playing in tempo (important) what is the reason?

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    mr-s on #151083

    hello, playing in tempo is the most challanging thing for some harpists or all i dont know exactly, and its very important to play the music in tempo as wriiten by the composer, but what is the reason in your opinion when the harpist is unable to play it in the exact written tempo, is it a matter of training fingers and muscles or it just that the player is not ready yet to play the music because of his technical level , so what do you think? lets discuss that………….


    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #151084

    In order to get a piece up to the correct speed, you need strength, endurance, agility, and good fingering strategies. These things take time to develop, though some lucky people are stronger and faster to start with. Practising etudes and technical exercises every day, watching carefully for inefficient habits, will help enormously. If you practice a section slowly, relaxing between every note, that will help you build tone and finger independence, and then you can take a tiny segment of the phrase and play it as fast as you can, to get the fingers accustomed to going quickly. When starting to learn a new piece or orchestra part, check the tempo and try out the fingerings at the correct speed to make sure that they are appropriate. It’s easier to play faster after you have memorized a piece, and easier again after you have had it in your repertoire for some time. There! That’s my two cents’ worth!

    sherry-lenox on #151085

    Several of us have spoken of the phenomenon of encouraging students to play everything as fast as possible, whether that decision is musically the best or not.

    This stress on speed puts pressure on those who could play pieces a bit slower.

    Another point that I have found interesting is that the composer’s choice of tempo, or even the composer’s interpretation of his or her own work, may be less acceptable to the era in which the piece is being performed than when the piece was composed.

    Finally, there can be limits to the particular performer’s technical facility that prevent the playing of a piece in the composer’s stated tempo.

    I bet we have all heard familiar pieces and thought “That’s too fast” or “That’s too slow”. Part of the job of the performer is to make music attractive and convincing if deviating from typical expectations concerning tempo.

    Interesting subject!

    carl-swanson on #151086

    Here are a few thoughts on playing fast.

    I don’t think that learning to play fast should be done on repertoire. It should be done on scales, etudes, and exercises. If for example you want to play the Handel B flat concerto, in which the 16th notes in the first movement are played at about 4 notes to a beat at 88 on the metronome, and you have never played that fast before, then you should work on scales until you can play them at 110 to the beat(4 notes to the beat) at a minimum. This will put the 16th notes in the Handel well within the range of what you can do speed wise, rather than being at the upper limit of your ability.

    Learning to play a fast piece requires different practice techniques than learning something that will be played at a slow tempo. In her brilliant little book, SCIENTIFIC PRACTICE, Jane Weidensaul talks about various practice strategies. One of the most effective for learning fast pieces is to practice the piece right up to tempo, but only one, two, or three beats at a time. When a short section like that is learned, then do the next section of a few beats, again at full tempo. When that one is learned, then connect the two sections together that you have learned. Keep working through the piece, practicing very short sections at full tempo, and then connect them to what has been previously learned.

    The traditional way of practicing slow(or loud and slow in some circles) is not very effective for learning pieces that are ultimately going to be fast. The reason is that playing fast requires extreme efficiency of movement that slow playing does not. So if you practice a fast piece slowly, and then speed it up gradually, you will have to change what you learned as it gets faster and faster, getting rid of inefficient movement, changing fingerings that worked at a slow tempo but won’t work at a fast one, shortening finger articulation, etc. Practicing a fast piece up to full speed, or at least very near full speed, right from the start will force you to make your movements as efficient as possible right from the start, and will point out bad fingerings immediately saving you the time of ‘relearning’ the piece as you bring it up to speed from a slow tempo.

    As far as the final speed of a fast piece is concerned, I think there is a range within which the piece can be played. A minimum and a maximum tempo. The one you ultimately choose depends on your particular interpretation of the piece. As a student many years ago, I was a slave to metronome markings put there by the composer or transcriber, and considered myself hopelessly inadequate if I could not achieve the tempo indicated. Now I let the piece I’m working on find it’s own tempo. When it sounds ‘right’ to me, then that’s my tempo. I’ll occasionally check my tempo against the one on the music. If it’s an original piece by Tournier, my tempo is nearly always exactly the same as the one he indicated. If it’s a transcription by Salzedo, Grandjany, or Renie, my tempo is nearly always slower than what they indicated. The reason, as explained to me by Dan Pinkham, is that composers and arrangers are almost always taking the metronome speed while hearing the music in their head and not from live performance. Dan said that we always hear music in our head faster than we would play it.

    So make sure that you can play basic technical exercises(scales, etc.) considerably faster than the piece you want to learn, make sure your practice techniques are working for you and not against you, and let the piece find a tempo based on how you choose to interpret it.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #151087

    I should add one more thing: when you are part of an orchestra, you have no choice about the tempi. A large part of the job is finding ways to go ridiculously fast when the part was written with no understandiong of the instrument and was meant to go at a slower tempo anyway. I have learned to practice everything at least two metronome markings faster than what is indicated, and even then sometimes it’s not fast enough. That’s when you have to have to go to Plan B and have an edited version up your sleeve.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #151088

    I pretty much disagree with Weidensaul’s approach and never found her practicing tips very helpful. I also didn’t observe great results from them, either.

    There is no one, correct tempo for a piece. What the composer indicates is usually an intellectual ideal, unless they are a harpist. The best tempo is the one that is the most musical for the harpist to play the piece in. Ideally, it will be close to the composer’s tempo, either slower or faster. Giving specific metronome settings is a fairly recent phenomenon, and not as musical as a verbal instruction.

    Doing exercises is important, and I feel they must be practiced in four-to-six tempi. I will take one exercise from Salzedo’s Conditioning Exercises, especially number one, and do it as one note to the beat, then two, then three, then four, then six, then eight. One needs to be able to play quickly as possible in a slow tempo to increase finger speed, and to play slowly as possible in a faster tempo to improve tone and control. The Salzedo approach traditionally was to practice slow and strong to build strength and muscle memory, then to go fast and light, and eventually blend the two together. That works quite well. Chalifoux taught me to play as if in a faster tempo, just with more time between the notes, then to gradually eliminate the time.

    Only doing slow practice or fast practice will cause thickening of the muscles and stiff playing in my experience. One needs to be as loose as possible yet controlled. I have been able to develop nearly as much speed as any other harpist, despite having fibromyalgia, using these techniques. I was able to play “Flight” at 152 in performance. It took a long time, but I got there.

    Tempo has as much to do with musical control and understanding as it does technique and strength. Understanding the concept of tempo and especially tempo rubato requires much study of music, and how it can be done on the harp, which is different. My ballet teacher used to tell me I cannot leap higher than I can land neatly, and it applies to music as well. You cannot play faster than you can control the musical flow.

    That relates to expression. What I have been thinking lately is that, although many people want to play music to express themselves, that is not good playing. Good playing is when you use your abilities to express what is in the music, what the composer put there. You have to put yourself out of the picture, strip away the ego layers which are superficial, to uncover the deeper picture. When you are completely aware of how the notes relate to each other and how the phrases are shaped, then you can manipulate the tempo by small degrees to enhance the expression of the shapes. It is more satisfying, but more significantly, you are expressing a much deeper part of yourself than when you play something as you “feel it.”

    For example, in Debussy’s Arabesque no. 1, it is easy to imagine a young harpist wanting to speed up and slow down with the arc of each arabesque phrase. That would not be what is in the music. But over the whole introduction, that you could do once you can control it. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of listening to music in general.

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