Why practice slowly


About me
Why practice slowly
Playing faster

Why practice slowly
              ...when you can do it quickly (or not)


"Practice slowly"; stressed-out teachers say it again and again. But the pupil tormented in this way usually finds it very difficult to obey the command.


The following is designed to highlight the connections and enable the then hopefully motivated pupil to do so.


If we are honest, we must admit that we know very little about our body (perhaps doctors imagine they know more; I’m not sure...). In other words, we carry out highly complicated movements in a second, and perform the most amazing brain acrobatics (even those of us who didn’t exactly invent thinking) without being able to say exactly what is taking place.


So we have a powerful instrument at our disposal (our body) that we can rely on and that we can give instructions to.


I like to compare that with a computer. A computer can perform great feats when properly programmed. Indeed, when properly programmed , which brings us to the point. We have to give our body exact instructions what to do. At the same time, we have to check if what we want is actually happening, and perhaps issue correcting instructions.


And that takes time.


If our body does not receive exact instructions, it immediately switches to a kind of ‘emergency program’. For example, many parents hit on the idea of simply throwing their beloved child into the water so that he or she learns to swim. This procedure is not only rather cruel, but also triggersimmediately an ‘emergency program’. The swimming style it gives rise to is hardly suited to winning Olympic medals.


When the body tries toperform a task whose solution it does not know, it tries with all its power, ie muscles are activated which are not needed, and even worse, muscle activities are connected with each other in an inefficient way. That leads to tensions adding up and muscle activities impeding each other.

In practice it is probably best to relax after each movement, to notice possible tensions or movement connections. And you’ve guessed it, dear reader, that takes time.


What with virtuosos seems so effortless is in fact a maximally effective sequence of movements.


When we cross a certain threshold during practice, that damned ‘emergency program’ kicks in. We should avoid that,as is hopefully clear to you by now. No? Then read again!

In the next article I’d like to give you some thoughts on the subject `Now I can play slowly, how do I speed up?’

A good teacher can really help you in finding the right movements and get rid of the tensions.Read  following articles by Tom Hess (great guitarist, teacher and mentor):



Do you really need a teacher?


Choosing a teacher