Need help on speed bursts

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meouzer
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Need help on speed bursts

Post by meouzer » Wed Jul 05, 2017 6:55 pm

Robin wrote:
Tue Jul 04, 2017 11:55 am
Another way to practice is speed bursts. Take an exercise pattern or a manageable repertoire section. Play the chosen section two times slow, one time double time and repeat the cycle until it feels smooth.
To anyone that does speed bursts, how short or long are your sections in measures? Assume there are 16 16th notes per measure.
It seems like if the section is too long there would be no benefit. I haven't done bursts a lot, but when I did sections were always very short: sometimes just half a measure.

Say one has a section down well at a 100 beats/minute. Then to increase speed what would be the tempo be for the slow version and the double time version? 55 and 110 beats/minute? 60 and 120?

P.S. I want to hear different opinions if that's the case.

Henny
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Re: Need help on speed bursts

Post by Henny » Thu Jul 06, 2017 11:13 am

Since some time i do picado speed bursts for a and m finger for 1 or 2 measures as quick as i can do it.
going on the e string with my left hand from f to e all the way down (1,2,,3, 4, etc.) alternate with i and m to check the difference in speed between i and m and m and a. sometimes i alternate between i-m and m-a , i do this for max 5 minutes in my warm up routine. it is a long process to gain speed but i notice slowly i am increasing my flexibility, independance and speed.

KBell
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Re: Need help on speed bursts

Post by KBell » Thu Jul 06, 2017 7:43 pm

Make the sections as long as you need them to be relative to your ability and progress (keep a notebook for this kind of practise)- the goal is to try to keep your rh fingers, arm, shoulder, etc as loose and relaxed in between the bursts as possible...when I'm working on speed bursts, I get real progress when I reverse the thought process and focus on the releasing/removal of tension as soon as the burst is complete rather than the speed or duration of the bursts...

My thought is to keep the bursts brief, 1,2, maybe 3 beats, followed by a few beats or measures of slower note values to release any and all tension .... if you can blast notes for full measures, then you probably want to increase the tempo for your bursts.

IMO, full measures or long durations of 16ths, is more of a tremolando or repeated note issue rather than a speed burst exercise ...also valuable but separate and complimentary to speed bursts...

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Re: Need help on speed bursts

Post by Dofpic » Thu Jul 06, 2017 8:08 pm

You can start with as little as 2 notes then build from there. Just do not over do it. 10 15 minutes a day max and build on a daily basis it terms of expanding notes played or tempo but do not go over 10-15 minutes a day. Always make sure technique/hand position, tension does not creeping. Beyond that you could develop bad habits.

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Gary Macleod
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Re: Need help on speed bursts

Post by Gary Macleod » Thu Jul 06, 2017 9:15 pm


meouzer
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Re: Need help on speed bursts

Post by meouzer » Fri Jul 07, 2017 6:40 pm

Thanks all.

My second question was too constraining. I think the idea is that one establishes the pattern at a comfortable tempo and then double time
is really a metaphor for letting it rip. So the actual ratio between slow and double time could really be anything. When letting it rip, I'm not paying attention to the metronome. For arpeggios my speed burst was over a quarter measure: which prepared for bursts of a half measure. I'll try to build up to a full measure if that actually works out. If not, half a measure is still good.

P.S. Thread not closed if anyone still has things to say about speed bursts in general.

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Tom Poore
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Re: Need help on speed bursts

Post by Tom Poore » Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:39 pm

Regarding speed bursts, here’s my own experience. A few years ago I tried to increase my right hand alternation speed. My goal was sustained i and m alternation at 160.

Speed bursts can be seductive. I was excited when, only a month into my project, I hit a burst at 184. So I seemed well on my way to reaching my goal of 160. But the quick success offered by speed bursts was a dead end. I gradually found that extended fast alternation isn’t a simple matter of stringing together a continuos series of speed bursts. Over time, the reason became clear. Far too often, bursts rely on tension for speed. For a short burst, this isn’t a problem—the burst is finished before the tension grinds one to a halt. But for longer stretches of fast alternation, this tension has more time to gum up the machine.

