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Improve your motor, improve your rhythm.

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Improve your motor, improve your rhythm. Empty Improve your motor, improve your rhythm.

Post by lepianoman Tue Sep 23, 2008 6:49 pm

I've always been told that it's extremely important to establish what I call the flow of the piece early. By this I mean, how all the notes fit together in an overall flow of music. The flow of the music is first and foremost set by the time signature.

It's like exploring a new city. You can do it without a map, but no one can guarantee you will see all the sights you want to see, or that you will never get lost. If you have a map you know where things are, and you can figure out the best route to get there.

Establishing an intuitive feel for the time signature speeds up the rest of the process. So for instance, if a song is in 3/4, it should go loud, soft, softer. Once we know this, we know where and when to put the notes - we feel it in the core of our body.

Here's where things get physiological.

Some people have a lot of problem with rhythm and with keeping a constant meter. Research shows that those with the biggest problems with meter actually have the biggest problems with gross motor coordination. These are people who look kinda funny when they run (seriously). They have a hard time coordinating their big muscles, their legs with their back with their arms. No wonder they have trouble playing in rhythm.

Others have trouble with their fine motor coordination. These are the types that play a complicated rhythm and are just so frustrated because they just can't seem to get it right. Drawing is hard, their handwriting tends to be messy (and believe me, mine is bad).

These people have problems with rhythm because they have larger problems with motor coordination.

But that is why playing piano is beautiful. Because not only is it fun, but by fixing problems in our normal lives, we learn to play piano better. Then we have even more fun playing piano.

If people have any good ideas how to solve both motor coordination and rhythm in one exercise I would love to hear it.

Meanwhile, here's a suggestion.

Glenn Gould learned much of his music away from the piano. He started by grabbing the sheet music. He would pace around and sing and get a feel for the song. Although what works for him doesn't work for everyone, I think there is something that most people can use there. If you have a recording of the song, put it on and then walk around to it. Dance to it. Get a feeling for how it moves physically.

This is helpful away from the piano. But what about when we're at the piano?

Walk while playing.

Here's what I do. Let's say a song is in 4/4. Do this as I give instructions:

1.) I walk with my left foot on 1, I step lightly as I say "one."
1a.) For the upbeat, I lift my elbows slightly as well as moving my torso slightly forward. I lift my right leg as I say "and."
2.) On 2, I step with my right foot, lowering my elbows and moving my torso backward to its original position. I say "two" as my foot touches the ground exactly on the beat.
2a.) For the upbeat, I lift my elbows slightly as well as moving my back slightly forward. I lift my left leg as I say "and."
3.) For 3, I step with my left foot, saying "three." I lower my elbows and return my torso to its original position
3a.) Lift the right leg, elbow, move my back slightly forward, say "and."
4.) As you have guessed if you're trying this, I lower my elbows and move my torso backward to its original position as I step with my right, saying "four."
4a) I repeat the "and" sequence and raise my left leg.

Instead of using a metronome, your body becomes the metronome.

There are many, many advantages to practicing like this, especially if done from the beginning of learning a piece.

1.) So you'll notice if you practice this enough: the left leg is always beating the strong beats. The right is stepping on the weak beats. Your entire body moves up on all the upbeats. You know where you are in the measure by what your body is doing.
2.) You are saying exactly where you are in the measure.
3.) You will start putting beats in the right place automatically - because you just align them with your legs.
4.) After you do this long enough with a piece, you don't need to step anymore. You just know where all the beats are. You become your own metronome.
5.) Playing hard passages and trills are far, far easier. Why? Because your brain doesn't have to do the mental work of counting. Your body is doing it for you.
6.) Your gross motor skills improve.
7.) Your fine motor skills improve.
8.) Your sense of rhythm, meter, and tempo improve. Why? Because you're programming all these things directly into your body.
9.) All your music will sound more musical. Why? Because the most melodic melodies are tied to the time signature. The time signature determines how we should play a melody.

It's hard to describe the benefits of this exercise. All I can say is try it. It's hard at first precisely because we're not used to using our motor skills that way. And then counting is hard to add on. And some people feel a little silly because this looks like the funky chicken. All I can say is: it works. Don't play in concert that way, but practice that way. It works. You will continue to improve.

Once you can do pieces in 3/4 or cut time like this, you are set. (more on those later if anybody tries this technique).

Best wishes,
The Pianoman

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Post by Thomandy Tue Sep 23, 2008 8:47 pm

Shocked
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Post by lepianoman Tue Sep 23, 2008 9:07 pm

Thomandy wrote:Shocked

What?

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Post by Thomandy Tue Sep 23, 2008 11:22 pm

lepianoman wrote:
Thomandy wrote:Shocked

What?

