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Thread: Speed Exercises

  1. #1
    Registered User deadend3's Avatar
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    Default Speed Exercises

    Looking for some finger exercises to help build speed.

    Anyone have any favorites?

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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    Shore!

    Online: http://www.mandozine.com/techniques/

    Books by Todd Collins (2 of them), Mike Marshall (Fingergusters), Julin's Dummies Exercises, Eschliman's "Getting into Jazz", Rubner-Petersen "Pickers guide to BG Imrpov"
    (which are all pretty big books, take you a while to get thru, say, Collins "Modes for Mandolin"
    Kentucky km900
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    To play any tune ''accurately'' at speed,you need to know the tune very well & to be able to play it almost without thinking.
    Once you get to that point,simply speed your playing up - gradually,& you'll get there. The need to be able to play any tune almost without thinking about it is essential,or,you'll be distracting yourself trying to remember how it goes. You really do need to be able to ''hear it in your head'',as though you're hearing a recording being played 'mentally'.
    I played the tunes i was learning on banjo going back 50 + years,so many times,that i can still ''mentally'' play them in my head even after so long ,& i'm sure i'm not the only one on here who does that. One thing - being an ''ear player'' rather than a TAB player really helps you get the tunes 'into your head',
    Ivan
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    Speed is knowing the song and having great technique. One without the other won't do it. Soooooo ..... Choose five songs that require you to use as many combinations of technique as you can find. Cross picking , tremolo, pull off , hammer on, two in odd keys one waltz. Learn them flawlessly then speed them up. As you work you will find the technique and speed crossing over to other tunes you play........ Enjoy the process and don't be in a hurry. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    Scales and arpeggios, and I have been getting into specific exercises from various mandolin method books and violin exercise books.

    Exercises from famous method books are good for a couple of reasons. One is that many people do them, so you can compare notes and talk about the troubles you are having, and two, they are fairly specific almost surgical in what they work on. So there is a exercise that works on thirds, or fourths or minor arpeggios, what ever it is. When you can identify what tunes or phrases you are having trouble playing fast, and can literally proscribe for yourself the exercises you need work on to solve those specific problems.

    I really like the Todd Collins books mentioned above.

    And then I finish up with a couple of fiddle tunes at top speed. Speeds I would never, ever, ever play in public. Dry and Dusty, and Pays de Haut, usually, sometimes others.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    They say "play slow to play fast", which is true, but sometimes you have to play fast to play fast.

    I can play tunes at a certain speed, but above that the left hand and right hand lose communication with each other. I can finger all kinds of stuff much faster than I can keep up with the picking, and (weird eh?) I can tremolo, which is by definition much faster than I can play a melody. There is that speed gap where each hand can do the speed but cannot coordinate with each other.

    So sometimes I mentally put my right hand in to a slow-ish tremolo on one string, and then just finger scales and stuff on that string with the left hand. And just let it all be sloppy as I work on trying to sync it all up.

    I have to admit I can't seem to make lasting progress with this technique, so maybe I can't recommend it.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    They say "play slow to play fast", which is true, but sometimes you have to play fast to play fast.
    That's true. Learn/ingrain the tune by playing slow. At some point you have to learn to play fast by playing fast.

    If I'm trying to get a tune to play easy at say 200 (yeah I know that's dragging for some ) I'll work it at 210 til I start to get it - then back to 200 and wow - it seems easy.

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  13. #8

    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    I got this Sam Bush wig I put on, see.
    I don't know why, but it seems like all I needed.



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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    One question is how fast is fast enough. How fast do you have to learn it.

    Of course that depends on the music. My idea, however, is that I don't have to learn it faster than I intend to play it. Well ok, a little faster to allow for nerves and stage fright. But once I can play something faster than I will be playing for or with other people I stop working on speed with that piece and work on sounding pretty, playing expressively, maybe work on a better understanding of the relationship between the chords and the melody notes - whatever. But working faster, ever faster, seems to me to rob me - rob me of time to work on other aspects of musicianship, and rob me of some confidence when I keep experiencing my limits as I flub the tune when trying to play at 0.8X speed of light.

