The Need for Speed

August 27, 2012

In all of my playing to date I've been the soloist, with my teacher accompanying my on either his cello or double bass. Usually this means I get to set my own tempo. With orchestra I am now playing in an ensemble and the tempo is set by the conductor. I now have to keep up with everyone else.

So a major part of my focus right now is learning to play faster. At times this is very frustrating as I can't seem to get out of my own way. This morning I remembered the David Finckel Cello Talks videos and started watching them again. One in particular talks about some ideas for playing faster, or rather how to practice playing faster.

Talk 81: Calgary Talk III: Playing Fast from David Finckel and Wu Han on Vimeo.

One of the goals our conductor has for us is the ability to play all 12 two-octave major scales in two minutes flat. That's 16th notes at a metronome setting of quarter = 56. Whee. Over the past two days I've memorized (re-learned) all the major scales with 3 flats or sharps or less, and I can now play them at 112, or half as fast as required. My hope is that by using scales, which I know and don't have to really think about, I can focus on relaxing my left arm and hand so that I can increase my finger speed. I am aware that I squeeze the neck of the cello with my left thumb and that this introduces tension in my hand, tension that prevents me from moving faster.

I also suspect that using a video camera to record my practice will help me to see where I might have extra motions or tension that might be slowing me down.

If by the end of our rehearsal season (late November) I can keep up with the performance tempos of all the pieces I'm assigned I will be thrilled.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.