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#1982575 - 11/04/12 11:29 AM How to learn the rhythm of a new piece
Barbareola Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/12
Posts: 67
Loc: Germany
The thread "Developing skills for sightreading" gave me a lot to think about.

While sightreading is still a long term goal of mine, I realized that I need to develop other skills further, else I'm placing the cart before the ox, so to speak. Before I can even think about starting to sightread, I need to get better at *reading* music as such.

One of my biggest problems in music is playing the notes with the correct length, getting the rhythm right, so to speak.

When I first learned about full, half, quarter notes and so forth, I was in elementary school and learned the recorder. The method book we used contained all kind of songs that my mother used to sing to me. It was easy for me to play those. The downside was, that I played them by ear. I did read the notes to see which one came next, but I relied solely on memory for the length of the notes. Tapping the beat with my feet confused me to no ends, instead I tapped the rhythm, which drove my teacher nuts. (We were a group of four girls and I was her least favorite one - there was no love lost between us.) But then all the notes the recorder could produce were introduced, the method book changed to classic stuff like minuets. And I was lost. The pieces now were too complex to memorize and I didn't know them before playing them. Since I had wiggled through the time keeping exercises, I could not play them. At that time, the other girls began to drop out of the group and the lessons were abandoned.

I then sang in different choirs for more than ten years, before I tried to learn the guitar. The pattern repeated in a similar fashion: too many known pieces at first, then a sudden jump in complexity with coincided with the beginning of university, which crushed my spare time to study like a sledge hammer and I stopped taking lessons. What remained behind was the sinking feeling of not being musical and utterly unable to ever read a new piece without the help of a teacher.

Fast forward almost twenty years. After moving into our own house, I decided two years ago to fulfill my lifelong dream and bought a piano and started to take lessons. This time, I resolved, I would learn to play unknown pieces rhythmically correct. Teacher one and later teacher two were surprised and confused about my fear. When we study a new piece, we always start with HS and apparently, I do fine then. Ok, a half or full note might not be long enough or I might struggle with a triple because of the awkward (for me) fingering. But all in all neither of them seems to think I'm wasting my times taking lessons.

While I am glad for that, I still lack the confidence to take an unknown piece and play it rhythmically correct on my own. The problem might be more in my head than anything else, but that does not make it less real for me. So what I am looking is for ways to learn to read the rhythm of a new piece with routine and confidence.

What I have tried so far is counting like 1 2 3 and 4… and so forth. It works, but the more often I practice a piece, the more often I tend not to count, because then I only concentrate on the counting, not the playing. When I don't count though, I am scared of playing notes too long or short.

When I use the metronome and set it to an abysmally slow speed, I can play two eighth between a beat. But when I try to speed up, eventually I will shift from one beat = a fourth note to one beat an eighth note.

Tapping the beat produces the same problem as in the days of the recorder: I tend to change to tapping the rhythm, not the beat. *sigh*

I wonder if technology could help me. Software like ear master has sections that are supposed to train beats. Something like Home Concert Xtreme might help as well….

Has anybody used such software for a problem like this? Did it help?

Or do you have other suggestions that might be helpful?

When you learn the rhythm of a new piece, do you always count the beats? Clap the rhythm? If so, do you count silently in your head every time you play it or do you stop doing that once you feel that you have learned it?
_________________________
Currently working on: Venetian Gondola song by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy

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#1982588 - 11/04/12 11:56 AM Re: How to learn the rhythm of a new piece [Re: Barbareola]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2308
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
What you might find helpful for reading is following the score while listening to a performance. Many YouTube videos have this feature built in but getting the complete sonatas of Mozart or Beethoven, for example, from IMSLP is a viable option and you can progress to string quartets and orchestral scores when you get the hang of it.
_________________________
Richard

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#1982619 - 11/04/12 01:22 PM Re: How to learn the rhythm of a new piece [Re: Barbareola]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11512
Loc: Canada
I immigrated here from Germany when I was small, but went back and visited my friend's school when we were both around 10. I saw they were learning to play recorder, and various crafts, and also music history. I felt we were missing something. Now it looks like public school education everywhere has holes. I can relate to what you wrote even though I was self taught, because when I took my first music lessons ever as an adult, the introductory level featured familiar songs. You end up playing by ear, making it sound how you know it should sound, but do you learn the underlying things?

