Have you ever wanted to learn a song but thought “I could never play this fast”?
This is a thought we often hear all too often from our students. No matter your instrument, building the technique to play a piece at full tempo requires a certain type of practice. Here are a few tips to help you get that song up to speed sooner than you thought possible!
Step one is to know your goal tempo, which is the actual tempo of the song you’re trying to learn. Try using the ‘tap’ feature on your metronome while listening to the song to find the goal tempo. Write that down and prepare to get faster!
Let’s figure out your optimal tempo. Start with your metronome at a tempo where you can play the song perfectly with no mistakes. This is your optimal tempo, and no matter how much slower it is than your goal tempo, this is where we want to begin our practice.
Repetition is essential to building the muscle memory we need to play our part. Remember each time we play a passage of music we are building a habit. The goal is to not only play the music perfectly at the slow tempo, but to make it feel extremely easy.
Once you can play the music consistently with no mistakes, increase the tempo by five beats per minute and see if it’s still accurate. If so, increase it by another five beats per minute. As we get closer to our goal tempo, increase the metronome by only two clicks so the change in speed is not as drastic.
Avoid Bad Habits
Often I hear students practicing a song too fast, messing up, starting over, and repeating that process over and over. Not only is this kind of practice frustrating, but it can also develop bad habits like poor technique or repeating wrong notes. As tempting as it may be to dive in at full speed, it is always best to start at your optimal tempo and slowly work up the song to build on good habits.
Create Specific Tempo Goals
Let’s say your performance is two months away and you want to reach your goal tempo one month before the performance.
If your goal tempo is 100 bpm, begin your practice at 70 bpm with a goal of increasing one beat per day, and seven beats per week to hit our goal tempo one month before performance.
Now let’s say you only have a week to get the song at full speed. If Goal Tempo = 100 bpm, begin your practice at 70 bpm with a goal of increasing five or six beats per day, or 30 beats per week.
Use these practice techniques and your songs will be up to speed in no time! Remember, there are no short cuts to playing like the professionals.
Start slow, put in the work, and most importantly, have fun while practicing!