I recently wrote about how to play the piano faster, but today, let’s focus on the opposite extreme – playing slowly.
Spoiler: In the post about playing faster, it says you have to practice slowly in order to play faster!
Slow practice is so, so, so important for pianists. I’ve actually written about it before, but it’s such an important topic that it deserves another post.
If you hear your child practicing at home and it seems too fast, it probably is too fast.
When kids are playing to fast, they make a lot of mistakes, they have to start and stop frequently and their music lacks continuity.
Or, if their song is well-learned, it’s common that they will start playing it faster and faster. It’s going well and it feels easy, so in the moment it starts speeding up.
Then, 2 things can happen:
- It starts getting really messy and eventually it falls apart.
- They can play it fast, but they are barely holding it together.
In both of these cases, the only thing that will save their music is to slow down and practice more slowly and deliberately.
Another scenario is that your child can play the music really fast and really well, but it’s much faster than how the music actually goes.
If the song they are playing has words, think about if someone could realistically sing the words as fast as they are playing.
If it doesn’t have words, it might just sound really rushed. Imagine if your child were trying to tell a story through their music, would you be able to understand what it’s about?
It’s pretty likely that your child needs reminders to slow down while they are practicing, either to fix mistakes or to make their music sound more musical and coherent.
And, your child may or may not like you getting involved. But, on behalf of piano teachers everywhere, you can tell your child that their piano teacher wants to them to slow down. We’ll take responsibility for this nagging request!
If you’re responsible for your own practicing, you may not have voices in your house giving you reminders to practice and how to practice.
I notice that a lot of my intermediate and advanced students put too much focus on playing at tempo too soon.
I think many people assume they need to play fast for their piano teacher. It’s probably a combination of an adrenaline rush at their lesson and a (conscious or unconscious) desire to please the teacher.
But, as a piano teacher, I can promise you that we would much rather hear your piece played slowly and well instead of fast and messy.
When I’m listening to a student’s progress from the week, I want to make sure they have learned the correct notes and rhythms, first. I also want to see that they are observing all of the musical components of the piece, such as dynamics, expression marks, stylization, etc. And, I really want to hear continuity in music. I’d rather hear slow, consistent music rather than music that is fast and messy.
Then, once all of the details are we can start talking about working towards the final tempo. But, this is usually one of the last steps of the process. There is so much that needs to happen before we’re ready to move on to faster playing.
So, here’s your friendly reminder:
Your piano teacher wants you to slow down!
Parents, tell your kids. Adults and teens, remind yourself of this as your practicing. Make a sign so you don’t forget!