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.
I should add - this is from this paper:
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