty much set, and probably zoning anyways).  Speed irrelevant, what's important is accuracy and flow (not choppy sounding = not choppy movements).  Once you have accuracy and flow, speed comes as a natural result.

A useful suggestion from Neuhaus is to practice using mostly finger-motion, as well as more wrist/arm motion, and blend the two to find the best, most graceful.

Give it a shot, sit down and spend a long time focusing on a scale.  Play around with all the ideas you've come across and anything else your imagination can come up with...  With the intent of perfecting the scale.  I'd be surprised if you aren't setting new personal speed records after half and hour. 

as an afterthought, I believe that working on scales has helped me develop better meta-technique...  Meaning that I've improved in thinking about scales and responding - although music typically only uses scale fragments with different fingering, I can still play it with ease.  My mind and hands have become quicker at adapting to various fingering combinations that arise, it's easier to just 'plug-in'.

Offline amanfang

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #23 on: March 21, 2007, 12:40:20 AM »
Someone said earlier that sections should be no more than 5 notes.  I started grouping them in 7's and setting the metronome at a slower rate and fitting groups of 7 (for a 4-octave scale) into a pulse.  This made sped up my scales significantly as opposed to thinking smaller groupings (of 2, 3, or 4).
When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there's no end to what you can't do.

Offline gouldfan

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #24 on: March 21, 2007, 09:41:34 AM »
I just want to thank danny elfboy for his explanation.  I'm definately going to try out the method he describes.  It makes perfect sense to me.
Danny, you made me see the light and at the same time I can install a chandelier too ! lol.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #25 on: March 23, 2007, 02:30:10 PM »
If you had read the whole post instead of trashing it for the first statement you'd have realized that "slow motions don't work at fast speed" was the premise to explain a typical problem with scales speed and also to introduce the description of my "strategy" to overcome it


You have to know when the problem is strategy and when it is tactics. 
Tim

Offline timothy42b

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #26 on: March 23, 2007, 02:32:06 PM »
Here are some simple, practical suggestions Tim:

Try practicing a scale for significantly longer, somewhere around 30 mins. 

Hey, that sounds very promising.  I'll give it a shot.

Maybe I'll even try it with septuplets ala amanfang, if I can figure how to count them! <grin>

Tim

Offline pianowelsh

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #27 on: March 23, 2007, 02:51:42 PM »
Sorry to be blindingly obvious BUT 99% of the time the reason why people cant play fast scales is
1.  Because their fingers aquaplane - ie they are flying off in all directions..SO remedy by keeping the fingers on the surface of the keys the wholetime (reduce the distance they have to travel!) - This is often actually symptomatic of being less than totally convinced of the fongering - if there is ANY doubt regarding a finger posttion the fractional hestitation will result in the finger flying up or not making the transition properly...SO know your finger patterns INSIDE OUT.  You can practice this by playing scales in blocks ie isloate the thumb and play the rest of the nots (as if they were a chord) - white key scales this is 1 - 23, 1 -234, 1 etc.

2. Because of the thumb turns...this is really the only difficult point in any scale.  Often the problem is the inefficient positioning of the hand. if you are trailing on the edge of the white keys and you have to jerk your hand in to play the black keys this will dramatically reduce your speed.  Keep the hand IN at the foot of the mountain range so to speak and use your arm like a typewriter carraige to take your arm up and down the keyboard horizonally ...much as a train would shoot through a tunnel.  The foremetioned block excercise is good for isoltaing and fixing the thumb turns..when played with a good hand position.

The breaking up method ie 123, 12345 54321, 321 in stages very fast - as has been suggested is good...be careful with this though that you do not attempt to go too fast too soon. if you end up stuttering and sounding like a broken record then you need to stop this method of a while and try some of the other suggestions as it builds in a mental AND physical tension which IS learned...and results as one often hears students having 3 or 4 attempts at starting a fast scale until take off is achieved.  A good one to help allieveate the stress of this one is to play the first note LONG and then run up to an octave as fast as you can...imagine its like a gust of wind. then pause on that octave (you can come down again or carry on up).  If you find this is getting uneven or smudgy - try staccatoing the inbetween notes ( ie D - B - with a light staccato - this brings real clarity and control to scallic passagio).

