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S l o w i n g D o w n

Sloth in tree

Photo by Javier Mazzeo on Unsplash

How many times in your guitar or piano lesson have you heard your instructor say, "Let's slow this passage down a bit?" If you're like most people, you hear what you imagine the finished product to sound like in your head and you want to get there as quickly as possible, so the second it feels like certain measures are under your hands, your fingers just want to fly through them.

While this is a natural tendency, one shared by many learning to play an instrument, often it leads to some unintended consequences, such as practicing in mistakes so that pause, that sudden tempo change that Brahms didn't intend, is just how you play that piece every time.

Even worse, we can catch ourselves learning passages with inconsistent fingerings so they never feel like one large motion but are always a cluster of notes regularly causing burning frustration because they just. won't. get. in. line.

You may hear your music teacher say this over and over again, but we aren't trying to sell you a broken record. We say it because it's true: that the only way to learn any difficult piece well is to slow down and master it bit by bit. The trickier the section, the more we might break it down. We might take it a measure at a time; heck, it might be 2 beats at a time until the fingering and intonation feel natural to us.

This is another place, I think, where music offers us a valuable life lesson. Sometimes we get stuck in the rat race. We find ourselves making the same mistakes over and over again, because we rush to get to some better, idealized version of what we'd like our lives to be like. However, if we take the often frustrating but nearly always appropriate advice to slow down, we can master those passages after all.

We can remember to pack our lunch the night before. We can make time to meditate so we can be more productive in the rest of our days. We can finally take a few minutes to get to know that person we see every day but have never introduced ourselves to. We can find what works in our balance and what might be more than what we need.

But I digress. I started this post with a musical purpose, and I'm going to stick to it! ;)

Slowing down offers us the opportunity to be more deliberate in all our actions. We can break a single passage down into several different components, for instance, starting with notes, fingerings, and rhythms. Then we can add in intonation, dynamics, phrasing. Then we can see how that single passage relates to the section of the piece, or to the piece as a whole. Practicing slowly allows us the time for this careful deliberation and allows us to fully digest the deliciousness that is waiting there, eagerly, for our appreciation.

We are now accepting new students at The Summit Academy of Music. To schedule your first free guitar or piano lesson, contact us today!

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