A myth: if you want to learn to play fast, you must practice a lot
playing slowly. Of course, theres nothing against playing
slowly, it is often very useful to examine how you use
your fingers and to listen to your sound. But is you want to learn
to play fast, you must practice by playing fast. Why? In the first
place your brain has to get used to it, in the second place you
must learn to relax while playing fast and in the third place you will
have to develop new techniques for your fast playing.
1. The faster you play, the quicker youre playing new notes,
so youll have to decide very quickly which new notes you should
play. In fast tempos, combined with complex harmonies, I sometimes
get the feeling I have make many decisions at the same time. Maybe
this is no problem at all for you, but my brains always have to
get used to new (higher) tempos. I use a metronome for this.
I pretend that every tick is the second and fourth beat of a 4/4
measure and practice a quick tune I feel like playing, just playing
the harmonies or playing a solo. At this time, I like to put the
metronome on 145. Next week, I will maybe go to 150.
2. You ask a lot of yourself when playing fast, so it is very easy
to get tense. I believe that the biggest source of tension are your
unconscious beliefs that youre not able to do this, that it
is much to difficult for a bass player like you, that youll
never learn this, and other terrible thoughts of failure that we
use to terrorize ourselves with. These thoughts create tension,
which makes it impossible to play like you want to play (see lesson
1). If you want to learn to play fast, youll have to relax
consciously while doing it. If you terrorize yourself a lot with
this kind of thoughts, it may be a good idea to learn a technique
called affirmation, a subject I may devote a lesson to in the future.
3. How do you want your fast notes to sound? Staccato, like a machine
gun? Legato? With a clear attack? All of these ways? Youll
have to find solutions for all of your problems and to develop new
techniques. The only way to do this is practicing fast.
I mainly use 2 techniques and the only difference lies in my use
of the left hand. The first technique is a staccato way of playing.
Right before playing the next note, I lift my finger and let it
rest on the string. This means that for a fraction of a second,
you hear nothing. If you do this quickly, it feels as if your fingers
dance. This way of playing fast sounds more rhythmical and clear,
and is more spectacular than the second, legato way of playing.