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#3159929 09/27/21 03:26 PM
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I know there is a difference between pulse, beat and rhythm and I'm not sure which one or two I'm having a hard time with. But I don't really think I feel the music. When I count out loud I'm counting what I'm playing instead of keeping a steady beat. So there could be hesitations or a quarter note may not be held the full value etc. And I just slow my counting for the hesitation or speed my counting if a quarter note just got a eighth count. I'm doing this subconsciously. When I use the metronome I seem to do OK but when I turn it off, then I get off. I've looked back over my teachers assignments and noticed that just about every lesson has something to do with rhythm (steady beat, hold half notes, no pause after two sixteenth notes, smooth across bar lines, keep counting, no hesitations, listen to yourself play, steady beat was mentioned a lot). If I listen to music I seem to be able to hear the beat and tap with it, but many times there is a drum playing that helps.
Is there anything I can do to conquer this? I want to improve! Oh and I've been taking lessons for just about 4 years.


Pat, short for Patricia
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Not sure what kind of music you're playing, but here's a drill I've heard a number of musicians recommend:

1. Play your piece using the metronome with 4 beats to a measure.
2. Then play it will the metronome providing 2 beats to a measure (1 and 3, or 2 and 4, depending upon what kind of music you're playing.
3. Then play it with the metronome providing 1 beat per measure.

Each time you have to increasing rely on your internal sense of the pulse. I heard one musician in a video say that each time you're doing the same thing physically, but much more mentally each time.

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I'm currently playing Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) 5 pgs, Sonatina Op 55 No 1 by Kuhlau 4 pgs, and Chaconne Theme and Six Variations by Handel 2 pgs and Hanon book 2.
Thanks for the suggestion jjo. I will give that a try.


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Yes you are right, the pulse, the beat structure (the meter) and rythm(s) are 3 different things. It takes a lot of practice to be able to recognize the meter and the basic rythmic structure of a piece. The bestvadvice i can give is to listen to music and try to recognize which is which starting with very simple pieces.

For the counting, it is just a question of internalizing the pulse and the meter. For the rythm you must work on internalizing how various rythmic groups should sound. The counting is supposed to help you at the beginning but the objective is to feel it.

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Originally Posted by PatG
I know there is a difference between pulse, beat and rhythm and I'm not sure which one or two I'm having a hard time with. But I don't really think I feel the music. When I count out loud I'm counting what I'm playing instead of keeping a steady beat. So there could be hesitations or a quarter note may not be held the full value etc. And I just slow my counting for the hesitation or speed my counting if a quarter note just got a eighth count. I'm doing this subconsciously.
You have got used to letting your beat-counting be dictated by your playing, rather than the other way round, and/or got reliant on an external source of regular beats (your metronome).

Therefore, you need to start from scratch with another physical method. I assume you've not been taught how to beat time like a conductor (there are videos if you'd like to learn, and I recommend learning to beat duple, triple and quadruple time), so the next best thing is to clap aloud regularly, then - after you've got the clapping regular - clap while singing the melody of a simple tune from a piece that you've learnt and know well. (Amazing Grace will do, if it's the well-known tune.) No half-hearted soft humming: sing aloud, and clap loudly along, and make sure that they are properly synchronized, and the clapping is regular. Then try something slightly more complicated like The Star-Spangled Banner (- I assume you're American). Try to clap the first beats louder. Listen carefully first to the clapping, then to the tune, the gradually dial down the volume of your clapping while singing louder, until your clapping is almost inaudible but you're still singing the tune in perfect time.

Your mission is to internalize the sense of a regular beat so that you can play in time with it, so the next step is to actually play that regular beat on the piano with LH while you play the melody with RH. Instead of what is in your score, play just the tonic note of your piece (in the Kuhlau Op.55/1, it's C) using one finger of your LH, like a drummer, loudly, on the beat, first by itself, then while playing the RH part in time with it, and listen carefully to make sure your LH repeated notes are regular, just like the ticking of your metronome. The big difference is that you are the one making the sound of regular beats, and you are playing along with the beats, and therefore you are gradually internalizing the sense of a regular beat, which you'll never do if you keep relying on the metronome..

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If I listen to music I seem to be able to hear the beat and tap with it, but many times there is a drum playing that helps.
You need to start listening to music that has no drums. Why not start with ragtime piano music by Joplin, and clap/beat time to it?


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Hi pat. I also learnt a kuhlau sonata recently (op 88 no 2). The piece you are learning is in cut time which means 2/2. Are you aware of the difference between the cut time (2/2) and the other signature (4/4)?


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Sorry please ignore the post. It was an error. It is in a C in common time - 4/4.