Offline danny elfboy

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #28 on: March 23, 2007, 11:00:01 PM »
You have to know when the problem is strategy and when it is tactics. 

it's the same thing
What I explained take care of what others have told

1) you practice something fast before practicing it slow so you can engrain the right motions (hence less delay, proper position and small motions)

2) if you CAN'T it doesn't mean that you have to SLOW DOWN the speed of what practice, but that you have to cut what you practice into fragments small enough that you can play fast immediately (to know the right motions) and once each of them is mastered join them in pair

Basically what everyone has said (directly or subtly) is that not being able to play fast scales depends on the motions you use and the position of the hand

You can't play fast after so many slower speed practice because the motions you use at slow speed (motions you can get away with like making the distance between keys larger, the motions wider, total bending of the wrist, unefficient hand position, wrong use of the thumb) will never work at full speed and will never allow you to play at faster speed. Practice doesn't matter since you're just practicing wrong motions. Practicing wrong motions for hours, days, weeks, months or years won't magically turn wrong motions into right economical and efficient motions; will just ingrain the wrong ones

What many have suggested is checking the motions (check distance, thumb, hand/wrist position) what I'm saying is to let your hands figure out by itself the right motions by playing fast immediately as an exploratory mean to ingrain the right motions, to do this you have to decrease the size of what you practice (break the scale into small fragments)

It's rather complementary and proportional

Either you play something long slower

or

Either you play something small as fat as you can

In the first case nothing suggests logically that you'll necessarily reach a level where you can play the thing you performed/practice slow for many times at a very high speed with accuracy, fluidity, control and ease

In the second case you just know that reaching a level of very high speed with accuracy, control and ease is a given ... you just have to join the mastered "smalls" into a flowing "whole"

Offline rc

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #29 on: March 24, 2007, 04:00:57 AM »
Here's an article I stumbled across the other day saying the same thing in different words ;D:

http://pianoeducation.org/pnovtscl.html

Offline virtuosic1

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #30 on: March 24, 2007, 04:31:15 AM »

That's interesting, because I do just the contrary  :D

I tend to have much too active fingers, so I always try to play as passive as possible. I do not move the fingers but only the arm. The fingers act like a rubber cogwheel.
That's only for legato scales of course. For non legato and staccato scales, I try to strike the keys with straight fingers from as high as possible.

Contrary is correct. The faster you wish to perform, especially where great accuracy is involved, the more you must relaxed your playing apparatus. Tension is the mortal enemy of keyboard velocity and the more tension present, the more of an impediment it will be to velocity.
Striking keys from a distance, with exaggerated finger height, whether staccato or legato will also limit velocity.

Offline danny elfboy

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #31 on: March 24, 2007, 10:19:21 AM »
Here's an article I stumbled across the other day saying the same thing in different words ;D:

http://pianoeducation.org/pnovtscl.html

The author though seems to miss the important basic points of what he's saying

1) you should never use the side of the thumb to play. The thumb should remain out of the way and reach for the note it is going to play on just their border. The thumb should play with the tip and never with the side. Either the thumb is playing a white key or a black key it never playes with the side parallel to the whole note but with the tip at an angle with the border of the note. This also align the hand because as the thumb strikes on the lower part of the note the pink stikes on the higher part. This automatically align the hand in a natural position. To have the thumb on the same plane with an extended/arched pinky we'd need to bend the wrist a lot

2) The hands should always maintain their natural position/orientation by playing at a angle. Even the player in the vides seems to neglet this important point which is so vital for proper scale playing. Again to play without maintain the natural orientation of the hand we need to bend the wrist. Playing fast when bending the wrist is very hard because of the compression of the tendon and the breaking of the radio-hand continuum

To play with the hands at an angle mean that while in the two octaves above and below the middle-C octave the hand orientation is with the finger poiting upward as we move towards the center the left hand fingers are going to point towards up-right and the righ hand fingers are going to towards the up-left