    My only point is that fast enough is fast enough and faster than fast enough is too fast. The right kind of audience is not impressed by playing too fast, and who cares what the wrong kind of audience thinks.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    Practice playing scales using tremolo,,

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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    There are 3 strokes to learn, not counting tremolo. Repetive strokes, same string, down stroke followed by upstroke on the string above, and downstroke followed by upstroke on string below. That will cover >95% of picking challenges. All songs are just an assembly of these patterns.

    So, if you can make those patterns smooth and fast, any song is just a fingering issue, which I think is much easier than right hand challenges.

    John Moore exercises at mandozine are a great place to start. The music is in the right hand.

    My $.02. Ymmv

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    Frm JeffD - "....but sometimes you have to play fast to play fast.". I always have to do that on faster tunes / songs or they loose their coherence for me. It's because as i said in my last post, i need to hear them in my head,& if i 'hear them fast',that's how i have to play them. I could never have learned how to play 'Foggy Mt.Breakdown' or 'Pike County Breakdown' by trying to slow them down - it simply doesn't work 'for me'. Other folk may be different & maybe,going back 53 years,if i'd had the means to slow tunes down,i might have done it,but somehow i doubt it. It's a ''physical ability' & IMHO,requires practicing as you want to do it,much like other physical activities,
    Ivan
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    Without speed, it's harder or impossible to participate fully in the open jams in my area.

    Without the need for speed - I would feel pretty darn good about how far I've come in 3 years.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Wilson View Post
    Without speed, it's harder or impossible to participate fully in the open jams in my area.
    I know the type. And I avoid them as much as I can. We have some speed demons in our jam, and one fellow who sits out anything that is not a hot and fast tune.

    I tolerate them, and then when I start a tune I play what I want, and its often stuff that sounds best at moderate or even down right slow speeds.

    Also if and when things get kind of out of hand speed wise, I make little quips like, "next time up to speed ok?" or, "not fast enough, I can still recognize the tune". All in good fun.

    I can get away with this because I have been playing with these folks for many years.

    There have to be others in your predicament. Recruit them and start your own jam, once or twice a month, at your house, for folks who want to play at moderate speeds and really dig in and learn the tunes. You could even make it kind of fun, like calling it the slow jam and serving sloe gin drinks. And have a facebook or other media site with pictures, with all the faces blacked out like witness protection, so nobody need know who is attending.

    Keep in mind also, if there are fiddles and banjos in your jam - fiddle can play faster than mandolin. Its just a mechanical fact. Stopping a string takes less force than bending it over a fret. And banjo players can pick faster because they have more picks in the fray.

    Also I think there is a competitive culture among mandolinners, especially in bluegrass. I may be wrong, but it seems like sail boats on the late, if there are two boats the race is on, and all I have to do is play faster than you.

    I hate that competitive aspect, and if I feel it predominates, I just leave. I have walked away from many jams for just this reason.


    Without the need for speed - I would feel pretty darn good about how far I've come in 3 years.
    Feel good about how far you have come. The heck with 'em.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    Disagree, a mandolin can play as fast as any other instrument in the hands of someone that is capable. Don't see that speed is the mark of excellence and it's not speed that makes BG or any other music better but a mandolin is not limited in any way except the man or woman playing it. My mandolins are very limited.

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    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    I agree with Mandoplum, I saw Bob Munden (rip) shoot a balloon at 450 yards with a colt .45 auto, and his words were, " Any tool is only as capable as the person using it" ...

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Keep in mind also, if there are fiddles and banjos in your jam - fiddle can play faster than mandolin. Its just a mechanical fact. Stopping a string takes less force than bending it over a fret. And banjo players can pick faster because they have more picks in the fray.
    I agree with this. Fiddlers even have the option of slurring notes with a single bow stroke, which removes separate hand coordination from the picture. Banjo players (Bluegrass 5-string) are using more fingers than a single pick.