So I soon soured on speed bursts. I now regard them as a potentially huge waste of time. Certainly they can be a false path for those who are trying to develop fast alternation for extended passages. Let’s not toss the baby with the bath water. Speed bursts are a useful weapon in the guitarist’s arsenal, provided we’ve a more nuanced understanding of their pros and cons.

One of those pros is that bursts can go a long way to convincing you that speed is possible. That’s no small thing. If your fingers have never hit alternation at 184, then you’re unlikely to really believe you can do it. A quick success with bursts can buck up your confidence. Having hit 184 in a short burst, you start to believe, and believing is essential to doing. After all, if you don’t believe you can do something, then you’re already halfway to not doing it. For this alone, speed bursts can be a step in the right direction.

But you must clearly understand the limits of speed bursts. They’re not a silver bullet. If you falsely believe that extended right hand speed is merely a rejiggering of short bursts, then you may be doomed to a future of hit or miss right hand alternation.

Tom Poore
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USA

KBell
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Re: Need help on speed bursts

Post by KBell » Fri Jul 07, 2017 11:52 pm

Tom Poore wrote:
Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:39 pm
Regarding speed bursts, here’s my own experience. A few years ago I tried to increase my right hand alternation speed. My goal was sustained i and m alternation at 160.

Speed bursts can be seductive. I was excited when, only a month into my project, I hit a burst at 184. So I seemed well on my way to reaching my goal of 160. But the quick success offered by speed bursts was a dead end. I gradually found that extended fast alternation isn’t a simple matter of stringing together a continuos series of speed bursts. Over time, the reason became clear. Far too often, bursts rely on tension for speed. For a short burst, this isn’t a problem—the burst is finished before the tension grinds one to a halt. But for longer stretches of fast alternation, this tension has more time to gum up the machine.

So I soon soured on speed bursts. I now regard them as a potentially huge waste of time. Certainly they can be a false path for those who are trying to develop fast alternation for extended passages. Let’s not toss the baby with the bath water. Speed bursts are a useful weapon in the guitarist’s arsenal, provided we’ve a more nuanced understanding of their pros and cons.

One of those pros is that bursts can go a long way to convincing you that speed is possible. That’s no small thing. If your fingers have never hit alternation at 184, then you’re unlikely to really believe you can do it. A quick success with bursts can buck up your confidence. Having hit 184 in a short burst, you start to believe, and believing is essential to doing. After all, if you don’t believe you can do something, then you’re already halfway to not doing it. For this alone, speed bursts can be a step in the right direction.

But you must clearly understand the limits of speed bursts. They’re not a silver bullet. If you falsely believe that extended right hand speed is merely a rejiggering of short bursts, then you may be doomed to a future of hit or miss right hand alternation.

Tom Poore
South Euclid, OH
USA

+1 .....very well said.

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guitarrista
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Re: Need help on speed bursts

Post by guitarrista » Tue Jul 11, 2017 4:56 pm

Tom Poore wrote:
Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:39 pm
I gradually found that extended fast alternation isn’t a simple matter of stringing together a continuos series of speed bursts. Over time, the reason became clear. Far too often, bursts rely on tension for speed. For a short burst, this isn’t a problem—the burst is finished before the tension grinds one to a halt. But for longer stretches of fast alternation, this tension has more time to gum up the machine.
I suspect you are right that sustained fast alternation isn’t a series of speed bursts strung together. Here are some thoughts on this based on my own experience and analysis as I went about it.

A sustained fast alternation does not feel at all like the tension burst of a 3-4 note speed burst; it feels very light even if the tone derived is still clear and "fat" (in a good way). I never did ever-lengthening speed bursts, but I did practice short speed bursts as part of my approach to fast i-m sustained alternation. OK, I don't want to keep spelling this so let's say SFA = sustained fast i-m alternation.

To hypothesize, I suspect lengthening speed bursts are not a good direct approach to achieve SFA (as you have found out), but short speed bursts might be a necessary indirect tool, along with other tools, to get to SFA.

