Slow practice in music is a widely used method for musicians to learn and rehearse new pieces. The concept is the same as learning to drive a car: learners should master perfect control and execution slowly before adding speed. By dramatically slowing the tempo of a piece of music, players are more conscious of technique and expression, rather than trying to blast through to the end with inattention to detail.

There are mental benefits of drawing back the tempo to practice as this can be very calming, particularly when embarking on a piece that is a challenge. Slow practice can ensure musicians get used to playing their piece in a calm state even when eventually performing at full speed: because it has been learnt and rehearsed calmly, the musician feels relaxed as the norm.

Slow practice is an excellent way to learn complex sections or parts with good technique and habits – players often panic when there’s a tricky bit coming up, but slow practice can prevent this. When technique slips it is usually due to a lack of preparation, but learning something slowly and accurately highlights the importance of correct fingering and breath planning, which are often brought to the surface. It’s proven that practicing slowly in short sections helps us to learn and retain information better because we notice more detail. Many musicians affirm it is the best way to learn and remember pieces.

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Why else would you use slow practice? Some do it to improve their timing in general, or to work through difficult or syncopated rhythm sections. Practicing with a metronome is a skill every musician should have, and nowadays there are numerous free apps available.

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How do you slow practice properly? Firstly, decide on a considerably slower tempo for your piece. This should be slow enough for you to play all the way through, with every note sounding good and clear. After you can play your piece calmly and perfectly at this speed, you will be ready to gradually increase the tempo. While some experts recommend a certain number of repetitions or days for this, a good general rule is to notice how it feels while practicing. As soon as you find your mind wandering or feel bored while still practicing the piece accurately, it is time to speed up slightly. Repeat the process every time you master playing your whole piece at a faster speed until you get up to the full tempo.

While practicing with a metronome is a good way to set your tempo, PlayScore 2 can help your slow practice routine by playing your music score at any speed. The app’s interactive playback features mean you can simply slide your tempo up or down and listen to how your piece sounds at whatever speed you are working at. You can loop sections and play along, and use PlayScore 2 as a tool to get the most out of the slow practice method.