Even if you are (quote-un-quote) an "advanced" player, it's still extremely important to learn tunes slowly. Even if you are "capable" of playing/learning it at a faster tempo, there are still essential musical elements that need to be reflected upon in order for this new repertoire addition to have any musical merit and staying power for you.
Here are my top 3 reasons I advocate learning tunes slowly:
One: Technical Pitfalls.
This one is probably the most obvious, but it's very common for "advanced" players to mess this one up, and to think their technique is good enough to be able to do a rush-job learning a tune. There are so many technique traps in so many tunes that it's downright foolish to try to learn most tunes at a super fast rate. Think of all of the fundamental errors that need to be avoided in each tune:
- Lift-Drop Crossing Noises
- Rolling Crossing Noises
- Phantom Crossing Noises
- Rhythmic in-accuracies
- Gracenote size issues
- Gracenote synce issues
- Embellishment-step accuracy problems
- Embellishments-step "even-ness" issues
- ALAP/ASAP inconsistencies
Wow! That's a lot of stuff. What makes us feel like we can tackle all 9 of these (and then some!) at full speed?!?!
Two: Expression Points
At the Dojo, we advocate transcending the "usual" phrasing templates (you know, Strong-weak-medium-weak, or "Heavy Left Foot," or the like) by highlighting your own key melodic points.
But, playing too fast can leave you with out much to hold on to. During the learning phase, we want to have time to reflect on what key passages might yield in the future, expression-wise. If we're too focused on surviving the tune and can't focus on how we're going to make it special... what's the point of learning it???
Three: Personal Enjoyment
I used to be very impatient when it came to learning tunes, playing things super fast. It's true - I was a gifted young piper. So, I could "get away with" learning things at light speed.
But the weirdest thing happened to me as I got more and more into teaching bagpipes to others (and therefore going through tunes much more slowly than before)....
I started to enjoy the tunes more!
There was SO MUCH MUSIC to be enjoyed and reflected upon that I was totally missing before, because I hadn't had the patience to slow things down and really listen. It's sort of like laying in a hammock in the back yard. The yard then becomes not just something that you have to mow each week - it becomes a beautiful place where there's so much to soak in!