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Thread: Building Speed with 16th Notes

  1. #1
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Building Speed with 16th Notes

    I'm interested in knowing, if you play a 2 octave G scale with 16th notes, what is the fastest speed you can play cleanly; i.e., quarter note equals what number? For clarification, each note is played 4 times (1 beat) before moving on to the next note.

    If you'd rather not share your own speed, what speed should I strive for? I'm currently working on 70.
    Last edited by Sherry Cadenhead; Oct-10-2020 at 5:50pm. Reason: Clarification

  2. #2
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Hey Sherry! Don Julin recommends a measured tremolo of 1/16th notes should be played 100 - 130 bpm on page 81 of his Mandolin for Dummies. This is an excellent book that I have read and reread for 8 or 9 years.

    Since you asked, my maximum speed while staying relaxed and pretty much tension free, is 126 bpm.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Thanks for posting this Sherry, I think it’s an important lesson. Here’s the quite well known now vid on tremolo.


    It’s an exercise I don’t do often enough, after about 25 minutes of practice this morning I can get it cleanly to 130.
    I find it quite easy to jump from 8ths to 16ths, and give more accent on one of the four notes, the difficult part for me is string changes, tone on the 1st an 2nd strings, and trying to dig into the strings the exact same amount each stroke. With the octave it’s much easier as the capo goes higher up the neck.

    As she says in the vid, there is a wall that you have to get through by using a different technique. Took me four days of full time work to get through that. Once you’re through though you wonder why it was so hard!
    It’s one of those, ‘if they can do it, then I can do it’ things. Good luck!

    (I did actually get it at the end of the first day of trying, but lost it again! -it’s just practice )

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  6. #4
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Thanks for the replies. I didn't intend for this post to be about tremolo; however, I can see how it might be interpreted that way. More and more I'm working on pieces with 16th notes. I figured I may as well use scales to build up my speed, but I don't have a target speed to shoot for. That's really all I was looking for. It seems I can do a fairly decent job of playing a 2 octave G scale (closed position moving from high to low notes) at 100 bpm using tremolo.

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    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    For a lot of folk dance tunes, one wants to be up around 120 bpm 16th notes for a dance, so there's a sort of target. Being able to play above that makes 120 feel easier. For me, practicing with a metronome and not tensing up are what helped/helps me build up speed. Get it clean, relaxed and smooth at one speed and then increase the speed a bit, maybe 3-5 bpm, and just work your way up.
    -Dave
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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Sheets View Post
    For a lot of folk dance tunes, one wants to be up around 120 bpm 16th notes for a dance, so there's a sort of target. Being able to play above that makes 120 feel easier. For me, practicing with a metronome and not tensing up are what helped/helps me build up speed. Get it clean, relaxed and smooth at one speed and then increase the speed a bit, maybe 3-5 bpm, and just work your way up.
    Thanks, Dave. This what I'm looking for. My metronome is always going and I do gradually increase my speed. Relaxing is challenging, but I'm working on it. I'm also challenged rhythmically. Another scale pattern I'm working on is an 8th note followed by 2 16th notes (1&a, 2&a, etc.).

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    For building up right-hand speed (non-tremolo), you might have more fun -- and possibly greater success -- by learning some fiddle tunes, then playing these ever-faster, rather than practicing scales (boring!). You live in Texas, right?! There are lots of great Texas-style fiddle tunes to choose from!

  10. #8
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Yep, the fiddle tune suggestion is a good one! Turn on the metronome and rip away on a fiddle tune.
    -Dave
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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Also, beware of overlooking the tremolo suggestion, Sherry. Playing a clean tremolo is playing fast, so if you can tremolo smoothly and slow it down a bit, and get your left hand in sync fingering the melody, you can accomplish your goal.
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Yes, agreed, it can help to narrow the technique, and get through the wall. Basically, your top tremolo speed is probably your top possible speed for tunes.

    Another trick, connected to Mark’s suggestion about coordination is to use an electric mandolin or use a standard one with amplification and then practice precise metronomed, ever increasing gentle hammer ons with the left hand, all fingers. FFcP. Ten minutes at a time or until your fingers get too tired. No right hand at all during this exercise.

    They have to be really precise in timing (and also the middle finger positioning) so that as your speed gets up to the wall, you just jump straight through.

    Then it’s thinking the two hands moving precisely together, really consciously thinking about it. Then the foot tapping and the rest of your body. (Seriously).
    Last edited by Simon DS; Oct-14-2020 at 12:51am.

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  15. #11
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    For building up right-hand speed (non-tremolo), you might have more fun -- and possibly greater success -- by learning some fiddle tunes, then playing these ever-faster, rather than practicing scales (boring!). You live in Texas, right?! There are lots of great Texas-style fiddle tunes to choose from!
    I've never known exactly what a "fiddle tune" is. Google gave me a fiddle tune archive, which I've downloaded to my phone. Some of these I've played off and on. So, is it important to memorize these?

  16. #12
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    Also, beware of overlooking the tremolo suggestion, Sherry. Playing a clean tremolo is playing fast, so if you can tremolo smoothly and slow it down a bit, and get your left hand in sync fingering the melody, you can accomplish your goal.
    So, is there a distinction between playing 16th notes exclusively and tremolo, other than speed, maybe? I've never struggled much with tremolo. My greater challenge is 8th, 16th note combinations. I'm getting away from the original question, but am satisfied that has been answered.