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Since I mentioned it. Here is piece I replied to in another thread. It is an example of cut time. In this case it is 4/2.


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There are smartphone applications for developing the sense of rhythm. Search for "rhythm training" to get a list of them. Basically they are about tapping different rhythmic figures and their combinations on the phone with high precision in order to internalize them. I heard they are really helpful. I guess there exist similar applications for computer, too. But developing the sense of rhythm takes a long time, months, be patient.

Another approach that I personally use is tapping with the left foot when playing. You firstly need to play with metronome and to learn to tap your left foot exactly in time with metronome. It takes some time. Then you may alternate tapping with metronome and without metronome. When you're sure that you tap well you may turn off metronome completely. Sometimes people combine tapping with saying something like "tiki-taka" in order to tap less often, but that's only useful when tapping is already learned well. And the final stage is playing without tapping, relying solely on your inner rhythm when it's fully internalized.

Last edited by Iaroslav Vasiliev; 09/28/21 01:17 AM.
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Another suggestion, apart from the good ones you have already gotten.

Originally Posted by PatG
When I count out loud I'm counting what I'm playing instead of keeping a steady beat.

Get a metronome app with voice counting. Count out loud together with the metronome, then count without the metronome. Record yourself counting, listen to it and notice when you make a mistake. Again, count out loud together with the metronome, especially noticing the spot where you went wrong without the metronome, then try again without the metronome, recording yourself.


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Pre-COVID, I'd recommend joining a "drum circle". That's a fairly-informal group of hand drummers (usually on djembes), practicing simple rhythms (and some not-so-simple). It has two advantages over practicing rhythms on a piano:

(a) there's support from all the other players -- loud support -- and it's hard to fall "out of rhythm" and not notice it.

(b) A drum is a lot simpler than a piano. It's _just time_ -- not notes and fingering -- that you have to think about.


That might work well after COVID, too. Until then, try out any of the suggestions above.


. Charles
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OP, Benevis said one word that will help you more than any of these other posts.
That word is Joplin, as in Scott Joplin.
Nothing will do more for your pulse vs. beat vs. rhythm than Scott Joplin.
The key to Joplin's music is, you absolutely HAVE to FEEL it, even before you play it.
You have to feel it without playing it. Some of his pieces are very deceptive. For example it absolutely aggravates me when I hear The Entertainer played fast. What is fast? Faster than slow. The piece was written to be played slow, yet it's almost impossible to not hear it played fast. Fast shows a lack of understanding of the piece, and totally lacking that feel. I have a suspicion you're lacking that feel, that groove, that.... use whatever word you feel you should.
I know there's nothing like Classical, sure, I get it.
But if you want to address what you're having a challenge with, play everything Scott Joplin you can lay your hands on.
Then, Blues and Jazz.
And swing those notes. Add as much swing as you can handle. Play as much syncopation as you can handle.
Play nothing but Joplin and as much Jazz and Blues as you can take.
And I'll be surprised if your feeling doesn't develop far beyond anything you thought ever was possible.
Classical can even be considered mechanical, once you've really developed what you're referring to as pulse, beat, rhythm.
I clap Joplin songs before I play them. And it feels good, it always feels good. I actually don't really know why, only that it makes me smile. And relax. Et voila!

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My suggestion would be to find your comfortable (not stretch!) level in a graded non-classical series that offers backing tracks too, like Martha Meir’s Jazz, Rags & Blues, or Christopher Norton’s American Popular Piano, and practice playing along with those.

Both of those series are well thought out both musically & pedagogically, and should help you get a better intuitive feel for beat, swing, syncopation, etc.


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PatG --

From your description of your troubles with keeping time:

. . . all the advice about swing, syncopation, Joplin, and jazz --

. . . . . . it's asking you to run, when you're still learning how to walk.

All those things have their place, but to learn them, you should be able to keep a reasonably steady beat while you're playing.

Counting, clapping, metronome -- all could be useful while you master that.


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I want to thank everyone for taking the time to offer your suggestions and for the videos. I will implement some of the suggestions in my daily practice. I am my worst critic. I don't give myself enough credit for what I CAN do well. I had a lesson today that I wasn't looking forward to going to. I just thought that I'd screw up on the things I had spent so many hours trying to get right. But it was a very encouraging lesson. My teacher told me how much I have improved over the last year with counting and keeping the rhythm. She had so many positive things to say about my piano playing. {I wish I could have recorded it so I could remember everything she said and play it back to myself when I get discouraged). It was just what I needed to hear. I still need work with the beat but we are working on that together. She did tell me to give myself grace. I told her that is exactly what my daughter-in-law told me after last weeks lesson.

Thanks again!


Pat, short for Patricia
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