Piano songs - Canon in D

Build speed incrementally to execute fast tempo in piano songs well, prepare yourself by building finger strength by practicing the appropriate exercises

“If you want freedom, you need discipline”, it is from a book I read. The statement seemed to contradict itself, yet so true that it had a lasting impact on me. The lack of discipline was what kept me as a mediocre student, engineer and human being all this while. I used to think because I wanted freedom, I should be able to do as I pleased with anything, anytime and anywhere. And it nearly ruined me.

To play piano songs fast, first play slow

Strangely though, I was very disciplined when it came to learning the piano. Which brought me to the realization of another contradicting statement “to play fast, you must play slow”. Piano songs should be examined closely. Either in preparation before an actual performance or during practice.


  • What? - Examine closely

  • Why? - Find meaning. Understand structure
  • How? - Play slow

Ideally it is best to study the score on paper before playing it, unless I was a full-time professional musician, I found it impossible to do so because of time constraints. But I had been able to examine a composition closely up to a degree by practicing it slowly.

Tempo is related to the meaning of the content of a composition. Find the meaning and you should be able to play at the appropriate tempo. Be it fast or slow with conviction. However, to find the meaning you must first play slow. The meaning to the content of a composition is expressed through the execution of its phrases. It is heard and felt. Not described with words of adjectives. 

Practising slowly allowed me to examine the elements in a composition in detail. Namely, the position of the notes in the arrangements, their pitch, and intervals between them. Take the time to try out the possibilities in tone production so that ‘mood’ could be intensified for maximum listening impact. Example shown in Image 1 below.

Speed in playing piano songs
is built incrementally

Building up speed as in; from slow to fast is done incrementally. In short sections. For example, by playing slow-fast-slow in cells of 4 notes as shown in Image 2 below.

Later, expand them into cells of 8 notes as shown in Image 3 for example. I have found this exercise to be beneficial because by playing fast in short bursts such as in cells of 4 notes, the fingers do not get tired so soon. They recover their strength while playing the next cell slow. As a result, endurance in the fingers is increased.

Which prepared them to play cells of 8 notes fast. By this point, you could consider playing a bar slow, the following bar fast, and the next one slow again. And so on for the rest of the passage, alternating the speed. The fingers will get stronger as you keep on practicing this way, so much so that instead of alternating the speed every bar, you could try doing so every two bars. Meaning to say, play two bars slow, followed by two bars fast and so on for the rest of the passage, alternating the speed every two bars.

Build finger strength to play piano songs fast

If you struggled to gain speed incrementally even in short sections. The fingers are probably not strong enough yet. Remedy the condition by making the fingers of the right hand press on the keys of C,D,G. Specifically the thumb on C, index finger on D and the fifth finger on G. While those fingers are pressed and held down, play E with the third finger and F with the fourth finger repeatedly one at a time.

Using the fingers of the left hand press on the keys of E,F,G. Specifically the thumb on G, index finger on F and the fifth finger on E. While they are pressed and held down, play C with the fifth finger and D with the fourth finger repeatedly one at a time.

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