Speed bursts are good for:
  • developing speed of correct preparation for the next stroke - timing, precision of placement, consistency
  • developing right-left hand synchronicity (if fingered scale)
  • developing smooth string-crossing (if scale is not on a single string)
  • psychological outlook: it is possible physically to move that fast
In addition, playing (sustained) staccato scales (as fast as possible for each stroke and for the preparation of the next finger, but slow alternation on average, is good for:
  • developing instant "relaxation" after stroke
  • developing speed of correct preparation for the next stroke
  • diagnosing and working on removing excess muscle tension in fingers or muscles that are not involved in the stroke
(Note that 'staccato' here refers to the fingers, not the note - i.e. it refers to the shortest possible duration between finger stroke and prep to be ready for next stroke with the alternating finger. If this is on two different strings, there is no accompanying note staccato; the note staccato will happen only if all alternation is on the same string without string-crossing.)

In order to achieve SFA, we need to be able to develop that instant relaxation - meaning applying an impulse-like force for the stroke at the precise moment we need to, and relaxing that muscle tension as quickly as possible after (as well as not tensing any other muscles/fingers which are not involved in the stroke).

With practice, what I believe happens is that the impulses get shorter (as long as needed but not longer) and more precise, and the following relaxation is more complete. This allows to speed up sustained i-m alternation little by little by bringing the impulses closer together (yet still having plenty of relaxation time in between). The overall (time-averaged) feeling of this is still one of not very much effort, even though the effort during the impulses (the force output) is large enough to execute proper nice-sounding strokes.

Of course, all the other necessary components (the ones that speed bursts work on as described above) have to be developed and be in place as well to execute proper SFA in all scenarios (with multiple string-crossings, not open string, ascending and descending).

Here is an example of a scientific study from the piano world (apparently no similar study yet for the guitar) which produced actual high-speed measurements of the applied force for working and non-working fingers of both professional players and amateurs. The take-away is that professionals have developed that impulse-like force control, followed by complete relaxation of the working finger, as well as have the non-working fingers without any tension - in contrast on both counts with the non-professionals. The following shows finger forces on the pressed piano key. Fingers 1, 2 and 3 are not working; fingers 4 and 5 are working, alternating each second.

piano_impulses.JPG

EDIT: I should add - this is from this paper:
fingers1998impulse.JPG
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Last edited by guitarrista on Wed Jul 19, 2017 4:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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meouzer
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Re: Need help on speed bursts

Post by meouzer » Wed Jul 19, 2017 4:20 pm

Guitarrista's explanation of what speed bursts do for development is pretty fascinating. Anyway, I'm answering my own second question. There's no reason why one must limit speed bursts to just letting it rip. I think "slow" speed bursts are helpful too. Say you are working on a tempo of 100 bpm: one metronome click per quarter note (four sixteenth notes). It is easy to play a half measure/measure at 50 bpm and then repeat at 100 bpm all in time with the metronome and without any pauses. Playing slow at 50 bpm prepares one to play the subsequent 100 bpm more accurately than just playing it all at 100 bpm. Maybe this is better because it prepares you for what you are immediately after: proficiency at 100 bpm, not lightning fast speed that you can only do for just a few notes. Well those are the thoughts of someone at the intermediate level.

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Re: Need help on speed bursts

Post by tamfam » Sat Aug 05, 2017 12:20 pm

Tom Poore wrote:
Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:39 pm
I gradually found that extended fast alternation isn’t a simple matter of stringing together a continuos series of speed bursts.
This is an excellent point--and one I needed to hear. As a one-time competitive runner, I can think of an analogy:

Running a 4-minute mile is not a simple matter of stringing together a continuous series of 1-minute quarter miles.


guitarrista wrote:
Tue Jul 11, 2017 4:56 pm
Here is an example of a scientific study from the piano world (apparently no similar study yet for the guitar) which produced actual high-speed measurements of the applied force for working and non-working fingers of both professional players and amateurs. The take-away is that professionals have developed that impulse-like force control, followed by complete relaxation of the working finger, as well as have the non-working fingers without any tension - in contrast on both counts with the non-professionals. The following shows finger forces on the pressed piano key. Fingers 1, 2 and 3 are not working; fingers 4 and 5 are working, alternating each second.
Amazing post. I am a novice/intermediate guitarist who is looking for the next breakthrough. I practice a lot and frequently read about technique, but my scales have plateaued and I'm frustrated with the very slow progress in my repertoire pieces. I'm always hearing about the extreme important of relaxation in playing, but your advice and those graphs provide a some real clarity and direction on the issue. Thank you for taking the time.

