Classic bluegrass repertoire is historically packed with fast, uptempo songs, often presented in the form of danceable fiddle tunes that feature a flurry of playful sixteenth-note melodies. As a result, students of bluegrass music often focus heavily on improving their playing speed and ability to play quickly while retaining accuracy. Mandolin players are no exception to this trend and often look for methods to help increase their playing speed.
Unfortunately, there are no easy shortcuts to increase your playing speed overnight. It requires practice, patience, and focus. That being said, there are techniques and practice methods available to help facilitate consistent improvements to your playing speed while retaining proper form and accuracy.
In this online mandolin lesson, Grammy Award-winning musician, 4-time IBMA “Mandolin Player of the Year,” and ArtistWorks master bluegrass mandolin instructor, Sierra Hull, provides a handful of tips and tricks to keep in mind when practicing to increase your playing speed, as well as a few techniques to help you maintain proper form as you learn to play faster.
“The truth of it is, there’s no secret answer to playing fast,” Sierra explains. “In order to work up to faster tempos, we have to practice slowly. That’s the key takeaway here. Playing accurately at fast speeds takes time to develop.”
A critical tool that is tremendously helpful when practicing to increase your playing speed is a metronome. Practicing routinely with a metronome helps players strengthen their internal sense of time, improve their rhythmic accuracy when playing at all tempos (fast or slow), and set measurable goals when steadily increasing the tempo at which they perform a tune.
“I’ve found that recording myself on video when practicing can be a great tool when I’m learning a new tune and working on bringing it up to tempo,” explains Sierra. “It’s a great way to review your performance and listen back, and also keep all the facets of our playing in order and in check — our technique, note accuracy, improvisations, and more.”
Playing with Speed with Sierra Hull:
Have you always wanted to learn how to play the bluegrass mandolin? Through our comprehensive mandolin lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like Sierra Hull, and get personal feedback on your playing.
Sierra’s course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner mandolin to advanced performance techniques, music theory, classic bluegrass tunes, and more. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as mandolinists and musicians.