Sports psychologists believe that there is an inverse relationship between speed and accuracy - that is, the faster you play, the less accurate you will be, and vice versa. However, if you’ve seen any world-class performer, you’ll agree that high speed and flawless accuracy are both attainable at the same time. The secret is in understanding how sequencing and coordination play a role in developing both aspects at the same time.
“The Train Method"
The Train Method involves dividing the music up into small rhythmic cells (anywhere from two notes to one measure). These cells are then practiced by playing the cell itself plus the first note from the very next cell. Think of the cell as a ‘train car’ and the additional note from the next cell as the ‘coupler’ which connects one train car to the next train car. Once two train cars are independently mastered, you may then practice them together as one larger train. Continue mastering new train cars, then adding them on, until the whole passage or piece is one long, giant train! Essentially, “train”ing helps the brain effectively sequence a long chain of notes.
“Need for Speed”
Once you’ve “train”ed the whole piece together, you are ready to work with a metronome. Choose an extremely slow tempo that allows you to play the entire passage with 100% accuracy and comfort. You want to feel completely in control of how coordinated the passage is, with no jerky motions, pauses, or hesitations. Once you’ve reached this level of mastery and comfort, you may then advance the metronome by one click. Aim for two to four clicks per practice session, until you reach the desired tempo.
“Rhythm-izing” the Passage
Eventually you may reach an upper limit of how fast you can go by using the “Need for Speed” method. This is due to a lack of reflexive coordination and can easily be trained by applying rhythms to your passage. Divide the music up into groups of two or three notes. Assign one note in the group to be held long while the other note(s) in the group should be played as quickly as possible. Once you feel completely comfortable playing the sequence, switch the placement of the held note, and repeat. By creating this reflexive response in the brain, you will be engaging a “domino effect” and be able to play much faster!