Updated: May 13, 2020
A question about the challenges of playing fast was recently posted on the Paul Franklin Method Facebook Group. Many students joined the thread, with plenty of great comments and observations. Here is the initial question and my response.
Student: Question about playing fast. I’m not a generally “flashy” player, but I play with some bands that like to do faster material, including a Bluegrass band that can really get cooking sometimes. I feel like I get overwhelmed easily when trying to improvise a fast solo…it’s like my hands can’t keep up with what my brain wants them to do, and I end up dropping the ball. Advice on how to work on this problem?
Paul: If I can be so bold, It’s not your fingers that can’t keep up with the mind . . . it is the mind that has not stored enough info that can’t keep up with your fingers.
Thinking about any other way to accomplish fast playing will always leave players stumbling, trying to improvise at brisk tempos and blaming their technique as the reason they fail to reach their goal.
When it comes to playing fast there are actually three components in play when we are performing:
1) What we can hear
2) The physical moves we have memorized,
3) Whether our blocking is good enough to play cleanly
The biggest myth in the community is: When our fingers stumble it must be that our technique is flawed. Not true – that is the most common lie we convince ourselves to believe. I know, because I have sung that song.
The mind is trained during slow practice to piece together the bits of info into muscle memory…The ears have been listening and storing all of our life and will always remain our unachievable target. We all can hear so much more than what we have trained ourselves to play.
Go to the “Creative Speed Picking” lesson [in the Paul Franklin Method course] and start creating riffs from those that you can already successfully play fast.
Applying this method to those will increase your vocabulary and originality at the same time. Make everything you memorize be a 3, 4, or at the most a 5 note phrase, but mostly 3 notes. Start composing solos for the songs you struggle with.
Remember everyone struggles with the speed they hear until their mind stores how it’s played.