Playing fast is one of the great loves of all flute players.
The problem is that often we like to play fast right away, before the music is even learned all the way. We sometimes expect to go faster than we can, so we get angry, embarrassed, frustrated, or we lose confidence. All of these hurt our playing so much more than they help.
When learning how to have faster fingers for flute playing, two things will be your friends:
The metronome and your scales.
Often, clean technique is more about timing and transitions than it is about speed. Let’s say you really want to play something fast, so you put your flute on your chin and try to move your fingers as fast as possible, but things are jumbled, messy or tense. This is because you are spending too much energy moving your fingers and not enough on when and how you move them. Precise movement will do more for your technique than lots of quick movement ever will.
I know I talk a lot about scales, but they are so important!! They are not just assignments to be checked off! Think of your scales as the training ground for your technique. As Ms. Frizzle would say “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!!” Go slowly, think about what your fingers are doing.
Are the tight? If so, relax them.
Are your arms tense? If so, relax them.
How far off the keys do they go when you lift them up? Keep them as close as possible.
Are they getting ahead of your brain? Is that because you are trying to play faster than your brain can handle?
Are you right on time with the metronome? Please try try try.
Set the metronome at a speed where the fastest notes you play are on the click of the metronome.
This will help you see how accurate your timing is, and will help it make sense in your brain.
If you are working from a higher level, you can set the metronome so that it clicks on the off-beat. This will really test your mettle. 🙂
I know I talk a lot about scales, but they are so important
I have a former student who while in her undergrad was learning the 2nd movement of the Sonata by Lowell Liebermann, which is really fast and quite hard. She was in the practice room getting ready for her lesson, trying as hard as she could to play everything as right and as fast as possible. It wasn’t working very well, and she kept making what she thought were silly mistakes. Then a thought crossed her mind. What would happen is she played everything slower than tar and focused on what her fingers and her air were doing in between each note?
Well, It took her almost an hour to get through the entire movement that way, when really up to speed it took just over 3 minutes. That’s really slow!! And it drove her crazy a lot of the time, but she stuck with it. The next day, she could play it faster and cleaner than she even thought was possible. It took ‘slowing down’ to actually ‘speed up’.
Take a day to practice everything slowly, and don’t try playing it up to speed once. I mean not at all! You need to let the slow stuff sit in your brain for the rest of the day before you try to play it faster again. Then the next day, try it a little faster.
And lastly, always make sure you are taking enough time to stretch, relax, and breathe properly. If you are tight in your chest or tight in your shoulders, that will slow down your technique.
Everyone has the capacity to play faster on the flute! Do not doubt yourself because I have seen this ‘speed-up’ miracle many times over. Just be patient with yourself and believe!