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Thread: How do you speed up the left hand?

  1. #1

    Default How do you speed up the left hand?

    I can move the pick hand faster than the left. Any recommendations for speeding up the left?

  2. #2

    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Separately both Evan Marshall and Alan Bibey told me that practicing scales in thirds was the best technique for improving left hand dexterity and speed.

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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Technique …. keeping your fingers close to the strings. Relax and play without tension in your left hand. Knowledge …. know what you are playing so well that you don't think about playing ….. you just play. Practicing melodies arpeggios and scales until they become automatic and you are playing the music you hear in your head. A good setup on your mandolin so to play clearly requires a minimum of physical effort …. While a genius level player can make any instrument sound it's best. A quality instrument helps the rest of us sound better and play better. R/
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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Butch Baldassari: "There are plenty of guys who pick faster than me."

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    Registered User Bob Visentin's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Google "guitar speed burst".
    Here is one example.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kK3yH3WPb-A

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  10. #6

    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Weird as it seems, I find that taking a given piece of music, practicing it SLOWLY and focusing on cleanness of technique, results in me being able to play the piece markedly faster that I was capable of before.

    Similarly, in improv, playing EXACTLY what you "meant to say" (I'll try that phrasing rather than "what you are singing in your head" since the latter seems to bother so many folks) slowly and accurately, builds the improv chops up over time, and results in faster, BETTER, improv lines.

    My 2 cents

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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Not to be too snarky but the answer is the same as how do you get to Carnegie hall........practice, practice, practice.

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    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Being aware of any tension and relaxing while playing. The book The Inner Game of Music has been helpful. The book was recommended by Paul Glasse.

  15. #9

    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Denny Gies View Post
    Not to be too snarky but the answer is the same as how do you get to Carnegie hall........practice, practice, practice.
    I would think the OP is looking for something more specific, e.g., what should be practiced. Repetoire or technical exercises? What tune or what exercises?

    Relax and have more focused practice is a pretty empty vessel for me. Ymmv
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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    I think the speed burst exercise Bob linked to looks like a great place to start for an actual exercise.
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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Foundation:

    1. Ergonomics, whole body, relaxed with power available. A coach will help. Alexander technique.
    2. Aim directed movement. From index on 1st D or A, whichever is easier, slow shift to 2d fret. Right up against the fret. Minimum tension. Back to 1st. Smooth to 3rd fret. Etc. All the way up. Eventually things like 1st to 4th to 2d to 5th. Then you will know where you are going and how to efficiently get there.
    3. Across the fingerboard. "Pumping Nylon" has some good exercises.
    4. Only then, two finger exercises, in the same style, increasing the gaps jumped, staying relaxed.

    Only when you can do these things in slow motion with no wasted effect and total concentration can you maintain relaxation and accuracy at speed. Lots of other cool exercises I used to do.
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  19. #12

    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    perhaps you could post a video and people can see if it's a technique thing or what.

    assuming your mandolin is set up well and your technique is ok, then practice and time behind the box is all that's really left.

  20. #13
    Registered User Jairo Ramos Parra's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    I'm working with The Complete Mandolinist, by Marilynn Mair. It has a section devoted to the technique of the left hand: a lot of exercises with fingerings, etc...then a section dedicated to the right hand, and finally a section for the coordination of the two hands ... and many other things...working in all this I am sure that you will achieve the desired speed!

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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    I think we should distinguish between speeding up the left hand, and speeding up the playing.

    There are lots of "tricks" that allow one to play a phrase faster without needing to move the fingers faster. For example keeping the fingers down, not moving fingers you don't need to move, pivoting on one finger you keep down, and various ways of using alternate fingerings down a string and up the neck to get the same notes with less movement. A decent mandolin teacher can help. A guitar teacher who also teaches mandolin would be less effective here, but a violin teacher who also teaches mandolin would be good.

    Yes also one can speed up the fingers themselves, and I think that is done with practicing scales and arpeggios over and over an over and over and over ....

    IMO. YMMV.
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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    I've taken a metronome and started slow, then ratchet it up more and more, little-by-little until I just can't do it at all. I practice some little piece that I struggle with. It helps a little, and I usually don't notice until a while later that it did help. By that I mean that it seems hopeless during the practice and even a day later it still seems like nothing changed, but then there will come a day a week later or so when I'll realize that I actually did improve.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Good suggestions all from the posts above. One other I have noticed is that I stop looking at my left hand while playing. This way I have gradually been able to hit those notes in the higher positions without having to "see" where I am going.
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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Join a band that plays really fast, and drink enough to relax
    On a serious note, relax. Tension in the mechanics of playing reduces your speed limit. Don't look at what you're doing, as visual feedback happens after the fact. Pick a phrase of a song, and loop it until you know it completely, then hit the gas and go fast.
    Try playing fast and quiet, it will help reduce muscle tension, which might be part of your barrier.
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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    What MontanaMatt suggested is one big consideration though he said it in fun. What a few drinks do is loosen you " mind" or preconceived notion that you can't play that fast. Unfortunately it also messes up your reflexes to where you can't play that fast. Playing fast is 50% technique and 50% mental. The hard part is overcoming the mental block. IMHO

