My Favorite Practice Technique: Rhythms

I have never known this technique to fail: either in my own playing or in that of my students. Just about *nowhere* can you get a deal like that!

This technique is called rhythms. The idea is to make the task more complex than it is, so that when the addenda are factored out, the remainder is easy.

There are four rhythms: short-long, long-short, long-short-short-short, and evenly, as illustrated above. Each "short" is represented by a one-count note and each "long" by a three-count note. Think of these as quarters and dotted-halves; or, if you prefer, sixteenths and dotted-eighths

Most people think that short-long is the most difficult rhythm, so this is the one to start with. The "offending" section should be played *with perfect fingering* ten times alternating short and long notes. Fingering must be perfect each time; this means you must play slowly enough to control fingering exactly. Note that on alternate notes, you have time to "rest and regroup" and read ahead to the next note; only every other note must you get to quickly.

Then ten times using the long-short rhythm. Now the "rest and regroup" note is the opposite one of the pair, and the student has experience getting quickly *to* each note after doing short-long and long- short.

Next comes ten times with long-short-short-short, which means you can "rest and regroup" only once every four notes.

If you have a problem section that is a long run of quick notes (such as sixteenths--I'm thinking of the joyous areas in the second portion of the first movement of Mozart's" C Major Sonata," K. 545 here!), you might wish to insert an intermediate step of one long and seven shorts so that a "rest and regroup" note occurs twice in a measure.

The last step is to play the notes evenly (as written). Here is the big secret: this should be done at *half* the speed you think you can do it. Ten times. (This requires the most discipline of all! Good luck!) Then you may speed up your playing, using the metronome to guide this slow accelerando.

Now the repaired area is placed back in context--again at half the speed you think you can play it-- and speeded up slowly to the tempo of the material which precedes.

Once you try this, you'll be sold, too!

copyright 1996, Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D.
Contact me for reprint permission.

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