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    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    So, is there a distinction between playing 16th notes exclusively and tremolo, other than speed, maybe? I've never struggled much with tremolo. My greater challenge is 8th, 16th note combinations. I'm getting away from the original question, but am satisfied that has been answered.
    My understanding is: there are two types of tremolo, measured and unmeasured. Measured is metronomic with a specific number of notes per beat while unmeasured is "by feel", increasing and decreasing the rate as an expression of emotion and intensity. The measured tremolo would be played to a specific bpm but the unmeasured would not.

  18. #14
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    I've never known exactly what a "fiddle tune" is. Google gave me a fiddle tune archive, which I've downloaded to my phone. Some of these I've played off and on. So, is it important to memorize these?
    In my opinion, it would only important to memorize fiddle tune or any music for that matter if it's important to you to do so. If you plan on jamming with others playing fiddle tunes, I think it is very important to memorize the tunes. First you have to decide if you have any personal favorites, then the burden of learning will be on the people you jam with. Conversely if you know what tunes are your jam mates favorites, then the burden is on you to learn those tunes. Personally, I don't think I've learned a tune until I've memorized the basic melody / chords and be able to hum the melody to myself.

  19. #15

    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    My answer to the original question is it depends...I play scale and arpeggio exercises as fast as I can cleanly that means sometimes 70 and others at 110.

    Here’s a video Chris Henry made a few years ago, now he plays at a non-human rate of speed but watch the video and give it a try. I do this most days as a warm up or even when I’m a little bored and just want to put some time in on the mando (not all 32 but the common keys of G, C, D, A) and have seen improvement over time.



    As to learning fiddle tunes I agree with Jon, if it’s something you’re going to be doing with others at jams learn the common ones and personal favs and the ones played often at the jams you attend. I think there is great value in learning these, each one has techniques that can be absorbed thru learning and repetition, and it will reinforce 16th note speed. I liken it to any other skill deemed worthy of learning...one can always improve.

    The way I approach learning one is mostly by ear tho’ I consult paper now and again. I listen and decide if I like it, then I listen to the point I can hum thru it pretty well, if I haven’t figured out the chords I’ll look them up and then play rhythm along while humming the song in my head, then I may try a break of my own. There is no rule that says you have to play it exactly the way the version you heard and liked, I would recommend sticking close to the melody though, change 16th notes to 8ths if it’s too fast then add them back when you get better. The song of the week social club is a great place to start, I have learned alot from our fellow Cafe members.

    It’s hard by ear at first so go easy on yourself, it gets easier as you do it more. If you need the TAB/notes no sweat, get it and highlight the notes on the downbeats and play those along to a recording, over time you will add in more notes and gain speed.
    Northfield F5M #268, AT02 #7

  20. #16
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    I envy those of you who can play hours on end. I get one hour each day I don't have a lesson. As to jamming, I hope to visit a local group soon. If you've seen some of my other recent posts, you know I'm working on multiple things. Basically, there's too much to do and too little time. Still enjoying myself, though.

  21. #17

    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Yep, any excuse to post this one.
    If you put the YouTube setting on 50% speed then you may notice that Mike Comptonís using downstokes for the eighths, and itís already really fast,.
    The triplets are pretty cool, not sure if they are triplets or sixteenths, there is a fair amount of variable swing in this tune.



    https://youtu.be/3l33fYfgIzs

    -just to add that each set of four eighths (or sixteenths) can be remembered like a right hand alphabet.

    For example:
    pick down on the higher string,
    up on the lower string,
    down on the high string,
    and finally up on the lower string,
    is a Ďletterí, a pattern that you can learn at tremolo speed. Like clustering.
    There arenít many of these patterns to learn but there are some that rarely turn up in tunes. These are the ones to practice because they smooth out the right hand.

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  23. #18

    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    I envy those of you who can play hours on end. I get one hour each day I don't have a lesson. As to jamming, I hope to visit a local group soon. If you've seen some of my other recent posts, you know I'm working on multiple things. Basically, there's too much to do and too little time. Still enjoying myself, though.
    Hours on end of practice is not required to advance, practicing exercises in small segments is still practicing and sometimes just play and have fun, it doesnt have to be all practice all the time. A huge part of learning/practicing is listening and you can do that in the car, on a walk, etc. So many people put enormous pressure on themselves, as long as you are having fun that’s all that matters.
    Northfield F5M #268, AT02 #7

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  25. #19
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Sherry, I agree with bigskygirl; there's a lot to be gained by listening or even thinking about music. I'm acquainted with some of your musical tastes. You might enjoy and be inspired by Peter Ostroushko's album The Mando Chronicles.

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  27. #20
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Hall View Post
    Sherry, I agree with bigskygirl; there's a lot to be gained by listening or even thinking about music. I'm acquainted with some of your musical tastes. You might enjoy and be inspired by Peter Ostroushko's album The Mando Chronicles.
    Thanks so much, Jon. This album is available with my Pandora subscription - and I've started listening.

  28. #21
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Is it weird that playing 16th notes at 100 or more bpm is easier than playing at 70 or 80? I tend to want to hesitate slightly after that 4th note when playing at the lower speeds.

  29. #22

    Default Re: Building Speed with 16th Notes

    Could try clusters of 3-6 notes and a five to ten second hesitation in between with continuous metronome during the rest time?
    Another one (I think) is to get a clear idea (as a discipline) that rhythm is set by emphasis or accent on certain notes not by hesitation nor by slowing/speeding tempo -well, at least until youíre playing is really solid at speed, then itís let rip!


    I should add that Iíve been using this vid for 6/8 timing (it has a slight hesitation compared with Ďstandardí 2:1 timing for 6/8) and I feel itís helped me to lift my fingers off very slightly earlier than before. This can also help with clean fast tempo.

    (With YouTube at X1.5)

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