How fast is a fast scale?

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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Mark Featherstone
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How fast is a fast scale?

Postby Mark Featherstone » Wed Jan 27, 2016 10:52 am

I'm sure this has been discussed in other threads. In fact it has, but while the posters specify a given bpm, they often don't clarify whether that's a quarter, eighth or sixteenth note to the beat. Another way to ask this question would be, how fast should one aim to play a two-octave scale with one shift, at the beginner vs intermediate vs advanced levels? For simplicity, let's just deal with tirando. Please help me out by specifying how many notes per beat on the metronome.

Thanks!
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: How fast is a fast scale?

Postby Stephen Kenyon » Wed Jan 27, 2016 11:11 am

Well the ABRSM exams ask for 96 notes/min at grade 1, 192 at grade 5 and 288 at grade 8. From grade 5 that would apply to both tirando and apoyando.

I can do 120 x 4 eg 8 notes a second comfortably, 138 gets messy. This is any 3 octave scale - well OK, not A-B! This is well below proper virtuoso speeds, which would be towards or past 200.

Your request to include one shift doesn't quite work because that wouldn't be 'beginner', plus, once you can do one shift, it shouldn't cause a problem to do more.
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Mark Featherstone
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Re: How fast is a fast scale?

Postby Mark Featherstone » Wed Jan 27, 2016 2:02 pm

Thanks for the quick response, Stephen. When you say 96 notes per minute at grade 1, do you mean a total of 96 strokes, or 96 x 4 along the lines of what you were saying regarding your own speed?

Yikes, I can't imagine doing scales in apoyando up to the same speed as tirando.

Yeah, I guess a shift is not rank beginner. Maybe I should have said something like a 2-octave scale in G, all in the second position.
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Re: How fast is a fast scale?

Postby Stephen Kenyon » Wed Jan 27, 2016 2:20 pm

Mark Featherstone wrote:Thanks for the quick response, Stephen. When you say 96 notes per minute at grade 1, do you mean a total of 96 strokes, or 96 x 4 along the lines of what you were saying regarding your own speed?

Yikes, I can't imagine doing scales in apoyando up to the same speed as tirando....


96 notes per minute, simple as. They are expressed in the scale requirements as scales for fingers mixing quarter notes and eighth notes giving a tempo of eg quarter = 48 for grade 1, hence when playing eighths that's 96 notes a minute. The thumb scales for G1 are written in all quarters and are marked as 96.

Bear in mind this is one exam system out of a handful and not necessarily aligned to what one would work towards purely in lessons, but I would suggest they are a reasonably standard thing to aim for nonetheless.

Most players can't get apoyando as fast as tirando, though those who have always done apoyando for fingers scales may find it more natural that way. Point of view of technical development, this is one of those opportunities to isolate where technical inequalities exist and work towards evening them out.
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Mark Featherstone
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Re: How fast is a fast scale?

Postby Mark Featherstone » Wed Jan 27, 2016 3:00 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Mark Featherstone wrote:Thanks for the quick response, Stephen. When you say 96 notes per minute at grade 1, do you mean a total of 96 strokes, or 96 x 4 along the lines of what you were saying regarding your own speed?

Yikes, I can't imagine doing scales in apoyando up to the same speed as tirando....


96 notes per minute, simple as. They are expressed in the scale requirements as scales for fingers mixing quarter notes and eighth notes giving a tempo of eg quarter = 48 for grade 1, hence when playing eighths that's 96 notes a minute. The thumb scales for G1 are written in all quarters and are marked as 96.

Bear in mind this is one exam system out of a handful and not necessarily aligned to what one would work towards purely in lessons, but I would suggest they are a reasonably standard thing to aim for nonetheless.

Most players can't get apoyando as fast as tirando, though those who have always done apoyando for fingers scales may find it more natural that way. Point of view of technical development, this is one of those opportunities to isolate where technical inequalities exist and work towards evening them out.

Super. Thanks again!
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Re: How fast is a fast scale?

Postby djajasoekarta » Wed Jan 27, 2016 4:27 pm

Perhaps there should be another question, how long you could keep your speed. There's some advanced music that requires a constant speed at 130-150 bpm 16th notes for most of it's length (from 2-4 minutes). Some music have requirement of 180 Bpm 16th notes up to 270 bpm but this is for shorter length (2-10 beats). I think getting fingers to keep 110-120 bpm 16th notes already gives us countless hours of music to play. Improve it when there's a music that require much more speed otherwise it's a bit of wasting time I think

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Re: How fast is a fast scale?

Postby uptempo » Wed Jan 27, 2016 4:34 pm

Could I ask as well.

