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A lot of guitarists get a bit over-obsessed with the need for speed.
For many guitarists, a better question is...
If a piece of music is played too quickly, it's nothing more than a gabble. At the novice and intermediate stage of learning, pieces are often short, meaning that a fast performance achieves little other than a sense of disatisfaction that the piece was "over before it started".
There are other factors that make a piece sound too fast...
There's a pertinent quotation going around... "Back off a little from what your fastest tempo is so the listeners don’t have to be nervous for you."
If you're playing for an audience, they may well know the piece. If they have an expectation that this piece goes at a certain speed, that's the right speed for it to go at!
A few years back, Associated Board (the exam board ABRSM) published a table of speeds they felt were appropriate for the scales in their graded exams.
For those unfamiliar with their concept of grades, each Grade represents, at least for an adult, where you could expect to be after another year's progress with guitar.
|Grade||1997 rates (simple scales)||2009 rates (simple scales)|
|Notes / second||Notes / minute||Notes / second||Notes / minute|
These figures are the speeds at which the music should still sound relaxed!
Who said that exams are getting easier?
Remember that a well-learned scale with familiar patterns is much easier to present smoothly than a piece containing bespoke, unfamiliar, shapes.
The How to play quickly article
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