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Rhythm For Piano 

Editor's comments/ Learning how to play with rhythm is so important. Pick up a few tips in the following article.

Learning about rhythm for piano is very important.  The piano is a
rhythmical instrument.  When you push the keys down you do so in a
percussive manner. The nice thing about the piano is that you can
vary the volume and length of the sound. This can add more spice
and variety to the music you play.
When I was first learning the piano I didn't concentrate enough on
the rhythmical aspect of the piano.  Instead what I was more
interested in was playing the nice sounding melodies and chords.
So I didn't usually concentrate on the timing of the piece.  I
didn't concentrate on playing at the right speed and getting the
rhythm of the notes right. 
Unfortunately this is not a good idea for learning the piano.  What
happened was I was neglecting the rhythmical aspect of the piano
and later on in my learning I came into difficulty with my rhythm
and ability to play in time.  I had to work twice as hard to get my
rhythm and timing at the level of the rest of my playing.  
The best way to practice rhythm is too listen to your favorite song
and try to count along to the rhythm.  Most songs have a count of 4
beats to each bar.  You might have heard people counting to 4
before the song.  This is counting in the song at the right tempo
so the band knows how fast to play.  So if you can count along to
the beat of your favorite song 'one, two, three, four'. You should
try and do this to the beat of the song.


Sometimes a piano song will be very rhythmically orientated.  This
means that the song is played with a lot of importance placed on
the timing and the rhythmical patterns.  An example of this kind of
playing would be a song like "Great balls of fire" by Jerry Lee
Lewis.  If you've heard the song before you'll hear the percussive
nature of Jerry Lewis' playing style.  The song itself is heavily
rhythm based.  The beat is quite driving and it has a definite
'pulse' to it.  He is playing heavily on the beat, and the chords
in a repeated rhythmical pattern.
When playing with a band, rhythm and timing are very important.
When playing solo the rhythm of a song can vary.  This is because
the rhythm and timing is performed is more open to interpretation
by the pianist.  With no other instruments needing specific
guidelines of timing the piano can vary speed and adopt different
rhythmical patterns at will.
There are a lot of different complicated aspects about rhythm that
are important to learn and understand.  Because the piano is an
instrument that has the ability to play rhythmical patterns, as
pianists we are responsible to allocating time and attention on
learning to be rhythmically proficient. 
Try practicing rhythm by tapping and counting aloud, one – two –
three – four.   Make sure you count and tap evenly.  Then try
tapping one – two -three – four with just your left hand.  Then tap
only with your right hand counting one and three.  Your left hand
should be tapping four times and your right hand taps every time
you count one and three.  Remember to keep your counting even so
your counting in a pattern that is regular.  When you get good at
that, try varying it up.  Play the four counts on your right hand
and then play the one and three counts with your left.  You could
also try tapping on two and four, or one and four or any other kind
of combination you can think of.

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This tip was submitted by our regular reader Avril:

“How To Play Difficult Rhythms”
Many moons ago when I was in the sixth form, a friend of mine was doing her Grade 7, for which one piece was the third movement of Beethoven's 'pathetique' sonata – No 8, I think. 

At one point there are quavers in the left hand and triplets in the right hand.  What our music teacher made us all do was play the quavers in our left hand until they were second nature. 

To test this we had to play the quavers and read a fairy story that she put up on the piano stand, at the same time.  When we could play the quavers and read the story with the proper expression, she took the fairy book away, put the music back, and told us to concentrate on the triplets whilst we played the quavers 'automatically'. 

It certainly worked for us. Avril

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