Tara asked, “Your Ballydesmond Polka lesson (Lower Octave) – 3rd quarter, 1st measure, there are 4 8th notes that you play so quickly (and make it look easy). You likely don’t expect beginners to play at this speed since your play-along track is a lot slower, but one day I do want to play it the same speed as you. 

I think practice is the only solution here, and my question is, what/how should I practice so I get to the same speed as you? 

I am not concerned about how long it takes me, I just want to make sure I’m doing all the right things.  

Here are some things I think might work, what do you think: 

  1. Stop and rock D3, A0, D3, D1, 1000 times 
  2. I’ve tried slurring all those notes and I can do it fairly well, but it doesn’t produce the same “fun ” sound as yours (and please confirm you are *not* slurring, correct?) 
  3. Play it slow, 1000 times or until it’s burned into left-hand muscle memory that I start to play it fast Are these good methods? Do you have any other suggestions?”

  • What are the hard parts? 
    • Identify and practice those. This will allow you to speed up the whole tune.
  • Practice just the string crossing from D to A string for a bit.
  • Practice the hard parts with a metronome. 
  • If you have never used a metronome before, I suggest you start playing open string notes with it instead of jumping into it tune.
    • That’s because it’s actually quite different difficult to play with a metronome.
    •  It is a skill that needs to be built from the ground up in the same way that you learn to play the instrument.
  • Play it slower and faster with a metronome.
  • Keep track of your fastest time on the hard parts. These should determine what speed you can play the whole tune. 
  • Work at your edge. What’s the fastest speed you can play it at without breaking down?

Further learning

How to tap your foot while playing

Will a metronome help my playing?

Metronome tracks

How can I improve my fast playing? 

This micro-lesson is an excerpt from an office hours webinar I gave on December 16, 2020. View the entire live-stream with indexed questions here.

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