Building speed discovery

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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uptempo
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Building speed discovery

Post by uptempo » Thu Jan 14, 2016 9:46 pm

I am working hard at the moment on trying to increase my speed on scales (in order to improve overall ability) and I discovered something quite interesting which really helped me - although it's probably an old idea I will share it with you.

I remember reading somewhere a claim that most people can tap their fingers at well above the speed required to play really fast scales. I tried this on the table top and indeed I could alternate i,m easily in 16th notes at 140BMP — but put the guitar strings in the way and it's a different ball game.

I have never experienced real speed on my guitar so I wondered what would happen if I did speed bursts right next to the bridge where there is high tension. Much to my amazement I found that after a short while, for the first time ever, I could get my fingers going across strings at the desired speed of 16th notes at 120BPM. I then put the speed up to 135BPM and again, after a while, my fingers locked onto this speed. I might add that I was trying various patterns but a five note pattern was working best.

I decided to over compensate and put the metronome to 140bmp and I locked onto this as well. For the first time I ever I felt what it was like to have my fingers moving across strings and I tried hard to memorise the feeling. I might add that when I was getting it right I did not feel as though the effort was coming from my fingers but rather it felt like the back of my hand was doing the work.

I then put the metronome back to 120BPM and found it quite easy. Clearly, I won't be playing so near to the bridge, but slowly but surely I moved the fingers up towards the sound hole and hey presto — I could do it there as well.

I did try to play the scales with both hands and managed one octave ascending and descending C major in second position.

I guess I just thought of the table top as being like the strings near to the bridge!
"Never believe what an artist says, only what they do" - Walter Sickert

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Anthony Campanella
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Re: Building speed discovery

Post by Anthony Campanella » Thu Jan 14, 2016 9:54 pm

Thanks for the insight!

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guitarrista
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Re: Building speed discovery

Post by guitarrista » Thu Jan 14, 2016 10:19 pm

Interesting - thanks!
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Re: Building speed discovery

Post by Cao Nguyen » Thu Jan 14, 2016 10:41 pm

I have the same experience. I realized that the body is physically capable of doing crazy stuff, it's the unprepared mind that hinders it. Once the mind is liberated, everything suddenly works like turning on a switch.
You can try practicing tremolo by tapping in short bursts on a hard surface, then apply the feel to the strings. Worked well for me :D.

bensonm
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Re: Building speed discovery

Post by bensonm » Fri Jan 15, 2016 1:57 am

This is very interesting, and I'm going to try it. Can your left hand keep up with your right hand when you run the scale?
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uptempo
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Re: Building speed discovery

Post by uptempo » Fri Jan 15, 2016 8:36 am

bensonm wrote:This is very interesting, and I'm going to try it. Can your left hand keep up with your right hand when you run the scale?

In short burst yes.

Initially, I could only get the RH going but after a while I locked onto the left hand and got them synced over one octave. I have always struggled with scale speed but at least now there is a glimmer of hope.

Another reason why I tried this approach was by watching someone teach flamenco picado by having the guitar flat on the lap and tapping the strings near to the bridge. Seeing as one of the best approaches to learning a skill is to try and memorise the feeling produce I just used a table top and then moved to the guitar but to the 'flamenco' end of the strings. Also, when I did manage to get the left hand moving in sync that experience felt quite strange in that I perceived my left hand to be moving slower than expected but it clearly wasn't.

I have also started working with a metronome at every technical session and I have to admit that it is proving to be very beneficial.
"Never believe what an artist says, only what they do" - Walter Sickert

creamburmese
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Re: Building speed discovery

Post by creamburmese » Fri Jan 15, 2016 4:11 pm

This observation about the brain getting in the way of the hands is very interesting. I was having similar problems with tremolo - I could reach a certain speed (more like a fast arpeggio than tremolo) and then everything locked up and couldn't get it any faster without everything falling apart- speed was only moving up incrementally if at all. Then it was suggested to just go for speed on the first string - starting with just 2 notes (pa) and adding one note at a time (burst of 2,3,4 etc). Suddenly the speed shot up and for the first time I could hear the tremolo sound. Interestingly it feels totally different from an arpeggio - it's like the hand moves into a different mode that is largely independent of your controlling it - it's quite odd - almost as if the hand is on autopilot... and once it's there it's relatively easy to vary the speed and work on the evenness etc

uptempo
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Re: Building speed discovery

Post by uptempo » Fri Jan 15, 2016 10:00 pm

This is what I am finding too. I am quite excited about my progress in the last day or so and all for trying something different. I have found though that the trying to say out loud a beat - tic a tic a tic a - and so on helps me lock into the hands and the metronome. Breakthrough - at last.
"Never believe what an artist says, only what they do" - Walter Sickert