Look at this picture:



Many people use the second awkward position anstead of the natural third and fourth ones and this creates a lot of problem, especially with speed and especially with scales

Offline timothy42b

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #32 on: March 24, 2007, 02:04:53 PM »
Contrary is correct. The faster you wish to perform, especially where great accuracy is involved, the more you must relaxed your playing apparatus. Tension is the mortal enemy of keyboard velocity and the more tension present, the more of an impediment it will be to velocity.
Striking keys from a distance, with exaggerated finger height, whether staccato or legato will also limit velocity.

virtuosic1,
You have mentioned several times your ability to play very very fast scales. 

Would you share how you developed this? 
Tim

Offline pianowelsh

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #33 on: March 24, 2007, 08:43:46 PM »
re direction... I usually ask student to imagine they are going to dust the keys they automatically shift the hand into the direction of the motion...good position for scale playing.  Whilst i agree that the muscles and movements used in playing slowly are different to speed - i dont completely hold to the fact that slow practice is wasted as i said previously positioning and finger accuracy as well as a sure knowledge of fingering and NOTES can be developed at a modest speed...also there is a failure to address the psychological element involved in playing fast..many couldnt simple tyr playing ti fast to get the necessary movements because the dont believe they are able and this is a barrier which is very common...particularyl amongst adult learners.  I suggest a sort of gear changing excercise....in addition to all that i mentioned perviously...it starts by setting a metronome to a fairly modest pulse and playing slowly and accurately at one note per tick!  I often get students to verbalise the note names and the fingerings alternately so these can be assimilated with complete confidence. They must keep the movements small..the fingers absolutely glued to the keys and the tone even. Then we do 2 notes per tick...then three..they usually dont need to verbalise anymore...at this stage I get them to try it a couple of times with their eyes closed or looking directly ahead...then we go to 4! this still isnt that fast because of the modest pulse but its assured now...then we do 6's (triplet pulse) this is really getting quite quick and the added concentration required to get the emphasis at the beginning of each 6 is a challenge for many... then we go to 8 or a whole octave...whilst not extremely fast the student has confidence that they can now go faster than they did before and really KNOWS their scale. For homework they have to practice a couple of times at that metronome mark - then gradually creep it up upto the point where they can no longer do 8 clearly then they are to sit back one tempo notch for a while and then try again at a slightly faster one...the goal is always clarity! NOT speed..that comes with experience and practice...but this provides a framework for them to test themselves and improove bit by bit.

Offline rc

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #34 on: March 24, 2007, 09:43:55 PM »
Danny:  Ya lost me there, are you talking about the videos?  Some of them are exaggerating the motions to illustrate a point.  Overall it seems just as good as anything else I've read on playing scales.  I was mainly referring to the TO vs TU gradiation.

None of this really has anything to do with Tims question :P

Offline danny elfboy

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #35 on: March 24, 2007, 11:36:24 PM »
Danny:  Ya lost me there, are you talking about the videos?  Some of them are exaggerating the motions to illustrate a point.  Overall it seems just as good as anything else I've read on playing scales.  I was mainly referring to the TO vs TU gradiation.

None of this really has anything to do with Tims question :P

No, what I meants to say is that IMO the author of that article made good points but failed to put them into context. He explained certain reasons as to why scales are hard and oftein problematic without putting those reason in a more wider context ... hence the two basic facts of (both involving the use of the thumb, which is the only problematic thing about scales) playing with hands at an angle rather than bending the wrist and playing with the tip of the thumb  on the border without bending and not with the side on the whole note

Offline pianowelsh

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #36 on: March 26, 2007, 04:00:08 PM »
Do you have a picture of your thumb in this position... im afraid from your description I cant quite picture what you mean?!? I probably agree but I wouldnt mind a clarification.

Offline danny elfboy

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #37 on: March 26, 2007, 05:14:18 PM »
Do you have a picture of your thumb in this position... im afraid from your description I cant quite picture what you mean?!? I probably agree but I wouldnt mind a clarification.

I can attempt to make a drawing ...

