How A Virtuoso Violinist Practices Paganini

I think one of my biggest mistakes over my long, unproductive career is that I haven’t practiced things correctly. I’ve definitely had long periods of my life where I practiced hours each day…but practice doesn’t make perfect!! You’ve gotta do it correctly!

Another thread on here that @kgk started (A violin instructor giving advice about speed) featured this guy talking about ways he works on speed.

This one is more about tackling a longer piece that’s got constant high speed throughout.

I think there are some cool “CtC approved” concepts he touches on. For one, he mentions not doing a ton of practice with the metronome. He’ll use it briefly to make sure he’s at a particular tempo, but he doesn’t spend the time syncing with it.

Also some ideas on chunking, and what to do when you hit a wall with a certain passage. I also thought it’s cool that he doesn’t seem to spend tons of time on any one piece. I think I drill licks way too much.

One caveat I’ll point out is that this most likely assumes you’ve already got a good basic technique going. So it’s by no means to take the place of the standard advice for anyone who isn’t as fast as they’d like to be yet, which I think goes something like:

  • Find a motion you can do fast on one string
  • Sync this to a fretting hand pattern
  • Figure out what the string changes that match the motion are
  • Play some patterns that change strings, making sense with the above point
  • Use this to write cool music
  • Get famous and be recognized as one of history’s greatest guitarists

Anyway, hope someone finds this helpful. I find it really interesting.


This was very useful, thanks for sharing, I liked how he ordered stuff by proficiency, that’s very useful. Also great piece to tackle on guitar too.

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Haha I love this list. I’m sure @Troy will appreciate it too :slight_smile:


This is why for myself swing tempo is about the only method I have ever had success with in gaining speed. Similar to how he talks about maybe speed up one beat. This is the trick of the swing tempo it forces 2 notes into rapid succession. I actually am guilty that I dont do this enough. I should really utilize this tactic more often since it works for me. But whats works for me might not work for others. You have to try all the different speed tricks to find one that helps.

Since you are only playing 2 notes quickly you get a break, and a lesson in how to relax at faster tempos. Over a period of time the body adapts, and you can begin to chain more and more notes. Probably why all those blues players are so fast.

I also have a feeling that this might be something Martin Miller talks about in his JTC program.

Yeah, totally agree. If something is working, do more of it!

I saw a video in some thread somewhere on here where Martin Miller was giving a guy a lesson and they did some rapid ‘bursts’. Actually there was a whole thread where we talked about that. I’ll see if I can dig it up. The general consensus, I think, was that it doesn’t necessarily help with getting faster but it is useful for control and stamina.

EDIT: found the video:

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I think it can help speed, I am at a plateau so it is hard for me to find tricks. I know if I swing tempo for weeks at a time playing songs I see faster playing. But these guys of the past were playing day after day, night after night, I am just stuck in a padded room with 4 walls and my own thoughts. :smiley:

It is definitely more complex than this though, and this is why I am a big advocate of learning by ear at least after learning a very grounded foundational level of precise technique, the rules, and at least 10-20 licks that plots out these rules very precisely. And at least be able to do this at your relaxed max. Then you should begin to learning it all by ear. Because I feel in order to get truly fast you need to be speaking these phrases, and if you use sheet music it kind of side steps doing it by ear, and could jeopardize the speed, or at least that how it feels with my body.

That sounds highly personal. Again, if that works for you, excellent. Keep doing it. There are countless classically trained pianists and violinists with uncanny speed, and they’re using sheet music for nearly everything or they’ve memorized the sheet music. Not much ‘by ear’ in that genre. I think I know what you mean though. There’s this degree of internalizing something that has to happen in order to play things fast. It’s the chunking concept, where you’re playing faster than you’re thinking.

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What really annoys me though is descending musical stuff, I can do the whole criss cross apple sauce juke and jive, but it just makes me want to toss the pick in the trash, and work on my tremolo with fingers and go full out flamenco, but we all know its alittle late for that bus. :smiley:

Yes, but the bad thing is I am much older now so I probably won’t be able to feel how this would work if I had more growth left in my body if I was younger. Not just fast, but like freely, flowy, i dunno, maybe you get it. :smiley:

And maybe instead of licks, I actual meant like 5-10 solos. Then start doing by ear, yes probably more like this since it can be hard to ween off tablature. But I would say always reference the tablature if it is by the original author, or someone who was hired, and it is highly accurate with picking motions and fingerings to keep technique in check.

I’ll be 40 this year, so I’m pretty old. I’m still growing though. Every few months my bathroom scale says I’ve grown.

:metal: :metal: :metal: :metal: :metal:

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i mean i cant help but watch this video, and think that in order to get to that nitro boost speed it just takes a lifetime of playing for people. :smiley:

theres a few sections that just look like the video is sped up, it makes my eyes spin! the fingers just whip around the enclosures around the triad or chord on some of the licks and its just crazy!

everytime i start to try to speed up my descending arpeggio gypsy lick stuff it really humbles me. these guys are masters at guitar. the only reason i can do it at around 70% of his speed is because i have used the swing tempo trick on beat and off beat to exercise these rest stroke motions during the descending portion on those dreaded arpeggio style licks where its all downs. and maybe the only way to get it faster would then be to actually start doing automechanic work as a job to exercise my wrist more. ROFL!

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This is truly sick. Wow…

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His licks are so freakin mesmerizing, he doesnt have many improv ones, but when he plays them in 1000 different ways it will make your brain hurt. :laughing:

The other day I found one that he does, it is always a phrygian kinda thing, he left out a note, altered the rhythm, and it sounded like another lick from another mode. I just laughed.

I don’t quite agree, because in the past these guys were playing swing music night and day in the clubs. Heck some still do, you do this enough, and it makes sense in my mind the body will just adapt from the strain making you faster. It is the nature of the rhythm, and what is happening in the hands. Sure it helps in the dexterity of the hands, but just doing it day in day out is building up endurance. So the longer you can do one tempo, means you can do a higher tempo for less beats. Swinging faster and faster, its going to speed you up whether one realizes it or not. But it is a matter of playing a swing repertoire on the regular day in day out, pushing tempos. Both hands are doing it not just the fretting hand. This goes well beyond the scope of just swing though, you need also to be improvising licks, creating phrasing, really cooking your hands into zones that are scary to be in when you are in swing rhythm live environment. But lets not try to bring drugs into it although I am sure that played a role unfortunately, that is just the dark side of the club/bar scene.

@joebegly Definitely going to try applying this to the Becker and Loomis pieces I’m working through, I tried it on one of my own licks I’m trying to get up to speed and progress feels a lot more organized.

Also @bradejensen thanks for reminding me of the Jimmy Rosenberg video I watched forever ago when he was like, it’s freaking insane


I remember seeing this for the first time, it really makes me wanna toss my guitar out the window. :laughing:

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