That was a lot Very Happy And I read it all Smile
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Post by Christian Tue Sep 23, 2008 11:34 pm

Thomandy wrote:Shocked

Very Happy


I just have to ask - what about relaxation? This looks like a one way street to tense-town.

I understand the need to improve rythm/motor skills if you arent born with it, but then I really suggest taking dancelessons.

You just cant do the macarena while playing the piano.

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Post by lepianoman Wed Sep 24, 2008 4:11 pm

Christian wrote:
Thomandy wrote:Shocked

Very Happy


I just have to ask - what about relaxation? This looks like a one way street to tense-town.

I understand the need to improve rythm/motor skills if you arent born with it, but then I really suggest taking dancelessons.

You just cant do the macarena while playing the piano.

That's a good question. I think doing this helps keep a person relaxed. That is another benefit of the technique. Let me ask you this, is it easier to stay loose and relaxed while sitting in a chair or while dancing? What do you think?

The answer, at least according to neurologists, though this may be different for you, is that it's easier to stay relaxed while dancing. When we are immobile we tend to adopt the same position. Moving slightly, on the other hand, loosens up our muscles.

Also keep in mind, if you think this is doing the macerena while playing piano, you're probably making these motions too large. They are slight motions. The goal is to instill the rhythm and meter of the piece into the movements of your body while playing. When you play it enough this way, you don't need to count later, your muscle memory counts for you automatically.

LP

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Post by Thomandy Wed Sep 24, 2008 4:16 pm

Hehe, I liked the Makarena-Comment. lol! '''


But Yeah, Great tip probably. I have never heard of it before, so great that you contribute with this knowledge Smile I feel my clock is good so I wont start it, but it might help people with bad or less precise inner clock Smile
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Post by Christian Wed Sep 24, 2008 5:05 pm

Yeah I totally thought this was the macarena. . .

Razz

Is this a proven science or is it something you figured out?

I thought about this today and I thought that people who have issues counting will have the same issues couting regardless. You just added movement.

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Post by lepianoman Wed Sep 24, 2008 5:58 pm

Please check back when you have a moment to try it.

To answer your questions, this is the application of things that are well known in neurology. Unfortunately, as you know, most piano teachers are content teaching whatever their teachers taught them. Few research neurology or psychology of music, even when their clients are developmentally disabled. Very few people tap the power of music to help average or disabled people move through the world more easily. I certainly don't master teaching piano. There is a lot of potential, though, in doing things differently.

You're right that people with motor problems will have some difficulty doing these slight dances while playing. Most will have to stop and learn to do the motions separately while counting. In so doing, they will correct their motor problems. Then they will be able to play.

You bring up an excellent point: people that have trouble counting do not realize that they're speeding up or slowing down, or getting off with the music. And in theory, it doesn't seem immediately obvious why adding a whole body motion should change this. All I can tell you is that in practice, people begin to notice that their rhythm is off. The reason for that goes back to the neurology that I mentioned in the OP. The reason people have bad rhythm is actually just bad coordination - their gross motor or fine motor do not coordinate with their hands or the rest of their body.

This exercise forces piano playing to be a whole body motion. Once you connect the body together neurologically into a motion, people begin to understand rhythm. People begin to notice when they are taking too long for one bar or too short for another.

Think about it another way, what is time? Practically speaking, time is just change, motion in space at a certain speed. People who have good "internal clocks" are just people who are able to imagine themselves moving with the music, perhaps even dancing to it. People who are not blessed with this, simply need to move with the music.

You're also right that people will still have trouble counting. The good thing about this exercise is that the motion somebody should be doing is inscribed in the music. For every bar line, your foot should be moving down. There is a motion of the body that corresponds to each beat of the music, perhaps even each note.

You can test your own counting and rhythm and meter against the position of your body as you play a note. Let's say you have a difficult passage that ends in an Eb on the downbeat. You'll know if you timed it right if your foot lands at the same time as you play the Eb. So long as the rest of your body is doing the motion correctly, your foot will land at the right time. The only question is about your hand.

Again, this is a little harder to explain if you haven't tried it.

Good questions.

LP

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Post by Christian Wed Sep 24, 2008 6:48 pm

Maybe Ill try this just for laughs. Cool


I sort of know the rythms already, but I lack the technique to always play it properly. I dont have a teacher, but Im fairly musical and I practice hard.

Currently learning technique for playing, by playing.

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Post by lepianoman Wed Sep 24, 2008 7:01 pm

Haha, you should get a good laugh out of it. It's supposed to be fun.

Besides, for people who are well coordinated and who are already counting, this should be very easy.

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