In order to play things at higher speeds we have to make the movements automatic.

The first step in this process is to make sure the movements are technically correct – playing with the tips of the fingers, using the correct down and up strokes etc ..

Then the usual process of repeating the movement to make it automatic – 12 repetitions, mistakes around the 6th repetition, pushing through with focus and eventually we’ve got it trained into the basal ganglion.

From then on the movement should be automatic.  At that point the only restriction on the speed you can play at is how good your technique is and your dexterity.  Dexterity is just a matter of properly conditioned and coordinated muscles.

What speed is automatic

Humans can only consciously process up to a maximum of around 6.6 notes per second.  Above that speed the only way to play this is by trained reflex.  So this is a useful guage to aim for.  You can practise things consciously, but then you have to switch up over that 6.6/second.  From that speed on its really a different process of practice – it becomes all about timing the coordination and timing the chunks of reflexes.

So here’s a list of tempi and note lengths to use as a guide for practising for higher speed playing.

6.6/s  is 396/minute

So that’s

  • quavers at 198 bpm
  • triplet at 132 bpm
  • semiquaver at 99 bpm
  • sextuplet at 66 bpm
  • quintuplets at 79.2 bpm

If you’re playing slower than that you should be able to think about what you’re doing for all the notes.  Above that speed you have to do chunking.