There are strengths and weaknesses. As a child when you learn Alle Meine Entchen (C,D,E,F,G,G -- A,A,A,A,A,G - F,F,F,F,E,E - D,D,D,D,C.) supposedly you are also learning a major scale. Haenschen Klein is used in Suzuki under the name "Lightly Row" to teach basic chords. We absorb them passively and subconsciously. The advantage of familiar songs is that students are more likely to play musically rather than mechanically, and they are motivated to stick with it. But what is, and isn't learned? It takes skill and wisdom to truly teach music effectively, so a lot of us end up with holes. Unless a teacher is aware of this, he will be mystified the way your two teachers were. It's not that mysterious.

There are skills underneath in music. In fact, when we learn to read and write, we are taught the alphabet; how to form circles and lines so we can write b, p, o, g, q; grammar; declensions (der gute Mann, des guten Mannes etc.), spelling. Does anyone just give you a book in grade one and then a pencil and tell you to read and write stories? If you had problems, would anyone be mystified? Yet that's what we get in music.

Main point: You need to get what you are missing. A lot of us are in that place. An important thing that I learned is that you can only learn one new thing at a time. So when learning to read the notes, don't worry about note value and rhythm. Work on one thing at a time.

You have a number of different things in this area:
- note value. The relative value of one note compared to another. A half note = 2 quarter notes = 8 eighth notes - and all relationships of one note to another. If your LH has a half note, and your RH has 4 eighth notes, they'll fit into each other. You will know that your half note has two quarter note beats, and that two of your eighth notes fit inside each of these two quarter notes. You can use this to work with it.

- beats. In 3/4 time there are three beats. Each beat has the value of a quarter note. You have to be able to work with this. If you can't get the beats even while getting your note values to fit, eventually do make them even. Work in small sections if you must. Go slowly.

- rhythm. The part that you have had in one manner. It is related to note value and beats. You can play or chant notes mechanically and mathematically and you will get a rhythm which doesn't sound "rhythmic" because something is missing, but it will be accurate. You can go back and forth between getting the accurate side of it, and getting it to be more "rhythmic" and free. Your rhythm should be within the beat.

Work on it gradually, in stages. The fear is natural, and it will go as mastery comes in. Realize that you are experiencing a new thing that will supersede the old that you've known for so long.

The confusion that many teachers have with older students is that we seem to know a lot, and we do. But then they assume that we have the rudimentary knowledge that should go with it, and we don't. Also, not all of them teach these rudimentary things. Maybe their students accidentally pick up the scale through Alle Meine Entchen and they have never thought it through.

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#1982623 - 11/04/12 01:39 PM Re: How to learn the rhythm of a new piece [Re: Barbareola]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
I'd suggest isolating the problem by getting a rhythm reading book and working through that with the metronome. A favorite of mine is The Rhythm Bible by Dan Fox.

Try tapping the beat (along with the metronome) with one hand, and tapping the written rhythm with the other. (Then switch hands shocked ) Keep trying until you get it right, but be sure to follow along with what you're doing on the page.

I also second the suggestion to listen to music while following along with the sheet music. It's equivalent to how a child might follow along on the page as a parent reads to them. It's impressive how much you intuitively pick up if you really follow along with what you hear. In your case, I'd work on tapping along to the beat while listening, and try to become aware of how that lines up with the measure lines.

I don't think I'd count on expensive software to help this problem. I think the answer lies in old-fashioned technology of metronome, printed music, and the coordination of your hands.
_________________________
Oops... extremely distracted by mandolins at the moment... brb

neglected piano blog

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#1982659 - 11/04/12 03:05 PM Re: How to learn the rhythm of a new piece [Re: Barbareola]
spanishbuddha Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 2307
Loc: UK
+1 for the Rhythm Bible, but you have to work along with it, listening, reading and tapping. It's not a cure but it helps.

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#1982663 - 11/04/12 03:09 PM Re: How to learn the rhythm of a new piece [Re: tangleweeds]
kayvee Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/29/12
Posts: 135
Loc: Santa Barbara
Originally Posted By: tangleweeds
I'd suggest isolating the problem by getting a rhythm reading book and working through that with the metronome. A favorite of mine is The Rhythm Bible by Dan Fox.

...

I also second the suggestion to listen to music while following along with the sheet music. It's equivalent to how a child might follow along on the page as a parent reads to them. It's impressive how much you intuitively pick up if you really follow along with what you hear. In your case, I'd work on tapping along to the beat while listening, and try to become aware of how that lines up with the measure lines.

