Rhythm Studies

Rhythm is the most essential aspect of music. Practically all music exists atop some rhythmic foundation. The pairing of pitch and rhythm dates back deep into history, but no doubt people were beating sticks on hollow logs long before there was much interest in melody.

Good timing is always appreciated, and it can open many doors. A musician who is rhythmically reliable may be welcomed readily into higher circles, even though he or she may have other minor musical shortcomings.

Obviously musicians must attend to other issues besides rhythm.They must play the right notes, they need to play in tune, and adjust their volume to blend appropriately with other instruments, and they must play with dynamics or the music will sound flat and lifeless. But above all, there must be a rhythmic alignment among the players. So strive for rhythmic mastery.

Advanced musicians devote a temendous amount of attention to timing.They know that rhythm and tempo affect the very meaning of the music, and they understand that rhythmic problems can make a lovely piece of music sound uninteresting or unlistenable.

Many types of rhythmic problems may occur during a performance or rehearsal. The timing may falter momentarily or wobble continuously. The tempo may accelerate beyond a controllable speed, or it may slow to an inappropriate tempo. Any of these problems may damage the rhythmic foundation of the music. And if the foundation crumbles, all else follows.

Though we strive for high levels of rhythmic mastery, we understand that rhythmic perfection is impossible. Like all people, musicians are falliable. They all have faults and weaknesses. So musicians cooperate. They work around personal limitations, and accept each others foibles.

When you play with musicians more skilled than yourself, if they are gracious in the least, they won't care if you miss a few notes, play out of tune occasionally, or botch a phrase or solo. Everyone goofs now and then — and they were once at your level.

But it can be nearly impossible to play with a person who has serious rhythm problems. It's like being on the dance floor with a person who bumps into other dancers or obstructs in their path. And a single musician seriously out of time will get in everybody's way, and the effect can have a unmanageable negative impact on even on a group of a talented musicians.

When you make small mistakes, try to jump right back in! But don't worry about notes that you've missed, scrabbling to try to squeeze them in. Just let them go, and get back on track.

When you can't stay alligned rhythmically with the other musicians, if you can't carry your part, drop out and listen. Practice the piece on your own time; when you've made progress try it again with a group. Better to observe than interfere. And if you want to get invited back, don't interfere with the timing.

And remember, it's important to get invited back.

Most people play better when they're on a good team. This goes for sports, and games, and music too. If you focus on rhythmic accuracy and and strive to perfect you timing you're likely to get invited into higher circles. And as a result your musicianship will advance over all.

Improving Rhythm

To be continued …

When to Follow and When to Lead.

To be continued …