[1.III.7.9.3] Speed Walls
What are speed walls (SW), how are they created, how many are there, and how are they overcome? There is always a maximum speed that you can play. When first learning a piece, this speed is often below the final speed. If practiced incorrectly, the speed does not increase beyond a certain value no matter how hard you practice – this is called a speed wall. SWs are caused mainly by stress and bad habits, and are therefore erected by the pianists. There are as many SWs as bad habits, so there can be an unlimited number of them. Clearly, the best way to avoid them is not to create them in the first place. HS practice is one of the best weapons against SWs because most are HT SWs. Outlining is another effective weapon because it allows the large motions to be correctly played at final speed, thus avoiding the SWs in these motions. Quiet hands is also helpful for similar reasons. Parallel sets are useful because you immediately start at speeds above the speed wall, and come down in speed. Relaxation is essential at all times, but especially necessary for avoiding SWs because stress is a major cause. Any method for increasing the efficiency of motion helps; thus mixing flat finger and curled positions, keeping the fingers on the keys, and the various hand motions, such as glissando, cartwheel, arm rotation, flick, wrist motion, etc., are all needed to prevent SWs. Musical play is not possible at SWs because any SW will be audible; thus in principle, if you always practice musically, you will never meet a SW. Clearly, practically every recommended practice method in this book is aimed at preventing speed walls.
What if you already have a SW – can you get rid of it? The best solutions are not to play it, or only playing it slowly, for weeks or months and learning something new during that time. Learning new things is a good way to erase old memories. Properly designed HS, PS practice with relaxation might work. Early detection of SWs is the key to removing them successfully – this is why we need to know all about SWs. Students who used intuitive methods for a long time will have many speed walls that are so well established that they are nearly impossible to tear down. The best solution is to abandon those pieces for a year or more, learn new pieces, and come back to them when your technique has improved by a significant amount.