Slow is Fast: A Practice Rule to Live By

Bands of America Technique.jpg

During the past 20 years, one simple technique helped me become a better player fast: going slow.

The phrase "slow is fast" actually originated from the U.S. military. This method helps ensure good technique habits, even when under extreme stress.

For example, when a special forces team enters a room for combat, the setting seems fast, chaotic, and extremely dangerous. But as a result of progressing through slow repetition, these complex muscle movements and split-second decisions are second nature. 

They can execute difficult movements while observing and reacting to their surroundings because they practiced over and over again... slowly. Once they committed the CORRECT movements to muscle memory, they could begin to use the rest of their brain power to focus on their surroundings.

The same principles apply to marching. Whether you are just beginning or are an advanced musician, it's always helpful to break routines down slowly to first learn to perform them correctly with good technique. Building muscle-memory movements, like playing an instrument and marching, takes time to build the neurological pathways you need to allow your brain to send information to your body quickly. And the key is slow repetition.

BOA-BowlingGreen

Once the correct neurological pathways are built, your subconscious mind takes over. You can then devote your conscious to questions in your listening environment, such as whether the tempo is pushing or pulling, or if the person you're guiding isn't going to make it. Advanced performers' minds slow down while their bodies are in action, similar to those military commandos.

While the show can be chaotic and the drills can be fast-paced, the minds of elite performers move slowly and under control, because they build the correct neurological pathways. Michael Merzenich's book, "The Brain That Changes Itself," says practicing a new habit under the right conditions can change hundreds of millions and possibly billions of the connections between the nerve cells in our neural pathways.

But repetition alone won't help you become an elite performer -- you need to build the correct neurological pathways. If you practice with poor technique, sound quality, or tempo control, it constructs bad pathways, which manifest as bad habits. Once those pathways are built, it's much more difficult to deconstruct those and rebuild the right ones.

So practice slowly. If you are learning a new technique, bust out your metronome and turn the tempo down. Learn to play it with perfect technique, sound quality, and tempo control. Play it at that speed until you've built those good pathways.

Then, slowly, crank up the tempo in small increments. Back off if you bump up the tempo and start to hit a point where you feel like you are sacrificing technique or sound quality. Turn the tempo down just to point where you regain control and work some more. Then, push that boundary again. Expand it. But don't sacrifice form. It will take time and lots of good, correct practice.

Always remember... slow is fast.


How to Watch

ON TV: Available on Roku and Apple TV 4 -- download the FloSports app now.
STREAMING: Only on FloMarching with a PRO subscription. A yearly PRO subscription provides access to ALL FloSports sites. Join Now


Join The Conversation On Social

• Follow us on Twitter @FloMarching
• Follow us on Instagram @FloMarching
• Follow us on

FloMarching's hottest content, delivered to your inbox

Don't miss breaking news, feature stories, event updates, and more. Sign up for the FloMarching mailing list today.

12 Days Of Christmas: #10 Couchmen 2018 Sweater

Zach Ashcraft Lucas Oil.jpg

In honor of the final countdown to Christmas, we've compiled a list of presents perfect for the marching arts fans in us all!

DCI 2017 In 48 Minutes

DCIUniforms.jpg

DCI recently released a series of 22 two-minute videos that showcase some of the incredible performances at this year's Drum Corps International World Championships!

12 Days Of Christmas: #11 Boston Crusaders' Wicked Games Tree Ornament

Zach Ashcraft DCI_Prelims_BostonCrusaders_Zashcraft-6.jpg

In honor of the final countdown to Christmas, we've compiled a list of presents perfect for the marching arts fans in us all!

Check Up On Upcoming Rule Changes For WGI

WGI-1-01.png

As drum corps camps move past the audition phase and fall marching band shifts over to holiday concert music, we get closer and closer to the next exciting season of marching arts: Winter Guard International!

12 Days Of Christmas: #12 Bluecoats Jagged Line Ornament

Zach Ashcraft Bluecoats-1.jpg

In honor of the final countdown to Christmas, we've compiled a list of presents perfect for the marching arts fans in us all!

Potential Rule Changes For DCI Announced

Recaps.jpg

Drum Corps International (DCI) announced Wednesday the rule change proposals made by corps directors that will be up for discussion at January's annual winter business meeting.

Q&A: Bluecoats Vet Aaron Bailie On Being Cut

Drum Corps International Bluecoats_HL1_16_HiRes_RGB.jpg

As drum corps prospects go through the audition process, more and more people get cut, contracted, or called back. One thing that many drum corps veterans can agree with is that getting cut from a drum corps is never "the end" — instead it's a beginning.

Drum Corps Europe Reborn As EDCA

KidgroveScouts2017-5.JPG

Nearly two months after discontinuing operations, Drum Corps Europe has announced its rebirth as a new association with new leadership, the European Drum Corps Association.

A Brass Player's Holiday Wish List

HerculesStand.png

Whether you're a parent looking for ideas for your young (or old) brass musician in the family, or you've just picked up an instrument and are starting your musical career, here are some items that will get you a running start on that Christmas list for 2017!

The Emotions Of Designing For Indoor Season

CGT-Dallas.jpg

As the indoor season approaches, instructors across the country are experiencing the entire rainbow of emotions as they design, write, choreograph, and stage their productions. Many times those emotions form peaks and valleys that have polarizing effects on the instructors.