Nathan on parallel tracks

Speed up Paganini’s Moto Perpetuo with Parallel Tracks

I have an ambivalent relationship with the metronome. We’ve had enough difficulties over the years that we eventually had to set some ground rules.

Still, the metronome (or its modern cousin, the smartphone app) is never far from my hand in the practice room. It’s one of the most important tools in my kit, in fact!

But I’ve seen metronome practice go so wrong for so many people that, in addition to laying out those Rules of the Metronome, I now feel compelled to go into detail about one of my favorite metronome techniques: Parallel Tracks.

This all comes from the sports world, and the concept of interval training. Instead of “working things up” with the metronome by starting slow and gradually increasing the tempo (which should be your technique of last resort), you constantly mix things up!

In this video, I’ll show you how I alternate between slow and fast tempi, and everything in between, keeping careful notes of my work. And what better piece could there be for a demonstration than Paganini’s Moto Perpetuo?

Before you dive in, I’d like for you to download a free companion worksheet for Parallel Tracks. That’s because you’ll want an easy summary of the method to keep by your side as you jump the tracks:

9 thoughts on “Speed up Paganini’s Moto Perpetuo with Parallel Tracks”

  1. I read about this method a few years ago. It was a research report from a university comparing methods of learning pieces. Now if I could just remember! It convinced me that interval training in music was just as effective as interval training in sports.

  2. Hello Nathan, I was only aware of “Sprints” but I was not aware of the “bigger problem” when you have a very long piece of music. I have always thought: if you want to play fast you have to practice fast. The method of starting with a moderate tempo (for a sprint) and then incrementing the metronome constantly one by one does not work at the end, because your muscles (and your muscle memory) approach 60 bpm and the target of 180 bpm completely differently. So, do not waste practice time and go, after you feel comfortably with the fingerings at 60 bpm (that’s your base line) straight to the target speed decomposing the “sprint” in smaller, interleaving junks. Is this a good way to do? Is the explanation valid? Or how would you bring a sprint to target speed? Maybe I missed something your post.

    1. The idea is to work on both speeds in the same practice session, so you get the benefits of each. As you say, your hand will learn different things at the different speeds. So when you see that something just won’t work fast, you can modify the slow practice to point toward the desired fast version. Similarly, if you can’t play something in tune slowly, you can forget about it working fast. You know that you’ll have to make a change before you can make progress. So the nice middle ground is fast, but small chunks.

  3. I think I will have to watch this video a few more times. It really makes sense to interval train instead of going through the whole piece and trying to raise the metronome as you go along. That becomes a psychological “train wreck”! Thank you for making this topic so understandable.

  4. Nathan Cole, thank you for your parallel tracks video. I will need to review it a few more times on my computer rather than my phone. Your specific ideas are effective for the way I learn. As a retired music teacher who returned to University to study music/trumpet, I am very excited to implement your ideas.

    I look forward to learning more from you and applying your ideas into my own learning. As a teacher I find your approach worthy of sharing.

    Thank you so very much,


  5. Geoffrey Grimes

    Hi Nathan
    I have watched a couple of your tutorial videos 4th finger and vibrato
    They are very good I have started to practice your method
    have you anything else to help a struggling wannabe intermediate player
    many Thanks for your excellent instruction
    Geoff Grimes

    1. Well, there are lots more articles and videos! 🙂 In particular, if you haven’t read about the 3 Variables that would be a great place to start.

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