For ear training, chose the speed that allows you to listen, duplicate and understand what you are hearing. Repetition and focus are key. You might need to play and listen to something hundreds of times before really getting it, and you will improve to the degree you are focused. When you are focused you are “there.” Only when you are there can you duplicate or learn something.
For technique, isolated passages and pieces of music, finding the speed that you can grab a hold of what you are doing is the key. Going too fast can be overly difficult and going too slow can be boring and gruesome. Between too fast and too slow you can find a comfort zone that allows you to be aware of your motions and implement control. Adjust your speed to your awareness level. Find the speed where you can play the passage as best as you can and repeat it, noticing hesitations and uncertainties. Repeat it until it’s smooth and certain. This process could take between five and twenty-five times or more. This is accomplished by noticing the glitches and repeating it until comfortable. Your playing will smooth out simply by putting your attention on these areas and repeating them over and over. If your attention is not focused on what’s happening, improvement can be slow. What works for me, is going over the passage until smooth, then slowing it down a bit and repeating the process. Then, slowing it down a little more and going through the steps again. At this point I like to speed things up and see how comfortable it’s getting. Then I go back to a slower tempo and repeat the process. This continues every day until the passage is smooth and certain.
Learning something new seldom happens in one sitting (though it could). Here is a normal progression: (The time lengths are arbitrary and will vary according to the difficulty of the passage and level of focus.
Day 1 takes 30 minutes to groove a step in until comfortable.
Day 2 takes 30 minutes and feels like you haven’t progressed.
Day 3 takes 28 minutes to groove it in.
Day 4 takes 15 minutes to groove in.
Day 5 takes 10 minutes to groove in.
You miss three days of practicing.
Day 7 takes 15 minutes.
Day 8 takes 10 minutes.
Day 9 takes 5 minutes.
Day 10 takes 5 minutes.
Day 11 takes 5 minutes.
Day 12, no warm-up was needed. You played it well the first time.
Day 13, no warm-up was needed. You played it well the first time.
Day 14, no warm-up was needed. You played it well the first time.
Chances are that passage is finished.
Go for complete ownership over what you are playing and you can’t go wrong.
Buttwinick Teaching Studio