Whether you are practicing chord changes, scale patterns or working out a lead, do not rush it. At the Targhee Bluegrass camp, Darol Anger told this story about being at a recording session with the legendary fiddle player, Stuart Duncan. He said, they spent a little time going over the part Stuart was supposed to play, Duncan said, “OK, you guys go and have lunch, give me couple of hours to work on it”. Darol came back about 45 minutes later and there was Stuart Duncan, one of the greatest fiddle players in the world, playing the notes one by one, slow and precise. Sometimes backing up and carefully trying them again, like a kid practicing his Suzuki violin lesson. Darol said this made a big impression on him. All the great players and teachers I’ve come across say the same thing. Practice slow, be precise. Don’t speed up until you really have it down at a speed you can handle. (If you are a fiddle player, you have the added challenge of correct intonation. If you practice the wrong notes – notes that are not quite in tune —  you will always play out of tune). Force yourself to be as accurate as you can be.    

Stretch your limits. 

Once you’ve spent all that time practicing slow and precise, try pushing it past your comfort zone. You’ll never learn to play fast if you don’t actually try it so spend a little time putting the pedal to the metal until you crash. Keep working at it until you can make the run without wrecking. But if you just keep wrecking don’t give up, slow down. Isolate that part that is hanging you up and just focus on that piece. Try to bring the song or lick you are practicing up to the fastest speed you can handle without crashing. Playing along with a metronome or a backing track is really helpful because it’s not enough to just play fast, you also need to be able to play rhythmically correct too.    

David Bernard

Author David Bernard

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