The fastest way to play Fast …

There is some controversy about how to learn to play a passage fast. Should we not play the selection slowly and then, using our metronome, gradually increase the speed until we can reach that final tempo?

If you follow that procedure exclusively, you will spend most of your practice time playing at a speed other than your final tempo. But, as violinists, our finger and bow connections change substantially as we vary speeds … We need a method of preparation that focuses on the repetition of our exact movements at the final tempo.

Try the following method for this fast détaché.

If it works for you, add it to your practice toolbox.

Here is an excerpt from the famous Paganini Perpetuum Mobile.


Play through the above selection very slowly in mid-bow, using a tiny amount of bow.
You want to imitate the amount of bow you will use when you are playing it at fast speed.

Don’t worry, it may sound a bit scratchy and choked …

Keep the left hand fingers as close to the string as you can.


If you know the notes and the rhythm, that is the end of slow practice,

onward …


A.Set your metronome for the final speed you would love to play and follow the notation above. Play near the middle of the bow, tiny bows … left hand fingers close to the fingerboard.


B. Next step, same speed, tiny bows, lift and retake bow in rests.
Pay close attention to what happens in string crossings.


C. Same speed, add another group of 4. Listen carefully to intonation.


D. Same speed, add two more groups of 4 and rest.
Make sure this is feeling good before you go on …


E. Same speed, two measures, rest at the end.

You have it! Once we can play 2 measures/rest,
we can play 4 measures/rest, etcetera.

Remember to repeat many times from step A while
refining your sound, intonation and string crossings.

Keep in mind that you are always practicing at final tempo.


Online Violin Lessons

How to tackle those mistakes head on!

What do you do when you keep stumbling over that same difficult spot in your practice and you think you’ll just never ‘get it’? A teacher might help you solve the problem but … what if there is no one around except you?

You might take the time to analyze what the problem ‘may’ be.
But many times it is not a thinking problem, it is just a doing problem.

Try the following and see what happens.

  • First, go right to the exact spot of the problem. This will be your final destination. Start to play only that note or notes at the preferred speed in the right part of the bow until you are comfortable.
  • Now, back up and add just one note before the problem note or connection. Make both notes feel and sound good. Take care that you use the correct bowing! If you practice the wrong way, you won’t get the same results.
  • Time to add a few more notes before … always ending with your destination note. Continue this until you have worked your way back to the beginning of the phrase.

Graphically, it looks like this …


You may have to repeat these steps for the next few days.

It is easy to see that we are practicing that destination note many more times than the other notes. We are also reducing the anxiety travelling to our destination note by becoming very familiar with the territory, how it feels, how it sounds, how it looks on the page.

Always practice backwards from the mistake to the beginning of the journey. When we practice ‘from the mistake’ and add the connections ‘before the mistake’, we have a much better chance of success. Enjoy!

For more practice tips, visit

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Vivian Waters

Vivian Waters