Offline danny elfboy

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #38 on: March 26, 2007, 08:12:44 PM »
This:



Versus

This:



Notice the long free aligned wrist in the first drawing compared to the disaligned one of the second drawing. The second drawing wrist is abducting and deviating the ulna, pressing on the median nerve and scratching the tendons

Offline danny elfboy

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #39 on: March 26, 2007, 09:19:10 PM »
This is to show the point about playing at an angle versus bending the wrist

The read arrow shows the direction of the motion
As the hand moves towards the center of the keyboard or the opposite hand zone the movement is horizontal over the line of the key borders.
Imagine the thumb sliding to the center of the key never leaving the white key-borders line



If the motion is correct the forearm by turn will move like this as the thumb slides



This is the wrong motion instead. The thumb move toward more and more to the center of the white key leaving the border. The thumb side of the wrist bend towards up. The arm moves horizontally without bending


Offline jazzyprof

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #40 on: March 27, 2007, 03:04:36 AM »
Wow, Danny, impressive drawings!!!
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy, next to my wife; it is my most absorbing interest, next to my work." ...Charles Cooke

Offline will

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #41 on: March 28, 2007, 07:29:19 AM »
Yes, thanks for all your efforts Danny, impressive indeed.
Sadly, I do not completely follow your written explanation.
By the border you mean the edge of the piano key? So as your LH ascends the keyboard the thumb move closer to the fallboard?
Also, what is that cross in the lower right hand corner of the final picture?

Offline danny elfboy

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #42 on: March 28, 2007, 06:50:38 PM »
Yes, thanks for all your efforts Danny, impressive indeed.
Sadly, I do not completely follow your written explanation.
By the border you mean the edge of the piano key? So as your LH ascends the keyboard the thumb move closer to the fallboard?

Yeah by the border I mean the edge of the keys
The thumb is the most problematic thing about piano, because of its grasping function and its resulting position in relation to the other fingers.
In order to maintain the other fingers in a relatively aligned with the wrist, radio and tendons position the thumb must play at a 45% degree compared to the other finger and compared to the key itself (although I don't want to give the impression that this somehow make the motions static ... the most criminal belief in piano education is to keep the wrist still so that if you put something on it it shouldn't fall of)

Most of the time the thumb just fall off the keyboard as the other fingers play and we just stretch it to bring it to the key

Many people do the mistake of using the thumb as they would use the other fingers
This means playing at a 0 degree angle compared to the direction of the tendons, wrist and forearm and keeping it on the keyboard all the time

In order to do this adjustments are necessary and they in turn put the hand and finger in awkward and potentially injurying positions
Also the "need" to use the thumb as any other finger results in playing with the side (since playing with the flashy front would bring the hand below the keyboard) and this as shown by drawing 2 results in a very injurying and awkward position for the hand, the wrist and the forearm too

As your LH ascends the keyboard the thumb slides over the edge-line in a straight horizontal way. Try it yourself. With the position of drawing 1 starting from the LH zone moves towards the RH zones by letting the thumb slide over the straight line of the edges of the key. You will see that your forearm automatically will move diagonally and the hand will remain in almost the same position even in the RH zone with the thumb still playing on the edge

So the thumb moving closer to the fallboard would be the wrong motion
The thumb remains in its 45 degree position compared to the hand and the hand remains aligned with the forearm and wrist and this is achieved by letting the forearm move diagonally. When the thumbs plays on its side rather then with the tip on the edge of the keys the other fingers are not anymore aligned with the wrist and forearm but at an angle compared to them. This is especially true for many as they move to the center or the opposite hands zones. Disalignment between the fingers orientation and wrist and forearm orientation severely limits control, speed and ease and promotes pain and injury

Quote

Also, what is that cross in the lower right hand corner of the final picture?

Just a way to show it is a no-no ... I wanted to put a crossed skull like the one on sulfuric acid bottles ... but I realized it'd be a tad excessive  :)

Offline will

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Re: How to learn faster scales - learning strategy
«Reply #43 on: March 28, 2007, 10:11:44 PM »
All is clear now, thanks again Danny.  :)