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Slow Practice

a tool to improve flow and length

Practicing slowly can be a useful tool if we keep our highest musical goal as our context. Sure, practicing slowly is one way to "get the notes under our fingers," but there are loftier goals. As we practice slowly we want to keep the style, flow, and musical direction at the forefront of our minds. Once we can play it slowly exactly how we want it, it's a good idea to do this a few times and affirm our muscle memory that this is what we want to do.

I'm not necessarily advocating for a particular type of slow practice because I've seen the step of increasing speed work in a variety of ways. Here are two exercises that I find most helpful. Once the above steps have been taken, one option is to increase slowly. Cindy Swicegood taught a me this technique: increase by 4 clicks, increase again by 4 clicks, bring it back down 4 clicks, increase by 4 clicks, increase again by 4 clicks, bring it back down 4 clicks, etc.. we would want to exceed the performance tempo, so that the performance tempo feels slow in our mind. Or we can do the steps in paragraph one, relax and play it at performance tempo, bringing all the goodness of slowing it down, and asking our bodies to do the same things at a quicker tempo. I think both of these techniques are valid, the second one asks more of us quicker, but can save us some time if we are intentional about making the slow practice exactly what we want it to be. Let me know if you have any other tools for slow practice in the comments below. Also, using a metronome is always a good idea, regardless of what techniques we use.

Time to keep Exploring,

Adam C White