6 Tips to Play Fast — Really Fast
Today I decided to talk to you about the importance of speed in violin improvisation. Indeed, people often ask me how to play more quickly and if there are specific techniques to achieve this… I can’t give you a miracle recipe for playing quickly, because it’s really something something that comes with time and practice. The phrasing that you master more slowly will gradually become your base for fast phrasing. When you want to play fast, you have to try to simplify… things that you can play slowly will therefore be easier to play quickly.
Nevertheless, there are still a few tricks that we can work on in order to unravel this mysterious talent that the great violinists have of playing rapidly…
So here are the six tips to be able to play faster:
– First tip: use very little bow
This is probably the most important thing if you want to be able to play fast. It’s very logical: the longer the bow stroke, the wider the movement of your arm, the longer it takes to achieve it. It will therefore take a smaller amount of bow to perform a smaller movement that is as fast as possible. The ideal is to use less arm in the bowstroke, while employing the fingers and wrist more.
– Second tip: don’t try to get a lot of sound.
As violinists, we typically strive for volume and we want to play fast and loud: this is possible, but if we want to go for a jazz feel, it becomes very complicated… I think you have to accept playing with less volume if you want to be able to play swing very quickly. I know for many of you this might be problematic.. But following the logic of the first tip, more speed = less bowing = less movement = less sound … If this is something you don’t want to do because you want to keep a big violin sound, it’s doable: you’ll have to play all notes legato or détaché, which is possible, but you will find that you will lose swing and finesse. Listen to Stéphane Grappelli, and see for yourself: his swing is light. It’s my personal opinion, but I think that many violinists who try to imitate him want at all costs to keep a big sound, and suddenly I often hear in their playing a heaviness that I don’t hear in Stéphane’s playing…
– Third tip: play slowly and speed up little by little.
In your classical or other violin education, you must have been told that in order to be able to play a piece or a line quickly, you must first work slowly. It’s the same with improvisation! Swing it slowly, and gradually pick up the tempo. For example, you can practice a standard with a metronome at 100 on the quarter note, and gradually speed it up to 200! The day you get to 300 on the quarter note, you won’t have to worry about speed anymore!
– Fourth Tip: Playing Repeated Notes
As I wrote at the beginning of the article, to play quickly, you have to try to simplify the phrases. You have every right to repeat the notes and are not obliged to change them each time you bow, which complicates the deal a lot! This is very important because it will allow you to be really more comfortable on a fast track.
– Fifth Tip: Pick Up a Quick Solo
Picking up—or learning the recorded version of jazz solo—a very fast chorus allows you to get used to playing fast in a jazz context, with jazz phrasing.
Nevertheless, you will have to work it first slowly, then speed up little by little until you get the tempo of the soloist and be able to play at the same time as her or him and at the same speed.
You can use the Transcribe program to slow down the solo and gradually bring it up to speed. You can find more information about tpicking up solos in my article“PICKING UP A SOLO IN 5 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS”
– Finally: play double-time on a slow tempo.
Finally, explore doubling: playing sixteenth notes on a standard at medium tempo, or even a ballad.
For example, if you improvise on a swing with a metronome at 100 to the quarter note, you start playing eighth notes quietly, then at times you try to introduce sixteenth notes. At that moment, it’s as if you were at 200 in the quarter note, except that your feeling will be slower, and you’ll be less stressed! This allows you to keep calm inside while playing fast much more easily. In fact, when you play a very fast piece, the accompaniment is also very fast, and this can cause more stress than if the accompaniment is twice as slow, even though you are playing at the same speed!
I hope you enjoyed this little jazz violin lesson, and you can put it to good use! In the meantime, feel free to share it on social media!
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