Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hippos and Cheetahs

I originally posted this in 2010 but it seems to be coming up again a lot in lessons.  See at the bottom for additional thoughts..

When I'm working up challenging licks (such as those found in the Gottschalk Sonata which I'm premiering tomorrow) I can use a variety of strategies.Add Image

There's the old "notch by notch approach." You know, slow it down and then work it up bit by bit.

There's the variation "up three, down two." Start slow, move up three (old-fashioned) notches on the metronome and then down two."

The one I keep going back to might be called "hippos and cheetahs." Basically, I like to oscillate between hippo speed and cheetah speed.

In other words, play it nice and slow. Then, play it at the fast goal tempo.

Usually the best ratio is two cheetahs to one hippo.

Try it. Let me know if it works for you.

Additional thoughts..
As you try this practice technique, keep an eye on your tension levels.  I'm going to go with the theory that our friend the hippo is a pretty mellow dude.  So, as you play that very slow, mellow approach, maintain a "hippo" frame of mind.  Then, when you kick into "cheetah mode" be very mindful that the tension levels don't spike.
One other thought: it is best to apply this practice technique to small batches of notes instead of whole pieces or phrases.  Just a couple of measures in most cases.