How To Practise Fast Music For Smooth Even Playing

How to practise fast music for smooth even playingI find that when faced with technically challenging fast music, most students will attempt to learn it simply by playing it over and over again. Unfortunately this is not the most efficient method if your fumbling fingers are making a mess of things.

Today I’d like to share with you my secret weapon on how to practise fast music for smooth even playing.

This method was taught to me by my first flute teacher, and whenever I have been stuck with technically challenging passages, this technique 100% guarantees improvement! 

Altered Rhythms

Altering the rhythm in a tricky passage will help your fingers move faster, more even and with more confidence.

This works in several ways:

  • You are forced to think about something else other than the notes
  • You are forced to play some notes slower, giving you time to think about the upcoming faster notes
  • You are forced to play pairs or triplets of notes faster than required
  • This all removes your conception of the tune, which allows you to even out your fingers
  • When you can separate the rhythm from the notes, it makes you a better player and better sight reader

I think they are also fun to play. If you play around with some JS Bach, it sounds quite jazzy!

There are 7 basic rhythms for a piece of music that is in 4/4 time. You should pick a difficult passage of music – no more than 4 bars long – and play at a speed that you can manage without any mistakes.

Repeat each altered rhythm 3 times perfectly in a row. If you do it twice perfectly, but play a wrong note the third time, then you need to start again and get 3 in a row that are perfect. If you play it 3 times with correct notes, but stuff up the rhythm the third time, then you need to start again and get it 3 times perfectly in a row.

Play it all slurred, as this will highlight uneven fingering.

Instead of spelling out the rhythms, I think it is easier for me to write them out for you. (For music that is in 3/4 time, I have not written it out, but feel free to contact me if you want me to spell it out for you.)

Here is a short passage, with the 7 altered rhythms. Remember: All slurred, and 3 times perfectly in a row:

altered rhythm 1 altered rhythm 2 altered rhythm 3 altered rhythm 4 altered rhythm 5 altered rhythm 6 altered rhythm 7

Once you have done that, then you can play it as written, with correct articulation:

as written

Here’s a snippet of me playing the above passage with altered rhythms:


Now, find a technically challenging passage in your music and work on these rhythms!

If there are rests in your passage, that’s fine – make sure the rhythm stays true, with the rests being altered rhythms too.

And just for fun – here’s a bit of jazzed up JS Bach with some altered rhythms:

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