This week, I was playing the guitar, practicing a particularly difficult solo with the help of a video lesson on my computer. Onscreen, the instructor gave some potent advice about how to conquer a passage that had a flurry of notes. He said, quite simply, “Slow down to go fast.”
I had looked at the passage on paper, listened to on the audio recording, and thought that there was no chance I’d ever conquer it. Then, I paid attention to the guitar instructor. I stopped looking at the flurry of notes as a cluster that I’d never conquer, and I slowed way down. I slowed down to the point where each note became distinct, and where the path from one note to the next became a simple jump. I remained in rhythm, but slowed way down so that I could conquer the challenges one by one.
Once I could navigate the passage, I played it over and over, concentrating on getting each note right, and on traveling smoothly from one note to the next. I didn’t worry about speed — I concentrated on rhythm, precision and smoothness.
Something started to happen. Once I felt that I had mastered playing the passage slowly, I pushed my metronome a little faster. I began playing at 30 beats per minute (bpm), which is very, very slow. Soon, I was playing the same passage at 80 bpm, and I was playing it in rhythm, playing every note precisely and smoothly. In no time at all, I was able to play the passage at 120 bpm, and each note felt as distinct and clear to me as it had at 30 bpm. I had mastered the passage.
I realized that I could apply the same learning technique to my motorcycle riding. If I ever expect to be able to execute an emergency avoidance swerve at 80 miles per hour on the freeway, for instance, I must build a foundation for the same maneuver at 15 miles per hour first. I must practice over and over at 15 mph until the maneuver comes naturally, then gradually ramp up the speed until I can avoid obstacles in the road at 80 mph as smoothly and precisely as I can swerve at 15 mph.
What aspect of your riding do you need to improve? Try slowing things way down, and working on your riding one step at a time. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your riding will improve when you go slow to go fast.