Do you feel that you really know the music or are you just playing by some loosely-learned habit? Do you know the piece “by heart” or are you just playing “by finger”?
If you ever feel overwhelmed by the music and suffer from mental and physical insecurity, do not despair… SLOW PLAYING is the solution! Here’s how to do it…
- Use a metronome (or count aloud) and play without using the sustain pedal.
- Set the tempo slower than performance tempo… slow enough to think about what you are doing, slow enough to be totally aware of what is happening in the music and in your body, slow enough to perform without making a mistake.
- Sometimes just a tiny bit slower is all you need. For particularly difficult places, you may need to go as slow as half speed. (Note: You only need to go slow enough to “get the job done”. Going too slow wastes time and risk breaking musical and physical continuity).
- If you make a mistake, isolate the problem area and address it with a laser focus.
- Combine slow playing with other study-practice strategies such as recording, pieces of pieces, chunking, theoretical analysis, visualization, hands separate, counting out loud, and the drummers trick.
- If you still have difficulty, lower the tempo and try again.
- Do whatever is necessary in order to play with accuracy and confidence. “Accuracy” means the notes are properly placed within the metrical stucture and that music sounds and feels as you intended it to sound and feel. And “confidence” is something you will feel when you get there!
- Slowly raise the tempo until you reach your desired performance speed, but…
- You are not done yet! Finally, set the tempo a bit faster than you expect to play in performance. Pushing your capabilities beyond what is required is a HUGE confidence booster!
Slow playing may be the single most important study-practice habit. Playing S-L-O-W-L-Y gives you time to be fully aware of what you are doing, time to think about what you are doing, time to “freak out” about what you are doing. Slow playing exposes every physical and mental insecurity. Slow playing gives you enough time to become intimately aware of and to deeply internalize every musical pattern…. every rhythm, sound, note, fingering, articulation, rest, accent, chord, key change… enough time to be aware of every mental intention… enough time to be aware of every bit of tension, awkwardness, and hesitation in your body… so many things that can easily go unnoticed at regular tempo.
The benefits of slow playing cannot be over-stated. An infinite number of sloppy, mindless passes at normal tempo will never give you confidence, even if you lived long enough to play a piece a million times, but… a very small number of mindful passes played slowly can work miracles! Slow playing is guaranteed to transform any performance from a fearful, timid, insecure ordeal into a joyful, confident, artistic expression. Make it a new study-practice habit and enjoy the remarkable results… in both your music-making and motivation!