Whether you are playing piano and have to co-ordinate two hands together, or on drums, where you have to co-ordinate four limbs, or if you are trying to sing and play an instrument at the same time, this article tells you how you can achieve this.
The simple rule, of all practice really, is to:
BREAK IT DOWN
This means you have to:
The biggest mistake many people make in practice is that they don’t isolate the parts that are giving them trouble.
For example, you are playing piano and there is a difficult section in bar 4 that is always causing you to stumble, but whenever you get to bar 4 and make that error, you start the piece again from bar 1.
If this is what is happening, then the difficulty in bar 4 is never getting resolved (however, bars 1 – 3 sound great!).
What you need to do in this situation is isolate the difficult part in bar 4 and make that your area of focus.
Isolating problem areas can also mean devising an exercise.
For example, there may be a rhythmic or co-ordination pattern that is giving you problems.
I recently had a student who was learning to play a latin-style piece on piano. This involves syncopation or accents on the off-beat. (i.e. one-AND-two-AND-three-AND-four etc).
Before she was able to play the piece, she first had to become familiar with what playing on the off-beat felt like in her body.
The way we did this was to (of course work with metronome) and play a scale with the notes all on the off-beat. That way, she became familiar with what it felt like to hear the pulse and play exactly between it.
From there we could start working on her piece, again, just concentrating on a small section at a time until it felt easy, then working on the next area etc.
If you are working on drums or guitar, you may have a complex rhythm.
Instead of trying to work on the entire co-ordination at once, break down the elements of that rhythm, maybe by just doing half of it, then the next half, then putting them together.
When isolating difficult areas, you then need to break down this difficulty into manageable chunks and play them in time to a slow metronome beat.
Everything you play in music, whether you are a singer or an instrumentalist, you play with your body, not your mind.
This means you need to commit it to the memory of your body and that memory is located in the muscles, in other words, muscle memory.
The way to commit something to muscle memory is by slow, exact repetition.
The part of this phrase most people forget or find difficult is SLOW (if this is you, please read this article).
Once you can play that part of the music slowly and exactly, it is easy to then speed it up.
If, for example, you are trying to learn to co-ordinate singing with an accompaniment, slow down and work out where the melody connects with the beat you are playing. Wedding bands in Melbourne are best at this.
It may take a while to get one bar like this but I assure you that once you have worked out the first couple of bars, the rest will be easy.
When you have completed this stage of breaking it down, you should be able to play through your problem area slowly and concisely and with ease (this means not having to worry about getting it right).
Your body should be able to feel (muscle memory) how to play that section now.
Now you can play the part of music that was giving you trouble.
Connecting that section to the previous bars of music is the next phase.
If you are on drums or another rhythm instrument, being able to play that rhythm continuously and add in fills as well will be your next step.
This may require some more repetition to get a smooth connection to the different sections of music but do it still at a slow speed.
Once you have achieved this, you can start to speed up the metronome and at this point, your problem area is no longer a problem area but a piece of the music you enjoy playing.