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Having a lot of trouble playing fast... this can mean double timing on slower tunes or improvising in general on faster (200+ BPM) tunes.

I often times have a tough time hearing ideas to play so uptempo tunes just amplify this issue.

My group is wanting to play Seven Steps to Heaven and I just cannot hang... it’s embarrassing. Any tips or ideas for this situation? I’m so frustrated.
 

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I think just getting used to thinking "fast" helps a ton. Take something you know really well (scales, melody, etc.) and just keep pushing the tempo each time you play it CORRECTLY. You need to be able to think in chunks and think about what's coming next, NOT about each individual note or what you're currently playing. I don't have a lot of time now to go into detail but when i do have a bit more time I can expand further on this and other tips for pushing the tempo.

Along with thinking "fast" is thinking..."slow." OK here me out- if you can think about the tune in bigger chunks (1 or 2 measure chunks as opposed to quarter note beats) it can free up your mind and fingers to think about longer phrases and lines, without getting caught up with NOTE NOTE NOTE NOTE NOTE NOTE NOTE
 

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Get iRealPro and just start shedding the tune over and over at a tempo slow enough that you can hang with the tune and develop your ideas. Once you get comfortable at that tempo, add 5-10 bpm and do it again. It also has a function that automatically adds to the tempo each time through.

This has helped me a lot. Getting totally familiar with a tune can really open you up to less thinking about the changes and a more fluid flow of musical ideas. I play in a rehearsal band, and when they throw out a tune for cold reading/improvising that I am not familiar with , I can have a really hard time improvising something that is musically interesting. But if I can shed it at home, I can develop some ideas and practice them.

The way I was taught to learn to improvise on a tune was to do the following:
Play the chords of the entire tune in time, first arpeggiating from root all the way through the tune, then all the inversions. Play the arpeggios from the bottom up and the top down. Next play through the tune all the thirds of each chord, then do again with the fifths, then the 7th. Next play the bop scales staring on root, then third, then fifth, them 7th - both ascending and descending scales. Next would be to memorize the melody (which can be a great source of improvisational ideas). By the time you shed this well you will be pretty familiar with the structure of the tune and it should be making improvising on the tune much easier.

Other have suggested to me that I write out some ideas and shed those, but I'm too lazy to do that.

By the way, 7 Steps can be pretty challenging at tempo. In general it might help to shed some simpler tunes to get your ideas under your fingers - maybe some blues-oriented stuff, first.

And like Dave Pollack suggested, just because a tune is fast does not mean your improvisation has to be fast. Think of the tune in half time and play your ideas over, for example, two measures as though they were just one measure at half the tempo. Also, try to find an idea that works over several measures so you don't have to keep changing your harmonic orientation. This works pretty well at least for the first 8 measures of 7 steps. And then the next two groups of four measures.

You gotta walk before you run.
 

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Here is a very useful exercise of gypsy guitarists for fast-moving scale passages. This principle is suitable for all instruments.


In addition, the book about the great pianist F. Busoni describes his method of technical phrasing (Chapter 14), which refers precisely to rapid passages; that is based on the property of the brain to think in patterns - something that is mentioned in previous posts.


http://isbninspire.com/storage/fire.apps.php?id=B015XVLCZ2
 

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It takes a lot of time, patience and focus.

Practice all basic major, minor, dominant arpeggios and scales up to 300bpm. But start at 60, work very relaxed and with a metronome. Use a mirror so you can to make sure you’re not holding tension or moving too much (fingers don’t need to leave the keys!)

Building up constantly and accurately with no mistakes should take you a few weeks or months depending on your current skill level, then once you can nail the basics up to 200, thrown in a dozen patterns and variations, IIVI’s and some solo transcriptions of medium fast tunes.

Now, after 6months, post here again and let us know how much you have improved!
 

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Jon Gordon once told me, “if you’re in a rush, you’ll never get there” and he’s right. Technique for speed is built in the basics; good posture and hand position with minimal tension. Yes, muscles need to be tense in the right areas to be able to move quickly, but not tense without purpose or focus. And it takes a lot of time and practice.

Also try tapping your foot on the one if each bar rather than each quarter. Joe Lovano has a good video about counting and phrasing. Try slowing down your counting to feel longer phrases and float over the time.
 

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Also: learn some of the great solos over Seven Steps to Heaven (SSTH)! Great way to learn fast phrasing.

Write out and practice all the scales and arpeggios for SSTH and slowly build up to 200+ (good to aim for faster than the set tempo so when you play the song you can relax down into a slower tempo!)

