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Talking Technique: The Power of Slow

Talking Technique: The Power of Slow

A little while ago, I finished the creation of a 20-week course which includes an extensive technique practice section.

Students had requested videos similar to what you see in fitness videos – a way to just follow along with the video. And this became one consistent part of each week’s program: I recorded “Practice With Me” videos featuring a variety of different exercises.

What I experienced first hand was once more an incredible education in the power of meditative, slow practice. I had become accustomed to doing some of these exercises at faster tempos – challenging myself as if speed were the most important accomplishment. But for the video demonstrations in the course I had to:

  • Slow down
  • Ffocus in a new and different way
  • Talk while I was playing, pointing out various details of good technique
  • And: I couldn’t let mistakes slide by

I was in for a big surprise: While there are also many fast exercises in these demonstrations, it was clearly the slow, focused, meditative approach that had the biggest immediate pay off for me.

Here are some of the results I noticed:

  • Finding/sensing any left over tension and letting go of it
  • Moving with a new found ease
  • A new level of improved accuracy
  • A new level of comfort with all the movements
  • Overall more relaxed posture
  • Calmer mind and breath
  • Practice time seemed to just fly by
  • And maybe my favorite: a very pleasant experience, being in the flow

There were many days on which I got no other practice in for myself or my bands other than recording these course materials. Still, my rehearsals would go beautifully, as if I had practiced the runs and fast licks from my bands. I even felt the effects on the six string, though I recorded on a four. And I felt a distinct difference at faster tempos even though I had been demonstrating very slowly!

My partner and I in bass exploration, Wolf Wein, have been experimenting with what we call “Bass Meditations” for a while with great results. It encompasses a mental practice element and serves more than a pure bass technique purpose. However, we include a technique practice each time as a warm up and we have observed similar results there as well: these slow meditative exercises are very powerful!

Note: There are many ways (more to come) to get a piece of music or a passage up to tempo. Just going slow will not make you play a particular piece blazing fast (if that’s the goal). That said, going slow is a surprising technique booster and a great way to pave the path for fast tempos.

The Take Aways:

  • Going slow gets you there faster
  • Relaxation is key
  • As you go slow, focus on a particular aspect of your technique. In other words, don’t just go through the movements, but put your focus on key elements of what I consider good technique.

I have put together a graphic for you detailing what I consider cornerstones of good technique. To have it emailed, go here.

Austrian-gone-Californian Ariane Cap is a bassist, educator, blogger and author. In her book "Music Theory for the Bass Player” and corresponding 20-week online course, she teaches music theory, bass technique, bass line creation and fretboard fitness in a systematic, practical and experiential way. Contact her via her blog or website.

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