The Bigger Rhythmic Picture



One of my pet peeves that a beginning student can do, is rushing ahead during parts that they find easy to play, and struggling to keep up with that set rhythm during the more difficult parts. Overall, the results not only show a lack of mindful practicing that hinders progress,  but will hinder the student from understanding music further.  Are they listening artistically to the music they are creating, or are they simply trying to play through the notes as if they were a finger agility challenge?


Why is it Important to Play and Practice in Rhythm?

Rhythm is an integral part of the form of music. It is the glue that holds everything together. It organizes sounds into what we call music by assigning them duration values, giving the melody direction and shape. When we disrupt that form (by playing the rhythm wrong), the structure doesn’t make sense anymore.  Don’t forget, audience members are more likely to notice mistakes in rhythm rather than in notes. Our eyes are great at picking up rhythmic patterns, and this is reflected into every language’s natural rhythm. By playing in the correct rhythm, the student is learning about the larger musical picture even though the notes are not perfected yet. Having the bigger picture puts everything in perspective; this is a higher understanding of the music that students can learn from the very beginning.

Is Practicing Slowly the Answer?

Absolutely! Imagine riding a bike. When you are first learning to ring, would you want to go as fast as possible, or would you want to take it at a comfortable pace? Ideally, you would be riding at a speed, and on a route, that is challenging, but easy enough to do. You need time to get used to reacting to all the things happening! When learningmusic, you are being challenged visually, aurally and physically all at once. Take your time! Give yourself a fair chance to look at what’s happening!   A speed too fast, will cause too many mistakes and may be discouraging.

It is important to note that its crucial to work on rhythm, without melody too. It is a major part of music, no matter what instrument you are playing.

Remember! This is music, not a words-per-minute typing test. Take your time and enjoy the music!