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Re: Need help on speed bursts

Post by guitarrista » Sat Aug 05, 2017 4:50 pm

You are very welcome! :bye:
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CactusWren
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Re: Need help on speed bursts

Post by CactusWren » Sat Aug 05, 2017 5:58 pm

>This is an excellent point--and one I needed to hear. As a one-time competitive runner, I can think of an analogy:

>Running a 4-minute mile is not a simple matter of stringing together a continuous series of 1-minute quarter miles.

Yet for speed workouts we certainly ran repetitions of 440s at race pace, so let's not completely disregard this procedure.

My experience with speed bursts was similar to Tom's--I quickly gained the ability to do im rest stroke bursts, but it did not translate to crushing 3 octave scales later on, as I had hoped. What happened to me is that I developed an inconsistent ability to hit the fast scales, but only after lots of warmup. It never transitioned to a useful performance skill. Note that I was using the Scott Tennant exercises.

I am playing my best now, years after discarding that and taking nearly a decade off playing those scales.

I have worked on lots of things and made lots of changes to my RH technique, and it seems that all of them helped a little bit. Here are some of them:

1. I now grow my nails a little longer. It seems in my quest for apoyando speed, I obsessed with short nails to reduce the required muscular level needed. Apparently this was misguided. At least up to 16ths at 144, this doesn't seem to be necessary. I like for my nails to follow the contour of the fingertip, and just protrude as seen from the front. The i is longer. I don't do any of the ramping things I once did.

2. I practice pushing the strings into the guitar. For a long time, I tried to eliminate this motion, again going for speed, but I think it was counterproductive. Perhaps at the fastest speeds, one should really lighten it up like this, but I think I was skipping a step.

3. I practice bursts, RH only, legato. The Scott Tennant bursts trained me to plant and play stacatto. While this did improve speed and economy of motion, it also trained in tension in my fingertips. The exercise wasn't the only thing that caused these, but it did at least lock them in. The legato bursts are more relaxing.

4. I practiced "scratching" the string. Somehow I developed a dysfunctional stroke where I wasn't putting enough muscle into the string. I pussyfooted too much. Anthony Glise suggests some foundational exercises I've found useful--one of them is just scratching a tabletop and mimicking this motion on the string. This has been good remedial practice for me.

5. I play the scale or parts of the scale RH only. I've found that introducing the left hand creates tension in my right hand that ultimately causes it to get caught up. By practicing RH only, I can keep things loose, and then I can gradually reintroduce the LH. This has revealed bad habits of tension and also serves as medicine to reduce them.

6. Slowing from fast, not getting faster from slow. The motion of playing fast scales is like running, playing slow is like walking. Lots of people get stuck and never figure out how to do the running, because they spend so much time going slow. They've created a speed barrier. To solve this, play fast motions, whether on the table, in the air, or lightly on the guitar, and then slow down from there. You may still spend just as much time playing slow, but you do it differently--in a way that's not going to build in speed barriers.

(7) I am not sure how fast I can play right now, but I feel comfortable and that my scale passages are "getting the job done." I have a feeling that I'm getting better and that they will slowly improve in speed to my potential as the bad habits are slowly obscured by the more effective motions. I would guess that I am playing sixteenths at 120 in a pretty relaxed, consistent way. I used to daily work up to my favorite scales to 176, but it was a dead end! Maybe it's good not to practice with a metronome, but rather to concentrate on how the hands feel and the sound, instead of obsessing about the objective measurements that, after all, place a filter between you and your perceptions.

