Bach, Beethoven and Playing Fast!

In this month’s Practice Clinic, Graham Fitch answered questions on works by Bach, Beethoven, Debussy and Mozart. Topics discussed included how to practise specific passages, legato octaves, playing fast, problems with the 5th finger and polyrhythms.

Bach Beethoven and Playing Fast - Practice Clinic Feb 2022

Practice clinic questions

JS Bach – Invention No. 8 in F Major, BWV 779 – I’ve been learning this piece for two months now and feel that I am stuck. I would like guidance with bringing out the quaver sounds as it jumps from hand to hand. Also, bars 21-23 fingering is awkward, and I’d appreciate some tips.

Beethoven – Bagatelle, Op. 119 No. 1 – I am having problems with getting to the chord in the left hand in bar 19 from bar 18 and in bars 19 & 20 until the end of the section. I’m also struggling moving onto bars 29 – 32 in the left hand. The problems show up when I try and out both hands together and any tips to practise these bars would be welcome!

Beethoven Sonata No. 9, Op 14 No. 1 – How should I practise playing legato octaves in Bars 65 to 80? I am also not able to run fast enough for the semiquavers in the left hand on bar 91 to 93. How should I practise these?

How to play fast and musically – How do you ensure musicality along with speed? I often listen to music and hear people playing very fast which can sound like they’re playing faster than their ability and it’s not musical even though it’s clearly played. On the other hand, some musicians play faster than one would have thought possible and the sound is fluid, rippling and musical. How do you retain the beauty and thoughtfulness? (this question has arisen from our recent workshop on how to play fast, click here to find out more).

Debussy Reverie and Mozart Sonata in G Major, K283 – I am struggling with the polyrhythms, particularly the one in measure 21 with the octaves. I struggle with getting things up to tempo in general, but this slows down when I get to it. I also notice a strain on my right thumb when playing octaves here and in other pieces as well (also learning Mozart Sonata in G Major K. 283). The octaves in the left hand measure 16 – 21 create tension in the left forearm and I have to practise short periods of time on them.

Issues with tension and extension of the 5th finger – I have a problem with the fifth finger of the hand.  Very often it remains stuck in extension. It doesn’t stay relaxed near the keys when I’m not using it. Are there specific exercises to rehabilitate it? I have had this problem since the beginning and now have the impression that this problem is a brake on my progress. 

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Further information on how our practice clinics work is available here or please click here to find out more about the Online Academy.