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A section of one of the parts to a piece I am writing is linked below.

https://imgur.com/T3dMd5q

Since this is meant to be played at 130, and I want it to be recorded, I want to have the sixteenths to be very precise. I am able to play it at around 100, but when I increase the tempo, my notes become uneven. I am looking for an exercise that is similar to what I need to play, but just a bit simpler so I can work my way up to it.

  • What instrument? Basic practicing with a m-nome might be the same but instrument specific exercises will differ from one instrument to the next. – ggcg Jan 1 at 23:48
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    You don’t need an exercise that is any different than you want to play. Get a metronome and start at 96 and play it there until it is perfect then increase it two ticks and play it until it is perfect. Slowly but surely you will get there. – b3ko Jan 2 at 2:04
  • @b3ko Fair enough, and I was originally going to do that, but I thought using an exercise that had several variations would make me better at sixteenths in general, rather than mastering that specific sequence of movements in that piece. – hvksh Jan 2 at 3:56
  • BTW that last bar is mis-spelled. – Old Brixtonian Jan 2 at 3:57
  • @ggcg It is a Rhodes, so akin to a piano. – hvksh Jan 2 at 4:01
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Can you play anything at 16th notes + 130 bpm speed?

If not then you need to polish your chops. Some comments have suggested that if you just play the passage slow and slowly speed up it will come up to speed. For the most part that is the correct way to get a new piece learnt to speed. But that also assumes that your foundation does not have a gaps. If this piece is forcing you to exercise new techniques or play pattern that are completely unfamiliar to you then you could benefit from focused exercises designed to boost the new pattern. I am a guitarists so unfortunately I can't provide piano specific exercises but the approach is the same.

Like b3ko states start at a tempo you can handle and increase speed by 2 bpm, then down by 1, repeating until you push the speed up to a point where you've made progress. You need to start at a tempo where you are really comfortable and can play it effortlessly. When I do this I might play the passage 1 time at each tempo or as much as 10 times. Increasing by 2 beats should cause you to fail unless you are already at the threshold. In theory you might get as high as 20 bpm higher than your starting point (a recommendation in some of my guitar books), but this is hard to predict. Once you feel like you've pushed yourself hard enough to falter it's important to go back down to a speed that's easy and play it a few times. You don't want to reward your body for mistakes. Keep track of the speeds (max without errors, absolute max). Over the course of several days you should see these number increase steadily.

Do NOT play the entire piece like this. Rather, chop it up into small chunks, well defined melodic segments. Drilling each in isolation and then together will reveal any weaknesses in your technique. This is helpful for me. Sometimes I find that I can play the first bar at 160 bpm, the second bar at 140 bpm, but together I can't get past 120 bpm. In some cases it's because the fingering in the transition is more challenging than in either segment. In others it may be that I have a weakness in one techniques versus another. Now you have identified movements that could benefit from drilling basic exercise. In my experience just playing the piece will not help and it will just stagnate or get worse. Find those parts that are bringing your overall speed down and if you can identify a specific issue, like bringing the thumb under the hand to shift or stretching etc, just work that technique over and over with scales, arpeggios sequencing patterns etc.

This is a divide and conquer style of strategy that works well for many musicians.

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  • I can play scalar passages fine up to 160 bpm, but I've just never played anything arpeggiated like that that fast. In the time I've asked the question to this answer, I decided to do what you and b3ko suggested. It works, and I've been able to reach 120 bpm comfortably. – hvksh Jan 2 at 20:34
  • Excellent. Keep it up and it will get faster. – ggcg Jan 2 at 21:51

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