I don't think I'd count on expensive software to help this problem. I think the answer lies in old-fashioned technology of metronome, printed music, and the coordination of your hands.
+1 a million-bajillion-kajillion

1) purchase a book on rhythm and go through it in detail...then purchase another when you're done with it and repeat

2) listen to songs and try to follow the music, as stated above, and then try to play the downbeat on the piano at the same time, then maybe the second beat, then maybe the upbeat, etc. Then try two beats. Keep adding in until you are the metronome (this can have some funky effects because of more expressive playing, but for the most part you should be fine)

3)
Quote:
Try tapping the beat (along with the metronome) with one hand, and tapping the written rhythm with the other. (Then switch hands shocked ) Keep trying until you get it right, but be sure to follow along with what you're doing on the page.
YES. But this is MUCH harder than it seems. Start with easy things and move your way up! Also, try to do it with single-line music (violin, trumpet, etc) so that you aren't focusing on where the melody is or anything but just the rhythm. Eventually, go back to piano music but for now, keep the focus and simplify everything but the rhythm.

4) I do think ear-training software is very useful, especially dictation. I love this one:
http://www.amazon.com/eMedia-EM11086-EarMaster-5/dp/B001DF3OOU/ref=pd_sim_b_7
_________________________
A linguistics major who loves piano and knows too much theory/history without knowing how to play it as well as he wants to be able to.

Let's hope that changes. Taught piano for almost two years and currently working on:
"Going back to the basics..."

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#1982981 - 11/05/12 11:14 AM Re: How to learn the rhythm of a new piece [Re: Barbareola]
Ragdoll Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/03/12
Posts: 652
Loc: Illinois
Well I'm new here but I can tell you what helps me even though I hate to do it is ALWAYS practice your counting while only playing either the melody or harmony until you have both down pat. This means more that a couple times btw ;^D.

I know that even when we know all the notes to play that counting while playing both parts can overwhelm the concentration. I always do a run through hands seperately before I play any song for practice. It's natural to want to hear yourself "play it" with both but I guarantee this will help you if you do it. Your fingers will retain the memory eventually.
_________________________
Ragdoll

Never get directions from someone who hasn't been there.

Just be yourself, everyone else is already taken.


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#1983185 - 11/05/12 07:36 PM Re: How to learn the rhythm of a new piece [Re: Ragdoll]
kayvee Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/29/12
Posts: 135
Loc: Santa Barbara
Originally Posted By: Ragdoll
Well I'm new here but I can tell you what helps me even though I hate to do it is ALWAYS practice your counting while only playing either the melody or harmony until you have both down pat. This means more that a couple times btw ;^D.

I know that even when we know all the notes to play that counting while playing both parts can overwhelm the concentration. I always do a run through hands seperately before I play any song for practice. It's natural to want to hear yourself "play it" with both but I guarantee this will help you if you do it. Your fingers will retain the memory eventually.
Do you mean hands separately, or do you actually mean melody and harmony?

These can be the same thing or they can be very different. I wouldn't suggest counting just the melody and the harmony.
_________________________
A linguistics major who loves piano and knows too much theory/history without knowing how to play it as well as he wants to be able to.

Let's hope that changes. Taught piano for almost two years and currently working on:
"Going back to the basics..."

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#1983450 - 11/06/12 02:10 PM Re: How to learn the rhythm of a new piece [Re: Barbareola]
Barbareola Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/12
Posts: 67
Loc: Germany
Thanks everybody for great suggestions and ideas.

Richard@ I was wondering if reading scores would help. I'm glad that you feel it does.

Keystring@ There are schools here with special devotion to music these days… But learning an instrument is still mostly done by taking private lessons. Anyway… I am so happy to hear that the fear is natural. I admit part of me feared that my rhythmic troubles are a weakness that I have no chance to overcome and that no matter what instrument I try to learn, earlier or later I'd always hit that road block. I liked the recorder and the guitar well enough - but I love my piano with a passion that makes my husband glad that I don't look at other men like I look at it.

tangleweeds@ I will make sure to check out the Rhythm bible. And thanks for seconding following music along with sheet music.

kayvee@ That is a piece of software that I have been eyeing. Tomorrow they intend to launch the latest version 6 and I intend to try the trial.