    In other genres than Bluegrass like Irish/Scottish trad, you have even speedier instruments like whistles, flutes, and pipes, with the tremendous advantage of one-finger-per-note instead of coordinating two actions to form a note. In Irish pub sessions, it's often the whistlers that run away with the tempo just because it's so easy to flutter your fingers where each action is a note, instead of coordinating two things to form a note.

    I think one has to play some of these other instruments to understand this. I've been struggling through the early years of learning Irish flute lately. Once I have a tune under my fingers, I can play it faster and more fluidly on flute than I can on mandolin, just because it's one finger per note. I'm no speed demon on mandolin, but I'm not too shabby either. It's just easier on the flute.

    The mandolin has other strengths, which is why I still play it. I can't play a partial chord here and there to help shape the tune on a flute! But if you want to hang with players of instruments like fiddles that have some speed advantages, well it just means you have to work a little harder on woodshedding your technique.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    Disagree, a mandolin can play as fast as any other instrument in the hands of someone that is capable.
    I agree with this. Spend enough time and you can get there. But I also think it's important to recognize these inherent differences in musical instruments.

    That's just how it is. A fretted instrument like mandolin has a gentle learning curve, especially if you have any past history with guitar. Some of these other instruments like fiddle and flute have a much steeper learning curve, but at the back end of that curve you get easier access to fast playing, due to the nature of the instrument.

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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    From Mandoplumb - "Don't see that speed is the mark of excellence ....".You're correct it isn't. Speed is just like a car gear box,you use the gear appropriate for the driving conditions. Personally,i don't like really fast tunes /songs & much prefer medium tempo tunes to pick along to when practicing.That way i can 'think around' the melody line & put my own bits in.

    From foldedpath - "Banjo players (Bluegrass 5-string) are using more fingers than a single pick.". On the other hand,mandolin & guitar players pick 'up & down' on the strings whereas banjo pickers only pick 'upwards' - it's a compensation of sorts,
    Ivan
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    Once again, from the lovely and talented Butch Baldassari:

    There are plenty of guys who pick faster than me.

    But since you asked (this from Tony Rice):

    Play the same note, same string, but with a different finger each time. Works wonders.

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  31. #20
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    Disagree, a mandolin can play as fast as any other instrument in the hands of someone that is capable.
    Oh I agree 100%. What I mean is that the amount of effort and capability for a mandolin to play as fast as a fiddle, is more than for the same speed on the fiddle. One can do it, its just a higher bar. Fiddlers have their own encumbrances, absolutely, and the fiddle is as much more difficult instrument over all, but in terms of playing notes fast, the fiddle has some mechanical advantages. It takes more effort to go that fast on the mandolin.

    Don't see that speed is the mark of excellence and it's not speed that makes BG or any other music better..
    I agree. I think there is a right speed, or range of speeds, for tune, and significantly faster than that just doesn't sound good.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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  33. #21
    Down the road I go Trav'linmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    Thanks for all the replies and suggestions. This newbie is working on getting my speed up. Along with all of the other things I want to learn. Since I spend much of my free time on playing I feel like I should be able to play the mandolin correctly. I also don't stay in one genre, but cross the line (oh the horror) into music that sounds great at slower pace. Most importantly, I am having fun. Thanks again for the advice.

    Larry

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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    I've found Chris Thiele's arpeggio exercises from his homespun dvd really helped me build speed and learn the fretboard well.

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  36. #23
    Mandol'Aisne Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    What 22 replies and NO ONE has mentioned Mike Marshall's Finger Busters?
    Employ those exercises with a metronome and gently increase tempo as you get comfortable with the movements.

    best,
    Daniel

  37. #24
    Registered User deadend3's Avatar
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    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    Thanks for all the advice and resources listed here!

  38. #25

    Default Re: Speed Exercises

    I've never been a fan of exercises because my practice time is so limited I want to spend all my time on actual songs. My speed has increased nicely over the last two years by learning fast tunes, and then playing them fast.

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