I was asked a great question recently about how to tackle a difficult phrase in a fast piece.

Obviously, what constitutes "difficult" and "fast" will vary depending on where you are with your playing.

But whatever level you're at, I'm sure that the method outlined in my answer will help you out...


Question: Playing difficult phrases in fast pieces. I have a piece at the moment which no matter how I try, I just can’t get my fingers to move quickly enough to hit all the right notes!! Any tips?


And here's my answer: Good question. There are a few answers...

The first, is to say to just keep trying - but that's not very helpful!

The 2nd is to say that, ideally, I'd need to see and hear you play the phrase to give a proper bespoke answer.

But the 3rd, and hopefully most helpful answer is to suggest a number of things to try when you practice the phrase.

Before trying the steps below, be able to sing the phrase. If you don't sing the correct notes, that's ok but you must be able to sing the rhythm of it. If you can't sing it you won't be able to play it.


Here's the steps to try:

1 - Slow the phrase right down. And I mean really slow, maybe half speed as a maximum, but maybe slower.


2 - At this ridiculously slow speed go through the finger positions of the phrase without blowing. So, only fingering the notes.


3 - As you do this make sure that your fingers do not leave the keys. If you have to play in the palm keys they may need to move a little, but otherwise they should always stay touching the keys.


4 - When you can do that, repeat the process with a metronome and play the correct rhythm (still not blowing though).


5 - When you can do that, then play it (actually blowing!) at this very slow speed.


6 - Repeat stages 2-5, but this time 10 beats per minute (BPM) faster.


7- Keep gradually increasing the speed, but you have to be completely scientific and unemotional about it:

  • if your fingers stop touching the keys then don't speed up, and maybe slow down again;
  • if you make a mistake then don't speed up, and maybe slow down again.


8 - You may well find that there is a small section within the larger phrase that always trips you up; this is quite common. Identify where this problem is and focus on it in isolation; repeat steps 1-7 with this bit.


I would add at this point that the advice about fingers touching the keys is a goal to aim for. If you can't do it, don't worry. Even if the process of thinking about it helps you to keep your fingers a little bit closer to the keys then it will be beneficial.


I hope this method will help you out and make your practice time more productive. If you'd like a more in depth look at this method then check out:

The Perfect Practice Method ebook