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Mark Featherstone
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Re: Building speed discovery

Post by Mark Featherstone » Sun Jan 17, 2016 2:10 am

creamburmese wrote:This observation about the brain getting in the way of the hands is very interesting. I was having similar problems with tremolo - I could reach a certain speed (more like a fast arpeggio than tremolo) and then everything locked up and couldn't get it any faster without everything falling apart- speed was only moving up incrementally if at all. Then it was suggested to just go for speed on the first string - starting with just 2 notes (pa) and adding one note at a time (burst of 2,3,4 etc). Suddenly the speed shot up and for the first time I could hear the tremolo sound. Interestingly it feels totally different from an arpeggio - it's like the hand moves into a different mode that is largely independent of your controlling it - it's quite odd - almost as if the hand is on autopilot... and once it's there it's relatively easy to vary the speed and work on the evenness etc
I noticed this with tremolo as well. My understanding, which I must have heard somewhere but who knows, is that when playing slower the brain sends a signal for each stroke of the finger. But as one speeds up, a threshold is crossed where it's not one signal per stroke, but one signal per group of strokes such a-m-i. So now the brain-body executes 3 notes for the same effort as one. Although I know almost zilch about programming, I liken it to sub-routines in an algorithm where a short command can trigger a much more complex routine. A friend who had trained as a ballerina recounted something very similar in learning to execute that very rapid alternation of steps performed on tip-toe. It cannot be performed by consciously alternating from toe tip to toe tip. It has to be fired in bursts.
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Henny
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Re: Building speed discovery

Post by Henny » Tue Oct 18, 2016 9:52 am

thank you for the insight,i will certainly try this. I would like to add that a solid rasqueado technique practice as a way to warm up your hands and give your hands the relaxation it needs before studying helped me in improving my speed.

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markodarko
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Re: Building speed discovery

Post by markodarko » Tue Oct 18, 2016 10:08 am

Instead of playing near the bridge, which is not where you'll normally play, stuff a sock under the strings near the bridge and play where you normally play over the sound hole. You'll still get that taught string tension but your hand will now be in its "normal" position when you play. The muted strings (due to the sock) will also make a more percussive sound which is easier to determine whether you're strokes are in time with the metronome or not.
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ronjazz
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Re: Building speed discovery

Post by ronjazz » Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:12 pm

Be very careful: the brain never gets in the way of the hand, it's the reverse, the hand gets in the way of the brain, and focal dystonia may result. Make sure when doing this that there is no excess tension in the elbows, wrist, or shoulder. When we learn to play, we are teaching the brain, the fingers will do what the brain learns. If we force the issue, the brain eventually becomes confused on the cellular level and rebels, taking away your many hours of work.

Mindful, focused practicing only needs a few minutes daily on a particular technique to achieve constant improvement. Practice as perfectly as possible to build a perfect technique, never play faster than you can in full control of each movement, until you have made the movements very natural and easy, then the speed comes on its own. Do not mindlessly repeat; keep your focus and repeat a movement for a few minutes only, then on to the next one. This is how John Williams learned, and how he practiced his whole life.
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Ramon Amira
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Re: Building speed discovery

Post by Ramon Amira » Tue Oct 18, 2016 3:56 pm

The real reason why one can play picado runs faster when the strings are more taut - as is the case when they are closer to the bridge - is that on tauter strings there is less "give' as you press the string, so your finger comes off the string faster.

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kmurdick
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Re: Building speed discovery

Post by kmurdick » Wed Oct 19, 2016 12:03 pm

Uptempo says, " I remember reading somewhere a claim that most people can tap their fingers at well above the speed required to play really fast scales. I tried this on the table top and indeed I could alternate i,m easily in 16th notes at 140BMP — but put the guitar strings in the way and it's a different ball game."

If it is a different ball game then you are probably doing something wrong. Usually, speed happens in the early stages of learning; control of that speed takes time.

guit-box
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Re: Building speed discovery

Post by guit-box » Wed Oct 19, 2016 10:32 pm

I believe the raw tapping speed you notice may be an indicator of your speed limit, but it has nothing to do with whether or not your hand has been trained and has the strength and coordination to play guitar at a high level. Training your fingers requires time and work. If anyone who can drum their fingers fast on a table top could just automatically play fast scales on the guitar, then everyone would be doing it. I have a hard time believing anyone would believe this is possible. Also, the drumming on a table top motion is primarily a large knuckle joint movement and that's not the only required movement for free stroke or rest stroke. The actual movement starts with the drumming on the table, but there is a pull from the middle joint at table contact. So, the full movement you need (on a table top) is more of a drum and scratch, or a hammer and pull. -- same movement as the left hand.
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