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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    What MontanaMatt suggested is one big consideration though he said it in fun. What a few drinks do is loosen you " mind" or preconceived notion that you can't play that fast. Unfortunately it also messes up your reflexes to where you can't play that fast. Playing fast is 50% technique and 50% mental. The hard part is overcoming the mental block. IMHO
    It also reduces your inhibitions and fears of the inevitable mistakes and flubs. One of the vital parts of progressing to the next level is developing "shock absorbers " to roll past the bumps of errors or timing slips, and keeping rolling through the song.
    Avoid stopping at the moment of a mistake while practicing, as that is a form of memory and you're setting your self up to stop there the next time. Playing with a band that keeps going will keep your momentum and forces you past any mistakes.
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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post
    I've taken a metronome and started slow, then ratchet it up more and more, little-by-little until I just can't do it at all. I practice some little piece that I struggle with. It helps a little, and I usually don't notice until a while later that it did help. By that I mean that it seems hopeless during the practice and even a day later it still seems like nothing changed, but then there will come a day a week later or so when I'll realize that I actually did improve.
    Here's a technique I developed on another instrument.

    Use a metronome and track it as follows:

    Find your slowest speed... IE: as slow as you can play it and still have it sound like music.
    Find your fastest speed: as fast as you can play it with minimum errors (I try to use no higher than 10%... but sometimes I cheat)
    Find the half way point between the two.

    Spend 5 minutes at your slowest speed (or 2 - 4 cycles of the piece that you are working on)
    5 minutes at your middle speed
    5 minutes at your fastest speed!

    Works great on short phrases or individual "licks"

    I've found a good starting point is 40 - 70 - 100.

    Push in BOTH directions. (yes, play SLOWER to play faster!)
    Writing down your MM markings is key to keeping yourself honest, as well as finding improvement!

    After all this I would often play as fast as I can... without the metronome... just for fun!

    :-)

    Carl

  32. #21

    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Good suggestions all from the posts above. One other I have noticed is that I stop looking at my left hand while playing. This way I have gradually been able to hit those notes in the higher positions without having to "see" where I am going.
    Try playing in the dark or with your eyes closed. I really think the key to playing the mandolin is being able to do it without looking. I've tried to help a lady at my jam by telling her to stop looking at her hands when she plays, that she should be able to pick each string and finger each fret without having to look at all. First position anyway. I admit I can't do anything out of first position without looking.

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    Registered User Toni Schula's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Visentin View Post
    Google "guitar speed burst".
    Here is one example.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kK3yH3WPb-A
    I just started to add this to my practice routine. It appears to be very promising, let's have a look again after a month or so.
    Last edited by Toni Schula; Dec-14-2018 at 12:02pm. Reason: added the quote, makes more sense with the quote ;-)

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  36. #23
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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    Ive read many good suggestions here. This particular one I can +1 too, as this has been my experience as well. However, I was likely reading this thread to begin with, bc I thought there's gotta be something I'm missing or something else I should be doing....thanks to all for the tips and OP for the asking!

  37. #24
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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    To emphasize an earlier point, watching a few videos of great players and you will see that often times their "playing speed" is not entirely "finger speed", but a whole lot of clever positioning that minimizes the finger motion altogether. Learning and recognizing how to do this is (for me) a life long process, but I find in many (most) cases it makes the "playing speed" far outstrip the "finger speed".

    Learning predominantly on my own I thought playing fast meant moving fingers fast. As I have learned, this is not even half of it.

    So when I come on a phrase that slows me down, I think like this: I say, "what is the trick here. Certainly I am not supposed to just move my fingers fast." And either with the help of my teacher, or more and more often on my own, I find a position that makes fingering the phrase almost trivial.

    So more and more what slows me down is sliding between positions. And even there I started out thinking "just practice sliding faster and faster" when I should have really emphasized "look for opportunities to slide while you are holding an open note", and other strategies like that.

    I used to think speed came with practice, and experience, and to an extent it does. But knowledge and trickery are as important if not more, and the end result of playing faster is the same.
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    Default Re: How do you speed up the left hand?

    When you hear someone's blisteringly fast break, often times you can see that they are playing out of a position that minimizes the finger movements needed to play that break. Getting the printed music of some of Sierra Hulls stuff really drove this home to me. Reading the standard notation and defaulting to first position was a crazy and cramp inducing way to play it. Reading the tab I was able to see how Sierra plays it, and woo hoo, she isn't doing nearly the "work" I was trying to do.
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