I’ve received a lot of questions about how to learn how to play fiddle tunes faster. This is a pretty big subject with a lot of factors to discuss, so I decided to make a long video about it. I hope this helps give some ideas about things to focus on and ways to practice increasing your playing speed!
Bow Hand: 00:37
Violin Hand: 5:27
Muscle Memory: 11:02
Intonation Muscle Memory: 11:07
Tune Muscle Memory (“Motor Learning”): 14:38
Hornpipe/Reverse method: 18:16
Wrist Importance: 21:50
In this video, I discuss important things to keep in mind while trying to speed up the tempo of your playing. The bow hold and wrist flexibility are extremely important, and therefore I included a short clip on how I hold my violin bow and demonstrate how the wrist should move with the bow.
Also, the ability to freely move along the instrument with your left hand is important. This is why I prefer to use a shoulder rest. It frees up your left hand to only need to focus on playing the notes rather than holding the instrument.
Keeping the wrist away from the neck of the instrument is also a key detail for learning how to play faster. It feels more unsteady initially, but once you become used to the feeling, you will have much more freedom and fluid movement between the notes.
The left elbow is also important. If it points too much towards the left, it will become difficult to reach some of the lower-string notes. It’s important to practice stretching your elbow towards the right more. This will open up your hand and allow your hand to move at a much faster speed, even into the higher registers of the instrument. Please take care to not force too hard of a stretch too soon. There is no such thing as “no pain no gain” with the violin. If it’s starting to hurt, it’s time to take a break.
Learning muscle memory is the next key step to learning how to play faster. There are two main kinds of muscle memory:
The first focus on where all of the notes are on the actual instrument. This muscle memory can be achieved by practicing scales and playing along to recordings and other players.
The second form of muscle memory is when your hands “memorize the tune.” It’s a bit of a strange concept, but your hands can become familiar with how a tune is played. I gain this muscle memory from two ways:
Using a metronome is a good, but tedious way. I find a comfortable tempo and slowly increase the tempo each time I practice the tune. When I reach a tempo where I begin to make mistakes, I reduce the tempo by 5 speeds and repeat the tune 5 times. This may seem a bit much, but it’s important to practice playing the tune correctly rather than incorrectly. Once I’ve played the tune 5 times, I start to increase the tempo again. Usually I find that I can surpass my last difficult tempo fairly quickly when I practice like this.
The second method is what I call the “hornpipe/reverse hornpipe” method. First, play the tune at the tempo you are comfortable with. Then, play it like a hornpipe using the long note-short note-long note-short note rhythm. Next, repeat the tune using the “reverse hornpipe” rhythm: short note – long note – short note – long note. Finally, try to play the tune at a faster tempo. It may take a few practice sessions using this method, but I’ve had a lot of success with it. It works best on tunes written in 4/4 and 2/4 time.
My next point is that I play differently when I play at faster speeds. Going back to the importance of a flexible wrist and good bow hold — a lot of my speed is actually focused in my right wrist / bow wrist.
The final point is to try to keep your left hand’s fingers as close to the fingerboard as possible. It’s easy to get into the habit of lifting the fingers off of the fingerboard as you learn vibrato, and this habit can carry into even fast playing where it really isn’t necessary to lift the fingers very far from the fingerboard. Try practicing keeping a finger planted in a position and only move them when it is absolutely necessary. This feels very strange at first, but it will help you learn how to strategically place your fingers ahead of time to reach notes that may otherwise be impossible to reach.
I hope this summary helps! I’ve written it out in hopes that those who may not speak English very well may have a better idea about what I may be talking about using a translator. I hope to add subtitles to my tutorials eventually, but it might be some time before I can complete a task like that.
Bonmusica 4/4 Violin Shoulder Rest
Matrix MR500 Quartz Metronome
Thank you for watching!
Post time: 08-28-2017