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I've been trying to build up speed with my tremolo exercises, and the demon I keep fighting is a sort of negative feedback loop fed by worrying about deviations from the tempo, increasing attention on finger motion, and then it gets harder and harder (literally) to keep up with that rampaging tempo (only 1 click faster than a tempo at which I can play with no difficulty).

I've had some success by trying to control my attention. If I keep my focus on the larger phrases and just the downbeats of the rhythm, I seem to be able to keep up. But then I can't critique my performance (or even really enjoy the sound) because I wasn't paying close attention! Ach!

Has anyone else encountered and overcome (or heard of same) this hurdle?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

My experience is strictly from playing the piano, but despite the difference in the specific motion required, the approach to building speed is the same.

The short answer to your question is, "Don't do it".

It's tempting to use the metronome to push yourself faster, but this strategy doesn't work largely for the same reason that this strategy doesn't work while lifting weights. If your muscles can't handle it, they can't handle it. Pushing yourself at the limit of what your muscles can handle is a recipe for introducing bad habits into your technique.

I would advise you to not push yourself like that. I'm not saying to never explore your limits--if you don't push yourself with the metronome every once in a while, you'll never know where that limit is. I'm arguing that your normal tremolo practice should happen at a challenging tempo a few notches down from your absolute limit. You will build up speed over time, even if you're not playing at the bleeding edge of your ability.

I personally hate practicing like this, because I am impatient and this method both obscures and slows the rate of improvement. However, because when I was younger I pushed my tremolo tempo without regard to technique (because I really wanted to play this.....I can hit all the notes, but fall short of making music), I picked up the bad habit of retaining tension in my forearms. After years of practice, I still haven't kicked that habit. Be safe. Do it right the first time. And good luck!

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I do not have this experience on the piano. It is about practice, but you cannot go fast on it. Nobody was born with fingers playing large hundreads of notes in a minute and still the best musicians can do it if they practice really hard. –  yo' Jul 8 '12 at 14:37

I have adopted Babu's suggestions. And I now make use of the metronome for two things:

  • Checking that my playing has an even time.
  • Discovering the tempo I'm playing at.

Mostly, I'm just trying to make sure that I'm following (or working towards following) the tempo indication on the sheet music.

The best increases in speed that I've made have been by zooming-out with my attention, and counting larger rhythmic figures. Sometimes this requires a little push in tempo, just so there's room on the metronome dial to divide the bpm in half.

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