Stuck with how to improve with a few pieces of music.

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Phil3822, May 18, 2015.

  1. Phil3822

    Phil3822 Member

    Hi all, I play for 2 bands and have recently moved up to the front row 4th seat in one of the bands. All is going well and I am enjoying it very much. There are a few pieces being played this year which I struggle a little with. Mostly rhythm and speed. If I play it myself it's not too bad although a little rough however the band play it much faster. Due to attendance my 4th seat sometimes looks like 2nd.

    In short I need to be able to play faster, both read music to fingers and mouth etc.

    The band does not play complex things generally and a couple I struggle with are:

    Great Western Themes (After the first few bars I find this difficult. The melodies are easy enough though.)
    An American Trilogy ( 4 bars into F if looking at the Goff Richards arrangements.)

    I do have a teacher who does help however I am wondering if there is something else I have missed other than having a slow brain. I admit to being impatient but so far I have been practicing the difficult bits to get the rhythm and try and increase speed. I wondered if there were any fundamentals I was missing. I just struggle to read music fast enough I guess.

    You have always been helpful in the past so many thanks.
  2. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Member

    An interesting and honest post.
    As a teacher (without knowing your playing personally) I would say it's a case of learning the difficult passages slowly and then gradually building up speed.
    As an MD (of a community band) I realise that the above doesn't help in rehearsals - what you need to do is to be able to work out what you CAN play, maybe have your own, private, simplified version. Not all players can have great, fast, technique - I frequently suggest "cheats" to my front row (all of whom have their strengths and weaknesses). Your teacher and MD should be able to help with this.
    The most important thing is that you are enjoying your playing and striving to improve - don't be too hard on yourself.
    Good luck.
  3. Phil3822

    Phil3822 Member

    Thanks Andrew for your post. I am practicing them slowly and trying to build up so pleased I am heading in the right direction. I have never however practiced techniques or skills as part of lessons or playing so was thinking I was missing something. I have only ever practiced actual pieces, not even done much with scales etc. I have Arbans cornet method however this is the only book I have of its kind. Not got round to using it as I lack a bit of direction and have been happy practicing pieces until now.

    I am hard on myself but keen to improve so the only way is to be honest with myself and those I am asking for assistance or advice from. Kind regards.
  4. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    There are two approaches to cracking the difficult bits that I've read about:
    1) Howard Snell recommends starting by taking the phrase and playing it all on one note, but with the right rhythm and speed. Then, gradually, add in a correct note each time you play it through.
    2) Claude Gordon, amongst others, recommends starting with the last note of the difficult phrase, and play it four times; then add the second last note and playing it til you get it right four times in a row; then add the third last note, and the fourth, and fifth and so on backwards through the phrase until you get it off. The thinking behind this is that when you practice if frontways, you are getting less confident as you progress towards the end of the phrase because after all the false starts you've learned the first bit best, but when you practice backwards, you are more confident as you go through it because you've rehearsed the last bit umpteen times
    Last edited: May 18, 2015
  5. Graeme Euphonium

    Graeme Euphonium New Member

    Practise at a slow speed you can manage. Set a metronome at that tempo then you have a reference to work from. Slowly and gradually increase the tempo using the metronome, mark where you get to, and over time increase the tempo. That works for me but looks like you have some other good Ideas posted to you as well.
  6. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Member

    Excellent practice techniques here
  7. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    In my experience, most fast bits are based on scales and/or arpeggios. If you practice your scales, building up speed as you do so and using false as well as standard fingering until you can play fluently with either (or both) you will, eventually, be able to play almost anything. But - and it is a HUGE but - it will take time and hours of practice. If you break down the hard bits into pieces and practice them separately, you will find that there are (usually) patterns in there that repeat themselves. Once you recognise those patterns it becomes easier.

    Rhythm is a whole other issue. The idea above about practising the rhythms on one note is a good suggestion. If necessary, I would mark the notes that fall ON the beat to give you something to aim for. Knowing - and feeling - where the ons and offs are makes getting the rhythm right much, much easier.
  8. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    I have on occasions put a tricky section into a notation package, there are some free ones about, so that I could hear the correct rhythm and notes.

    Gives those of us that aren't great musicians something to aim at.
  9. Graeme Euphonium

    Graeme Euphonium New Member

    Sounds like more good advice. Steve do you have a web link to a notation package please.
  10. Feel My Rath

    Feel My Rath Member

    I'd go with the start slowly and try to build up the speed and fluidity technique. For the last few years I've been teaching myslef to play the piano (badly) and I've found this technique works best for me with that. It's called muscle memory, whereby your brain will store frequently practiced motor tasks and be able to repeat them without even thinking about it. It got me through playing piano for a friends wedding ceremony without too many hiccups!
  11. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    I use the metronome technique as well, though, returning to Howard Snell, he's not a massive fan (he doesn't like electronic tuners either!). I seem to recall that he recommends using variable speed in difficult passages, because he believes that the most important thing is that once you begin the phrase/section that you finish it; so, you start off at tempo and slow down to a speed that you can manage where you need to, but, by hook or by crook you must get to the end...I think he wants to get students out of the habit of starting and then stopping as soon as they split or mispitch a note since that is not how a performance is going to be!

    Another good tip for small difficult phrases is that you can download metronomes for your smartphone that are free and which have a feature whereby you can set the metronome to speed up by one increment every 8 bars (or whatever you want) and then you just play the phrase over and over. So for an 8 bar phrase, you might set the metronome to speed up every 10 bars - giving yourself one bar to count-in, one rest bar at the end, and then another count-in bar at the new speed. I found this quite good.
  12. Sid the Cornet

    Sid the Cornet New Member

    I know its not to everyone's taste, but I use the App Anytune Pro. Load the music in (assuming its available), slow the speed down to a manageable speed and loop the part I need to learn. It has a step feature and speeds up as required. Helps me no end, but as I say, the piece needs to be available to do this. I also use this to practice slow melodies against a top performer along with their band.
  13. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    Sometimes the exercise of entering the notes, and correct rhythms, is enough to help.
    I'm not very quick with entering the data so, in effect, I have slowed it down to a speed i can follow - that gets the rhythm sorted
    Last edited: May 19, 2015
  14. Phil3822

    Phil3822 Member

    Hi all, really helpful posts with thanks. I had thought earlier about some notation software to help with rhythm and how things are meant to go. I had put a post up asking about programs that could scan music in. I would love to option to input/scan a piece of sheet music and sound how it is meant to be. This would help me greatly for practice and allow me to structure breaking it down. Finding a suitable program seems difficult though.
  15. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Member

    Can you get another player at your band - or your teacher to record the passages ?
  16. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    A lot of very good advice here, and some I might take on board myself.
    So here is my little take on it and my experience.
    One thing you mentioned in your original or second post was the fact you think perhaps you are struggling at actually reading the music. That actually was and still is my problem. However with the use of previously mentioned notation programs, I accidentally found that it isn't the notes or the actual music, it is the fact that the faster and more complex parts are scrunched together in each bar on the printed part, and the real reason being my eyes struggle to differentiate what I am seeing. Strangely I didn't realise this until after dropping out of banding.
    However, by using a notation program, and specifically lengthening the bar so the notes themselves are spaced apart more, my eyes can work with that and makes playing it a lot easier.
    Might be something to have a go at yourself and see if that is a part of your struggles.
  17. Phil3822

    Phil3822 Member

    Many thanks all for the advice. I really appreciate it and this forums advice combined with my lessons and bandsmen local I should be sorted with the little areas I struggle with. It is nice to have the opportunity to ask the questions I forget about at lesson or get a different take on things etc. Again, thanks all.

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