• Sandra Howe

5 Reasons Why You Can't Play Slowly

Slow practice is one of the best weapons in your practice tool box. Unfortunately in the rush to attainment many fail to practice slowly.

Why is slow practice beneficial? Slow practice is beneficial in many ways. Playing slowly can help increase the learning process - with the mind and body relaxed, it can impart the physical information to the brain without impedance. Practising slowly can also help with accuracy of playing, which in turn helps the subconscious memory or muscle memory play accurately.

I asked all of my students this week to play a section of music slower than their previous attempt. Each student played the section again at the same speed. Why does this happen?

  1. Lack of Control I call it the "runaway train" syndrome! Often when playing we may feel like we are on a runaway train, unable to stop until we crash! This is a sign that we are not in control of our actions and our fingers are running away with themselves. We need to remember that we are not in fact on a runaway train, we are the driver of the train and we can slow down or stop at any point however many times we like and for any reason we like!

  2. Arrogance We can all be a little arrogant sometimes and we can often think we can do too much too soon. For instance, when we've played something slowly only once and think it's time to try it at full speed! We can quickly fall into the trap of playing poorly and getting frustrated simply because we try to do too much at once.

  3. Lack of Discipline We often talk about discipline in terms of practising schedules but we also need discipline during our practice. It helps us keep our practice in balance, knowing when to move on and when to stick to what we are currently doing. I think of it as holding on to the reins of a horse to slow down. We always want to move forward as quickly as possible but it isn't always what is best for us. This is when we need discipline. If we constantly want to move forward we are going to find it difficult to play slowly.

  4. Impatience Playing slowly needs patience, above all! Those long notes need to be held and our minds can wonder possibly feeling boredom creep in. Patience is something we can train ourselves to have more of. Next time you play slowly and you want to speed up, remember that you can even practice patience while you're playing! There are many things we could be focusing on during slow play. Dynamics, expression, articulation, to name a few.

  5. Unrealistic Expectations Whether it is our own expectations or the expectations of others, having the responsibility to meet those expectations can promote an eagerness within us that thwarts slow practice. To practice slowly successfully, we must put away expectations and deadlines. We can only think about the task at hand, if we are playing while worrying about the deadline we have to meet or the piece we have to finish we are not going to be focused on the task completely.

Slow practice is something we could all do a little more of. The benefits are better experienced than explained, so set that metronome and try some in your next practice session!


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