Sunday, 4 November 2012

Slow it down

I play the piano, badly now and averagely when I was a young music student. For some reason a got through quite a number of piano teachers and each of them implored me to ‘slow down!’ They strongly encouraged me to practise pieces at a much slower tempo than that indicated for performance. This especially related to the fast and intricate passages.

As you can imagine, for a teenager full of hormones and eager to show off during the fast and loud bits this was something of a frustration. As a result I found this type of slow practice very difficult to do, but when I did manage it my playing benefited immensely.

Now, as I struggle to regain some of my technique, I continue to find the rewards of slow practice to be great. This is particularly so when I am grappling with the intricacies of Bach fugues. When I play this music in slow motion I notice harmonies and subtleties that I would not have noticed otherwise, and as I gradually speed up my playing my mastery of the music (and its tricky passages!) is that much more assured.

Sometimes we can be so keen to attain our goals or find solutions that we rush headlong towards them, barely noticing the subtleties and complexities of the problems we are trying to address. Unexpected difficulties can then spring up before us, causing us to falter in our progress.   

Consciously and systematically slowing down and experiencing our problems in slow motion can help us better appreciate not only their nature but also the full extent of their challenges.

Develop the habit of dividing a problem into short segments or parts. Take your time as you look over them. Notice their intricacies and interrelations and how they develop and grow towards the overall problem. Pause and reflect before coming to any conclusions about what you have found. You will then be able to identify, develop and execute your approach to solving your problem that much more effectively than otherwise.

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