Episode 48: 7 tips to play fast movements

This is María and this is Hester.
Together we are the CONSORT COUNSELLORS! Today we present a couple of tips
to work on speed and agility with your ensemble. To play fast we have to deal
with at least four different elements: fingers, articulation, air…
but also our brain! Our concentration. Our tips touch on all these different aspects. We like to take the third movement of Bach’s
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 as our practice material because in this movement there is a lot of simultaneous
16th notes going on in the different voices. It may seem contradictory, but we all know it’s true! The faster you want to play a certain passage, the slower
(very, mega, ultra, much slower) you should practise it. Yes! Because by playing mega-slow you have
enough time to control all your body parts. Your fingers can move very consciously
from one pitch to the other, your tongue can be very precise, and there is enough time
to read ahead, which is really important. A nice side effect is that you need much more air
to play each phrase, so this will be much easier in the end. Remember to always use the same articulation,
regardless of the tempo you choose to practice. If your target tempo is really fast
and you want to use double tonguing eventually, use double tonguing when you practice slow. If your target tempo allows you to play with single tonguing,
then you use single tonguing in the slow practice. Play the passage on one note. Choose a note in the middle register, which is flexible
when it comes to different types of articulation. Then check if your articulation is smooth. Decide upon using double or single tonguing
and decide upon the length of each note to check if you all do the same in your ensemble. Slightly related to this exercise is the next one:
“the human metronome”. Let one of the players in your ensemble play ongoing ♬
on a repeated pitch. In this case, for example, the middle F. The other players are going to, one by one,
practice a few bars against this “human metronome”. The human metronome enters one bar before the piece starts
so that everybody can hear the tempo. The human metronome is, of course, keeping you in time
but it’s also a good reference for tuning. If you suddenly play louder or softer… you will notice! You can do the same exercise with ♫
since this is how it actually works in the piece: the ♫ are the motor of the whole piece
and are very good reference points. María is going to be our reference point, the motor, with ♫.
I’m going to play the piece. When you play the actual piece you will notice that,
in this case, the “human metronome” of ♫ is divided among the different parts. So, all the time you can listen to it and sometimes
you will BE the human metronome. In other pieces this function is given to the bass part
and then you can rather listen to them. Choose uncomfortable tempi to play with the metronome. The proportion between different note values
feels very different when you play in different tempi. It’s very good that you can adjust all the time. This previous example was 60 b.p.m.
and now we’ll take it down to 55. I bet that’s gonna feel quite uncomfortable
because it’s just a little bit slower. There you go! Try also way faster than your desire tempo,
even if it’s not accurate anymore. Just play the notes you can and the beat goes on forever! Learn the most difficult passages, even if it’s just
one or two bars, from memory. Then you don’t need to look at the score,
so you also free yourself from it. You don’t have time to get anxious
about markings you may have or about playing it always in the same way.
You can focus on… relaxing! And if you still want to read,
you can see much more ahead than you used to. In this way you don’t get stuck on the bar
and you will play much better. Another useful exercise: slur everything
from beginning to end, without any articulation. In that way you will be able
to check the movement of your fingers, if everything is well coordinated or if there are
any uncoordinated or “sticky” movements. If there are, try to identify which finger is the slowest
and focus particularly on that one when you play again, making the movement especially “robotic” moving the
fingers up and down, very actively, in that moment. As you see the fingers are already articulating for you! Maybe this is the most important tip.
Tempo choice is important but not… “over-important”. When your ensemble is not able to play a piece that fast, there are still some tricks to suggest the flow and the speed. Playing on a tempo which is slightly slow
but comfortable for everyone is really not a big deal when you agree upon common direction to avoid standing still or stiffness. The Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet made
a cool arrangement of the piece we’ve been practicing today. They recorded it on their CD “Extra time”.
Check out the tempo they use! It’s really, really fast! The CONSORT COUNSELLORS will exist
for exactly one year next week! To celebrate our first anniversary, next week we will have
a special episode in which we will answer YOUR questions. Send us all you want to ask us before the evening of the 14th of February, Valentine’s Day. We are looking forward to receiving your questions and
to answering them next week! See you then, bye bye! If you like our stuff, don’t forget to subscribe so that you don’t miss
any future videos from the Consort Counsellors!

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