The Chord Attack

Let's return to the (LH) CGEG quadruplet. If you practice it slowly and then gradually speed it up (HS), you will hit a "speed wall", a speed beyond which everything breaks down and stress builds up. The way to break this speed wall is to play the quadruplet as a single chord (CEG). You have gone from slow speed to infinite speed! This is called a chord attack. Now you only have to learn to slow down, which is easier than speeding up because there is no speed wall when you are slowing down. But -- how do you slow down?

First play the chord and bounce the hand up and down at the frequency at which the quadruplet should be played (say, between one and two times a second); it should be easier when played as a chord, but this may not be simple if it is your first time. Note that the fingers are now positioned exactly correctly for fast playing. Try varying the bounce frequency up and down (even beyond the required speed!), noting how to alter the wrist, arm, fingers, etc., positions and motions as you go through the different speeds. If you feel fatigue after a while, then you are either doing something wrong, or else you have not yet acquired the technique of bouncing the chords. You will need to practice it until you can do that without tiring because if you can't do it for a chord, you will never do it for quadruplets. In other words, you have just identified a weakness in the technique that needs to be remedied before you can progress to the next stage.

Play the chord with the most economical motions you can think of. Keep the fingers close to or on the keys as you increase speed. Get your whole body involved; shoulders, upper and lower arms, wrist. The sensation is to play from your shoulders and arms, not your fingertips. When you can play this softly, relaxed, fast, and without any feeling of fatigue, you know that you have made progress. Make sure that you are playing perfect chords (all notes landing at the same time) because, without this kind of sensitivity, you will not have the accuracy required to play fast. It is important to practice the slow bounce because that is when you can work on the accuracy. Accuracy improves faster at the slower speeds. However, it is absolutely essential that you get up to fast speeds (if only briefly) before slowing down. When you slow down, try to maintain the same motions that were required at high speed, because that is what you need to ultimately practice. If you think that this is the end of this simple chord business, you are in for a surprise -- this is only the beginning; read on!