Finally; don’t let the bass player count it in, they love SSTH up to 400bpm :/
 

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My teacher says the key to playing fast is air. She says you kind "ride" on the air- that if you've been playing for awhile, you likely have it in your fingers, that's often not the problem (even if it might SEEM like it is). But it's likely not enough air. The above ideas are great, and maybe there are steps (playing it slow first of course), but I've found that when I'm flubbing up a fast passage and it seems like my fingers aren't keeping up, I think about air through the horn. More times than not that goes a long was to fixing it for me.
 

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Playing fast is like driving fast - you have to know where you're going and be skilled enough to stay on the road.
 

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I've found the key to playing fast is to practice slow....and slower....suggestions above regarding correct technique are important...as are knowing all your scales/arpegios upside down and sideways....once all this is in the memory bank, it can be recalled as you're playing from muscle memory....when I'm playing faster than 200, I don't think...I play...to do that requires a lot of hours playing slow....
 

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Here he is playing Trane’s solo verbatim, almost...he sings out a phrase as he turns a page but stays in time.

 

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Here he is playing Trane’s solo verbatim, almost...he sings out a phrase as he turns a page but stays in time.
Dude! Consider me impressed.
 

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Ferruccio Busoni founded his system of "technical phrasing" on the facts that on the one hand performance of each individual note requires a separate volitional impulse to press a finger , but everyone knows this ; on the other hand there are also combinations of notes (finger movements) that allow playing a number of sounds on one volitional impulse and one breath. These combinations can be performed with ease at an extremely fast pace, for example, low D-E-F on sax . At the same time, there are other combinations of finger movements that can not be played on a single impulse , for example C-D - D#-E. Busoni gives an example of the fastest pronunciation buk-buk-buk-buk in a row in comparison with ukb- ukb- ukb ukb, where the order of the letters is identical, but another grouping that slows down the pronunciation speed considerably. On this basis, Busoni suggested the following method of working on fast passages: to divide the lengthy passage into such short fragments that can be executed quickly in one breath and on one volitional impulse. The next step is the binding of the fragments, instead of joining individual notes. For example, instead of playing fast CDEFF # GABC again and again, it is desirable to work separately over CDEF, separately over F # GABC; and then combine in one line.
 

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Ferruccio Busoni founded his system of "technical phrasing" on the facts that on the one hand performance of each individual note requires a separate volitional impulse to press a finger , but everyone knows this ; on the other hand there are also combinations of notes (finger movements) that allow playing a number of sounds on one volitional impulse and one breath. These combinations can be performed with ease at an extremely fast pace, for example, low D-E-F on sax . At the same time, there are other combinations of finger movements that can not be played on a single impulse , for example C-D - D#-E. Busoni gives an example of the fastest pronunciation buk-buk-buk-buk in a row in comparison with ukb- ukb- ukb ukb, where the order of the letters is identical, but another grouping that slows down the pronunciation speed considerably. On this basis, Busoni suggested the following method of working on fast passages: to divide the lengthy passage into such short fragments that can be executed quickly in one breath and on one volitional impulse. The next step is the binding of the fragments, instead of joining individual notes. For example, instead of playing fast CDEFF # GABC again and again, it is desirable to work separately over CDEF, separately over F # GABC; and then combine in one line.
I do this, and I never heard of Mr. Busoni! Yes, I isolate sometimes just two notes... the hardest ones in the passage (or scale, arpeggio, etc.) to transition between (I never thought about "volitional impulses".). Then after getting the transition fluid, I may add a third adjacent note, or go to another group of two or three notes that are challenging... and eventually connecting the pieces, by adding a note at a time. Your fingers will show you where the "volitional challenges" lie even if you don't know volition from the French Revolution.
 

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Get iRealPro and just start shedding the tune over and over at a tempo slow enough that you can hang with the tune and develop your ideas. Once you get comfortable at that tempo, add 5-10 bpm and do it again. It also has a function that automatically adds to the tempo each time through.
Yes. This^. +++
Also, have iReal Pro take the tune through all twelve keys before bumping up the tempo, if you have time.
The only thing I hate about this is the cheesy, fake rhythm section sounds, especially the "drums". They sound like an arcade game that's no fun to play. I think "better" sounds may be available... by "upgrading"(?). But that would, um.. uh... cost, ahem... money.
 

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My teacher says the key to playing fast is air. She says you kind "ride" on the air- that if you've been playing for awhile, you likely have it in your fingers, that's often not the problem (even if it might SEEM like it is). But it's likely not enough air. The above ideas are great, and maybe there are steps (playing it slow first of course), but I've found that when I'm flubbing up a fast passage and it seems like my fingers aren't keeping up, I think about air through the horn. More times than not that goes a long was to fixing it for me.
Yes! Important, this^!
And I would add that, as with every aspect of playing, your reed is key to your speed! By that I mean the strength in particular... Too soft is way better than too hard, which really will effect your fingers, by some mystical mysterious but certain logic that I haven't figured out. But it has to do with more air through the horn, for sure.
 

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