A Question of Timing

Would you like to be the subject of a future practice clinic? Contact us with any practice problems and we’d be happy to help.

Like many students taking their first steps in learning an instrument today’s subject has problems with rhythm.

I would like to play with better with timing and rhythm. Counting and using the metronome correctly.

Our reply:

It’s great to see someone of your age committed to learning the piano. It’s even more heartening to see you dedicating a regular time everyday to practice. It might not seem like it at times but you will be improving – just stick with it. The rewards of being able to play the piano are definitely worth it.

The first thing that stood out was the difference between your stated weakness (rhythm) and your practice routine. Your routine involves scales, chords, a tutor book and some pieces. All good stuff but is it helping your rhythm?

I would suggest that you try to spend some dedicated time working at your timing as part of your routine. You could try the following exercises:

  • Set your metronome to a very slow tempo. Clap along with each of the beats. Try to get each clap as exact as you can. Do this for a minute or two.
  • Next, clap twice for every tick on the metronome. Clap once on the tick and once between. Again try to get and exactly rhythmic clap.
  • Take a piece you are working on and clap the rhythm slowly to yourself. Make sure to do it in time, however slowly.
  • Sing rhythms out loud to yourself
  • When listening to music tap along with the tempo. Try to work out how many beats there are in each bar.
  • Take some music that you’ve heard and try to play or write down the rhythm

The other suggestion I would make to you is to include rhythm as part of all your practice. For example when you play scales play them evenly and in time with a metronome. When you play your pieces concentrate on the rhythm.

You might also like to take a look at the speed from accuracy method. The mistake many people make when learning new things like rhythm is to try and do things too fast too early.

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