Ragdoll@ Both teacher one and two always insisted on HS before HT, to get the fingering and the basic rhythm right, so that is already an established part of my routine that I'm unlikely to change soon.
_________________________
Currently working on: Venetian Gondola song by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy

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#1983496 - 11/06/12 04:31 PM Re: How to learn the rhythm of a new piece [Re: Barbareola]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11512
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Barbareola

Keystring@ There are schools here with special devotion to music these days… But learning an instrument is still mostly done by taking private lessons. Anyway… I am so happy to hear that the fear is natural. I admit part of me feared that my rhythmic troubles are a weakness that I have no chance to overcome and that no matter what instrument I try to learn, earlier or later I'd always hit that road block.

That is the problem when we are not given the basics. Without the tools you will continually hit the same roadblocks without ever knowing that you are missing skills you should have been given. You see the effect and not the cause. I think that a number of us have gone through this for various reasons. It is a relief to know.

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#1983608 - 11/07/12 12:20 AM Re: How to learn the rhythm of a new piece [Re: Barbareola]
kayvee Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/29/12
Posts: 135
Loc: Santa Barbara
Originally Posted By: Barbareola
Ragdoll@ Both teacher one and two always insisted on HS before HT, to get the fingering and the basic rhythm right, so that is already an established part of my routine that I'm unlikely to change soon.


nononononono badbadbadbadbad

You don't want to ALWAYS practice/learn things hand separately. There is no rule for when you should and when you shouldn't, but you DEFINITELY SHOULDN'T ONLY practice HS first, then HT.
_________________________
A linguistics major who loves piano and knows too much theory/history without knowing how to play it as well as he wants to be able to.

Let's hope that changes. Taught piano for almost two years and currently working on:
"Going back to the basics..."

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#1983831 - 11/07/12 04:38 PM Re: How to learn the rhythm of a new piece [Re: kayvee]
Barbareola Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/12
Posts: 67
Loc: Germany
Originally Posted By: kayvee
Originally Posted By: Barbareola
Ragdoll@ Both teacher one and two always insisted on HS before HT, to get the fingering and the basic rhythm right, so that is already an established part of my routine that I'm unlikely to change soon.


nononononono badbadbadbadbad

You don't want to ALWAYS practice/learn things hand separately. There is no rule for when you should and when you shouldn't, but you DEFINITELY SHOULDN'T ONLY practice HS first, then HT.


Let's say that there are several reasons why I think that 2013 will see me searching for teacher three.... I adored teacher one and was presented by the music school with teacher two. She *has* taught me a lot, but I begin to miss a lot of stuff that I thought a piano teacher should do and everything I have read here continues to strengthen that impression.

How to find a good piano teacher and what to ask him/her is likely to be one of my next threads. smile
_________________________
Currently working on: Venetian Gondola song by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy

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#1983955 - 11/08/12 12:04 AM Re: How to learn the rhythm of a new piece [Re: keystring]
Newman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/27/11
Posts: 699
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: keystring
...when we learn to read and write, we are taught the alphabet; how to form circles and lines so we can write ... Does anyone just give you a book in grade one and then a pencil and tell you to read and write stories? If you had problems, would anyone be mystified? Yet that's what we get in music....


Too true.
_________________________
Guitar since 1966. Piano (Kawai DP80) since 2011.

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#1984489 - 11/09/12 04:58 AM Re: How to learn the rhythm of a new piece [Re: Barbareola]
PaperClip Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/21/09
Posts: 505
Loc: Amsterdam, Holland
Hi,

I always had big problems to keep up a good rythm. So much I thought I wasn't musical. Or at least not good enough to play an instrument. I had to solve that problem.

When learning a new piece, most of the times I have to learn new moves and techniques. Sometimes a new rythm. With inadequate technique it is impossible for me to be in time. Which is always the case in the beginning. Then my ears get used to a wrong rythm, thinking that's the right rythm, making the problem even worse. And I also don't like a metronome.

When I learn a piece, I play very slowly counting loud. Very shortly after that, I count silently in my head, because I hate counting loud. But most important is that my ears get used to the good rythm. When my ears know how the piece sounds, I stop counting. Then I only have to listen. Only playing in public I count silently again, because of the adrenaline I tend to play faster than I want to.

New rythms I have learned to count silently in my head when walking. Just counting for example: 1 . . . 2 ne me te 3 . en . 4 ne me te. Keeping the counts right in time with my steps.

I tend to play the correct rythm right from the beginning learning a piece now and that solved my problem so far.
_________________________
Chris

Playing since May 02 2009

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