How to play fast passages without tension

Interesting article in The Strad by cellist Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi.
Although aimed mainly at bowed instrument players, a lot will apply to guitarists as well.

Everyone has the ability to play quickly, but it must be discovered and developed. It is not only a matter of moving quickly, but also of forming a sense of anticipation and the ability to think quickly.

More at The Strad

Slow down! Rachmaninoff’s Way

I have recently rediscovered the importance of having the right hand returning to a relaxed neutral position after each effort and also picked up Pepe Romero’s tips on playing picado, tremolo and rasgueado.
Very important information presented in a concise manner. (He is also sporting rather fetching shorts)

The following article in Practising the Piano really brings these ideas home. Extremely important for recovering focal dystonics who are retraining their hands!

If you’re serious about playing the piano, there’s no getting away from slow practice. It is a cornerstone of our work from the beginner stages right through to the advanced level, and a practice tool also used by professional pianists and seasoned virtuosos all the time. In this post, I aim to help you not only realise the importance of careful, accurate slow work but also to enjoy it fully!

I have noticed some folk think they should be beyond slow practice – that’s only something beginners do. Far from it! In Abram Chasins’ wonderful book Speaking of Pianists, the author describes a time he showed up for a lesson with Rachmaninov and overhead him practising – but so slowly that he didn’t recognise the piece at first. I know I have used this quotation before, but I am going to use it again because it speaks volumes about how a great pianist used ultra-slow practice for a work he was maintaining (not learning) to keep it spick and span:

Rachmaninov was a dedicated and driven perfectionist. He worked incessantly, with infinite patience. Once I had an appointment to spend an afternoon with him in Hollywood. Arriving at the designated hour of twelve, I heard an occasional piano sound as I approached the cottage. I stood outside the door, unable to believe my ears. Rachmaninov was practising Chopin’s etude in thirds, but at such a snail’s pace that it took me a while to recognise it be- cause so much time elapsed between one finger stroke and the next. Fascinated, I clocked this re- markable exhibition: twenty seconds per bar was his pace for almost an hour while I waited riveted to the spot, quite unable to ring the bell. Perhaps this way of developing and maintaining an unerring mechanism accounted for his bitter sarcasm toward colleagues who practised their programmes ‘once over lightly’ between concerts. (Chasins, Abram. 1967. Speaking of Pianists. New York: Knopf, 44.)”

Continue reading here….