ABRSM Speedshifter app for slow practice

Listening is crucial in piano learning. Through listening we  capture the mood and full picture of the music. But in some cases when I ask my piano students listening to the recording,  some complain they cannot follow every notes in the running passages. Moreover they tend to follow the “performance tempo” that pianists played in the recording. Obviously their technique are not capable to cope with that tempo at the early stage of learning so stumbles are often found.

I find Speedshifter, a IT tool from ABRSM is useful in this situation. Speedshifter officially is designed for instrumental students for practice. This tool can change the overall tempo of the recording from an audio file, make it faster or slower in different degrees, and play it out. In other words instrumental students can use this tool to alternate the tempi of piano accompaniment, usually slower the accompaniment at the beginning, and then speed up progressively to reach the “performance tempo”.

I use this tool in another way. I let my piano students listening to the original version of recording first. Then I use this tool to slower the tempo of recording some how similar to the “slow practice tempo”.

Speedshifer is free for download on PC and Mac. This tool is also available as mobile app for ios and andriod, and have both free and paid version for both OS.

You may find more information from the following ABRSM officially page


Copyright © 2016 Alice Ho — All Rights Reserved


noise and white noise

I live in a small apartment in city centre in Hong Kong. It is surrounded by roads and other buildings. I can easily hear many kinds of sound, from traffic sound to the pumping sound of construction sites.

Hong Kong is small and crowded of people. I think many Hong Kongers like me are used to live with sound. You may say this is noise but we get used of it. It is part of our daily life.

Of course noise may annoy you in some situations. For example you are hurrying for your work. You need silence so you can concentrate. Noise may disturb you or you may then lose temper. Or you may feel sleepy but sadly find that you are awaken by noise.

It is ideal to live in suburb or having sound-proofed home. If it is not possible to move, you may also try white noise. White noise is a kind of random signals with a constant power spectral density. It is usually used in electronics engineering and architectural acoustics of performing venues. White noise is also used as background signals to calm people down. Sometimes no matter you are in a quiet place or not you may be still very tense. The followings are the free websites for white noise:


Not only white noise, you can also listen to pink and brown noise  in SimplyNoise.  You can also set timer for sleeping. Paid mobile app version is available.

White noise player

If you think white noise generated by computer is too artificial, you may think white noise from here.  You can select different types of daily life white noise here, from fan, vacuum to wind here, though I don’t know whether they are recorded from real life or not.


It is the “raining” version of SimplyNoise. In SimplyRain you can adjust the intensity of rain to give different raining sound. You can also choose to add thunder into the background. Paid mobile app version is also available.

Rainy Mood

You can also hear raining sound here. It also has an option of “today’s music”. You can listen to it altogether with raining sound as background. I like it very much. Free mobile app version is available.


Copyright © 2014 Alice Ho — All Rights Reserved

Slow practice with metronome

Sochi Winter Olympics has been held for almost a week. I especially like figure skating. Figure skatters need to do series of moves such as spins, jumps and throw jumps with music. They give smooth, well-organized yet stable performances.


It is similar in piano playing. Led by hands and arms, our fingers have to run and jump on the keyboard on time. However, we tend to slow down in difficult sections and speed up in easier parts. This will break the continuity of music.

Here I suggest the use of slow practice to overcome the problem. Firstly find out the optimum tempo of the piece and mark it on the score. The optimum tempo is the tempo that allows the reflection of character and salient features of the piece. You can also find the hints of optimum tempo from performances by other pianists.

Then play the whole piece comfortably. Tap while playing. Then tap your pulse on metronome with pulse tap function such as mobile metronome app and steinway metronome app. Your current tempo marking is right there.  Compare this marking with the optimum tempo and you will see how far you are left behind. Achieve the optimum tempo progressively and patiently.

Once you have reached the optimum tempo, please don’t forget to replay the piece in slower tempo regularly. This can help you solidify what you have learnt.


Copyright © 2014 Alice Ho — All Rights Reserved