I often here that virtuoso players can play scale passages in 16th notes in the region of 120 - 140bpm. So, in 4/4 time at 120bpm and 4 beats per note that means a total of 480 notes a minute. Of course that is incredibly fast but how often is this called for (outside flamenco)? I am working on my own scale speed and to be honest 16th notes at 120bpm is just like a blur and I for one can't ever see me achieving that speed - which in actual fast is at the slow end of fast - if you know what I mean?

If I have got this wrong then could someone please correct me.
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Re: How fast is a fast scale?

Postby Denian Arcoleo » Wed Jan 27, 2016 4:36 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote: This is well below proper virtuoso speeds, which would be towards or past 200.


Do you mean semi-quavers at crotchet 200? If so i'm not sure I agree, i've rarely heard anyone play a scale that fast. :shock:

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Re: How fast is a fast scale?

Postby djajasoekarta » Wed Jan 27, 2016 6:58 pm

uptempo wrote:
I often here that virtuoso players can play scale passages in 16th notes in the region of 120 - 140bpm. So, in 4/4 time at 120bpm and 4 beats per note that means a total of 480 notes a minute. Of course that is incredibly fast but how often is this called for (outside flamenco)?



If you mean a scale all over the piece more than a minutes then I believe it's very rare case for original guitar music. The most famous example perhaps is the first movement of Aranjuez which exactly gives a requirements 84 Bpm dotted quarter (126 Bpm of quarter). 16th notes scale in many place. But of course there's plenty of other pieces which needs faster speed but on shorter duration like only for 2-3 bars or 2-10 beats.

I think unless the composer gives an exact metronome value then any tempo marking could be a subject for open interpretation of speed.

Cheers,
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Re: How fast is a fast scale?

Postby Stephen Kenyon » Wed Jan 27, 2016 7:19 pm

Denian Arcoleo wrote:
Stephen Kenyon wrote: This is well below proper virtuoso speeds, which would be towards or past 200.

Do you mean semi-quavers at crotchet 200? If so i'm not sure I agree, i've rarely heard anyone play a scale that fast. :shock:

Probably more the towards bit than past 200, its not something I've looked into in recent times. I just know that a lot of folks can play a load faster than I can, and I can do 120-30.
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Re: How fast is a fast scale?

Postby ronjazz » Thu Jan 28, 2016 3:16 pm

Some early works such as Dlugoraj's Finale or Baxa de Contrapunto (Narvaez?) call for sustained 16th-notes at around 120 for 1-2 minutes, generally tirando, but that's an artistic choice.
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Re: How fast is a fast scale?

Postby David Belcher » Thu Jan 28, 2016 4:45 pm

Denian Arcoleo wrote:
Stephen Kenyon wrote: This is well below proper virtuoso speeds, which would be towards or past 200.


Do you mean semi-quavers at crotchet 200? If so i'm not sure I agree, i've rarely heard anyone play a scale that fast. :shock:

This was exactly my reaction too. But then I checked on just how fast Grisha Goryachev plays picado bursts/scales . . . it's perhaps upward of 200. :shock:
"In music I think it's very, very dangerous if you start to compare and say, 'This is good, this is not good, this is only one possibility' . . . there are so many possibilities, but what is important is to be open to that." - Pavel Steidl

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Re: How fast is a fast scale?

Postby Denian Arcoleo » Thu Jan 28, 2016 6:16 pm

David Belcher wrote:This was exactly my reaction too. But then I checked on just how fast Grisha Goryachev plays picado bursts/scales . . . it's perhaps upward of 200. :shock:


Well yes, there are guitarists and then there is Grisha the MONSTER :lol:

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Re: How fast is a fast scale?

Postby RichardUno » Thu Jan 28, 2016 6:22 pm

Overheard at a Julian Bream masterclass:
Student to J.B.: "How fast can you play (scales)?"
J.B. : "Fast enough."

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Re: How fast is a fast scale?

Postby David Belcher » Thu Jan 28, 2016 8:03 pm

Denian Arcoleo wrote:
David Belcher wrote:This was exactly my reaction too. But then I checked on just how fast Grisha Goryachev plays picado bursts/scales . . . it's perhaps upward of 200. :shock:


Well yes, there are guitarists and then there is Grisha the MONSTER :lol:


Most definitely. I saw him in a small salon house concert a couple of years ago and had the chance of hanging out with him later. He has so much technique stored up he can call it up at a moment's notice (and all his guitar muscles are so strong he rarely gets tired!), even when goofing off with some fun popular flamenco dances. What's more amazing is that he puts it all toward musical purposes and so it never comes across as showy. Just an incredible, incredible musician who happens to be perhaps the best flamenco player of my generation.
"In music I think it's very, very dangerous if you start to compare and say, 'This is good, this is not good, this is only one possibility' . . . there are so many possibilities, but what is important is to be open to that." - Pavel Steidl


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