Robert Estrin - piano expert

Is slow practice important?

Understand and learn why practicing slowly is important

In this video, Robert gives you a clear explanation to understand the importance of breaking things down and practicing slowly for the best musical results. Of course not all instruments are the same, and Robert brilliantly tackles some of the differences among instruments.

Released on September 25, 2013

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, I'm Robert Estrin here at and with a very important subject for you. Is slow practice important? All right, this is a great subject, and I have covered this for pianists. Today we're talking about all instrumentalists, and it's not as simple a question as you might think. All right. Well, you know, you see some amazing things in this world. For example, the Great Pyramids, or have you ever seen a painting with very, very fine, little tiny dots, and yet it all grows into some magnificent image when these dots are combined and the colors are just right? And you wonder, "How can some of these achievements, whether they're personal artistic expressions or monumental architectural wonders of the world, how is it possible?" Well, everything starts with one little step at a time. With the Pyramids it had to be one stone turned and building upon building, one stone to the next. Same thing with a painting, hours and hours of tedious work to create an image of great beauty.

Well, the same thing is true in your practice. Even though you listen to somebody play something fast and jewel like, with elegance and total relaxation, the process of getting there has to break things down, and one of the most intrinsic ways of doing that is by going slowly. Now the reason why I want to bring this up specifically for all instruments instead of just the piano, as a general video, is because there are some unique challenges that different instruments face in slow practice. For example, on a wind instrument, sometimes it's not practical to practice very slowly because the breathing will all be in different places, and so it's very, very difficult to get a sense of things. However, in fast music, slow practice is absolutely essential to get the evenness, for example on a woodwind instrument or a brass instrument, being able to coordinate the tongue and the fingers. If you just play fast all the time, there's gong to be a lack of precision, so this is why slow practice is absolutely essential, and any great musician you've heard on virtually any instrument, I can assure has not only has practiced slowly, but continues to reinforce practice by going back to difficult passages, playing them slowly, and the key is, working them up.

Now, before we even get to the idea of working up the speed, the biggest thing you have to remember when you are working slowly and increasing speed is to not increase the speed at all until there's total fluency and solidity at a slow tempo. If you take the time at the front end to really master your music slowly, where you can play it again and again not only accurately, but in a very relaxed manner, that is the time to raise your metronome one notch, yes, only one notch. And why one notch? Well, if you want to have real refinement in your playing, you don't want any rough edges or distortions to be introduced. So for your most difficult passages, one notch at a time is an absolutely great way to build speed. But that slow practice to begin with will get you in the zone, and indeed, you will find that if you do nothing else but take a piece that you play, maybe you have a piece that you had on performance level and it's getting a little bit rusty, it's just not quite as clean as you'd like, just going back and playing it slowly, even without necessarily going through all the metronome speeds, can be incredibly enlightening. It refreshes the score in your head, in your hands and in the rest of you, depending upon the instrument you're playing.

So, I recommend slow practice very highly to all musicians, of course there are some exceptions. In literature where it's not practical, with bowings and breathing, that maybe slowing things down doesn't make sense in certain contexts, but over all, for your difficult, fast passages, slow it down, get comfortable then speed it up, and you will find, you will have that jewel like refinement of a great painting or monumental achievements like the Great Pyramids. Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

John Neoclis Raftopoulos * VSM MEMBER * on October 14, 2015 @3:33 pm PST
what is a correct studying procedure. I mean, I first choose a part of part one for example, ending at a intermediate end, like a semi-colon, then study first only with the right hand, after that only the left, and when I have learned both well, even using a metronome and at a very low speed, then combine them and increase speed gradually, till I reach a good stage. then it is time to go on with the next part and so on. do you think this procedure is ok? and anyway what do you think is the right studying procedure? thank you!
Robert - host, on October 15, 2015 @11:42 am PST
This sounds like a good method. The challenge then is to connect the sections. This article and video addresses this challenge:
John Neoclis Raftopoulos * VSM MEMBER * on October 16, 2015 @2:44 am PST
thank you! I am completely covered by your reply. I am glad I don't do anything wrong. your video on connecting sections was useful, as I sometimes have problems similar to the once you mention.
Graham Lyons * VSM MEMBER * on October 16, 2013 @7:45 am PST
Excellent and essential advice here.
Consider this: playing a passage faster than you can manage leads to mistakes. Each time you play wrongs notes and imprecise rhythms you practise mistakes; much practise time will then be spent unlearning those wrong notes.
Paradoxical slogan: learn more quickly by playing more slowly.
Robert Estrin - host, on October 16, 2013 @1:48 pm PST
Like a great carpenter, measure twice, cut once - your slogan is spot on!
Sharon Grew * VSM MEMBER * on October 1, 2013 @10:52 pm PST
Found very interesting, this is my first time on this site it looks fantastic.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on October 2, 2013 @12:58 pm PST
Dear Sharon, welcome and thank you for your kind words! We are so glad to have you here. Please,,feel always free to contact us with any questions or ideas you may have, we will be glad to hear from you... at any time!

If you have any specific questions about "piano playing", please write them here, Robert will be happy to get back to you with any questions you may have.

Thank you again!
Maria * VSM MEMBER * on September 25, 2013 @6:19 pm PST
Thanks Robert, good advice as usual! Also good for accuracy of intonation!
Kukyz on September 25, 2013 @3:36 pm PST
Good piece of advice
Thanks a lot
Janice on September 25, 2013 @9:22 am PST
Good advice as usual!
Gloria * VSM MEMBER * on September 25, 2013 @6:07 am PST
Can you tell me how to start a choir practice?
Sue Fuller * VSM MEMBER * on September 25, 2013 @5:16 am PST
Thank you, for all the tips. Please keep them coming. You are appreciated. Sue Fuller
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