Step in time

I have a young student who’s made remarkable progress this past year. The only problem is that her fingers practically run away from her. I’ve been trying to help her keep a steady tempo but I recently realized that she doesn’t seem able to feel a steady pulse. I’ve asked her to clap while I play, tap her foot while she plays, count out loud, feel the heart beat of the music, etc. But nothing seems to work.

So this week I asked her to listen to more music at home and dance, march, clap…do anything to keep the beat. I suggested that she start by listening to disco music. I also suggested that she hear her Clementi Sonatina in her head while she walks or runs (she’s on the cross country team at her school.)

How appropriate that I should come across this famous opening scene! Speaking of “stepping in time!”


6 thoughts on “Step in time

  1. My clarinet teacher frequently made me “march” in time while playing, though this isn’t as accessible of a method at a piano. Hearing the music I’m studying in my head, or actually listening to it, and running in time has always helped me to solidify/control tempo.

  2. She can’t just listen. She’s got to play it. 🙂 Tell her to PLAY that opening riff — and some Donna Summer, too. And to figure it out by ear.

  3. BTW, I’m willing to bet that it’s not that that student “can’t feel a pulse.” She’s rushing because she’s nervous. It’s just that simple. It’s not a time-keeping thing. She’s scared and anxious ot get it right, especially if she’s convinced herself that she can’t do it. She’s paying such hypersensitive attention to her articulation that she’s got no processor cycles left over to keep time.

    I apologize for commenting twice, but she really does need to play dance music or disco. She needs to play music that has no expectations attached to it, that she listens to for pleasure and not to “get it right.” I have no doubt she’ll be able to keep time like a grandfather clock in that case, and once she gets comfortable with that skill at her instrument, she’ll be able to transfer it to other music.

    Everyone rushes when the adrenaline starts flowing. She’s just entering a low level of fight-or-flight. No one can keep good time without rushing in that state.

    • Playing disco music…good idea, but maybe a bit beyond her right now. She’s working on Clementi Op 36 No 1 (and loves it by the way.) But this is the piece that she can’t clap along with the half note beat.

      I’m not sure that she can play any music that she listens to for pleasure, because, as far as I can tell and from questions I’ve asked her, I don’t think she’s ever listened to anything for pleasure. I’ve only heard about a couple of pieces her parents like. Her favorites tend to be the ones I’m assigning her from her lesson books. It’s odd.

      I’m beginning to think that some parents might be doing a disservice to their kids by not exposing them to popular culture. At least some of it anyway. Just a thought…

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