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Re: Need help on speed bursts

Post by guit-box » Sat Aug 05, 2017 8:52 pm

I'm not convinced that playing fast alternation or extended fast scale passages is a function of how relaxed you are, doing an instant relax of the finger after each stroke, the play-relax technique or ballistic strokes or any of the other things that we've been taught over the last 1/2 century by teachers and methods. Not that there's anything wrong with being relaxed or that you want to be tensed, just that there seems to be too much emphasis on this, where I believe it's muscular control and coordination and correct joint movement when developing these things that's likely more important. I can't play that fast with my right hand, but I'm recovering from focal dystonia, and I probably may never even be able to even though the dystonic movements are now gone. What I can do is turn the guitar over left handed and pluck with my left hand fingers quite well and quite fast. My left hand has never really practiced plucking or alternation, but I could almost instantly play speed bursts for short and longer bursts quite well. How can this be since I never followed any of the advice in method books or even practiced plucking with that hand? I believe the answer is in muscular control and coordination of the joints. In my left hand I've done 40 years of practicing hammer ons and pull offs and two finger trills. Basically a pull-off is the same thing as the perfect right hand stroke. The note is plucked (a pull off) by flexing the PIP/DIP while the MCP simultaneously extends. The hammer-on is the opposite joint movements. When I'm doing a two finger left hand trill, there's nothing about my fingers that are doing play-relax, they are bicycling in a very coordinated and controlled way with strong muscles that were built up over 40 years. Being relaxed is more a function of the strength, coordination, and endurance I've developed from years of playing, it's not something an untrained hand can just do by thinking about draining the finger of tension after each stroke.
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Re: Need help on speed bursts

Post by CactusWren » Sun Aug 06, 2017 5:59 am

guit-box wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2017 8:52 pm
I'm not convinced that playing fast alternation or extended fast scale passages is a function of how relaxed you are, doing an instant relax of the finger after each stroke, the play-relax technique or ballistic strokes or any of the other things that we've been taught over the last 1/2 century by teachers and methods. Not that there's anything wrong with being relaxed or that you want to be tensed, just that there seems to be too much emphasis on this, where I believe it's muscular control and coordination and correct joint movement when developing these things that's likely more important. I can't play that fast with my right hand, but I'm recovering from focal dystonia, and I probably may never even be able to even though the dystonic movements are now gone. What I can do is turn the guitar over left handed and pluck with my left hand fingers quite well and quite fast. My left hand has never really practiced plucking or alternation, but I could almost instantly play speed bursts for short and longer bursts quite well. How can this be since I never followed any of the advice in method books or even practiced plucking with that hand? I believe the answer is in muscular control and coordination of the joints. In my left hand I've done 40 years of practicing hammer ons and pull offs and two finger trills. Basically a pull-off is the same thing as the perfect right hand stroke. The note is plucked (a pull off) by flexing the PIP/DIP while the MCP simultaneously extends. The hammer-on is the opposite joint movements. When I'm doing a two finger left hand trill, there's nothing about my fingers that are doing play-relax, they are bicycling in a very coordinated and controlled way with strong muscles that were built up over 40 years. Being relaxed is more a function of the strength, coordination, and endurance I've developed from years of playing, it's not something an untrained hand can just do by thinking about draining the finger of tension after each stroke.
I agree that it's not relaxation, per se, but coordinated movement. Coordinated movement as I understand it means using the right muscles at the right time and by extension, _not_ using the wrong muscles or the right muscles at the wrong time, etc. Basically you need to be doing the right thing (the movement) and not do the wrong thing (tensing other muscles in a counterproductive way).

You see lots of flamenco players executing these scales faster than virtually all the CG repertoire at FF, so we know that speed and volume are not inversely related, as is sometimes said.

Did you learn free strokes first, and did you start your musical journey in classical guitar? The reason I ask is I have long felt that CG and its demand for purity of tone (and for perfection) seems to stunt the free, strong movements that virtuosity requires. Also, it seems to me that people who start out with free strokes seem to have a knack for overcomplicating rest strokes and building in counterproductive tension in them.

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