Piano Forum

Chopin Competition Aftermath: Breakfast with Tony Yang
Many have enjoyed the Chopin Competition performances live and via streaming and the “now factor” has been very well provided for. But what about after-Warsaw? During his visit to Warsaw, Patrick Jovell had a breakfast talk with laureate 2015 Tony Yang, the youngest prize winner ever – in the history of the competition. Read more >>

Topic: Why do practicing in rhythms helps with technical issues?  (Read 2062 times)

Offline rovis77

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 85
Hi, I always had this doubt: Why do practicing in rhythms helps with technical issues?. Is it better than slow practice?

Offline bronnestam

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 716
Re: Why do practicing in rhythms helps with technical issues?
Reply #1 on: June 04, 2018, 05:08:28 PM
If you play with a dotted rhythm, it means you will play some transitions very fast while you still have not the skill to play it all very fast. You get used to those quick transitions without getting lost far out in the swamp. When you change the rhythm, you will get a chance to play other transitions that fast.

So your training pattern will be slow-quick, slow-quick ... and then quick-slow, quick-slow until you feel very comfortable even with the "quicks".
Then you can always try slow-quick-quick-quick, slow-quick-quick-quick ... and then, voilá: quick-quick-quick-quick!

The problem with starting slow and then increase the tempo in increments is that slow movements are not exactly as quick movements. Compare it to walking vs running; it is not done in exactly the same way. When you walk, you will always have one foot in contact with the ground, but when you start running you will lift your knees higher and you will have a moment in every step when both feet are in the air, for example. So you cannot practice fast running with a walking technique.

Sure, in many cases you manage to make the transition from playing slow to playing fast, but sometimes this different technique means that you hit a "speed wall" - you just cannot increase the speed anymore with the playing technique you have practiced.

Here the dotted rhythm - in all possible combinations - will help you a lot.

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3399
Re: Why do practicing in rhythms helps with technical issues?
Reply #2 on: June 04, 2018, 08:17:08 PM
bronnestam is correct but there is another factor at play.

Practicing in strict rhythm produces error.  Error is the raw material for technique improvement.

I'm not talking about error in the sense of a wrong note, but in the subtle variation around technique for playing the right note.  If you don't try something slightly different, you never hit on the better method.  (That's the other problem with slow play - you ingrain less efficient motion until you can't make an error, and you get stuck.) 

When you must hit the next note on time, the slight increase in stress generates some variation that you wouldn't have had.  Some percentage of the time it's the variation you were looking for.

I know I've explained this poorly, but it's been true for me. 

Offline louispodesta

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1077
Re: Why do practicing in rhythms helps with technical issues?
Reply #3 on: June 06, 2018, 11:06:57 PM
Hi, I always had this doubt: Why do practicing in rhythms helps with technical issues?. Is it better than slow practice?

In my opinion, based on my personal experience,  I proffer the following:

As one of my Coaches, Dr. Thomas Mark, has stated (Paraphrasing):  the Human Brain "Performs" rhythmically in a Linear Causal Manner.  That means: your Brain (and everyone else's) mechanically "realizes" your fingerings on the Piano in a certain way. I.E., when you mechanically play/perform a group of notes, your Brain does not go "Backwards and Forwards."

Logically, given a set of notes (whether it is a Phrase, and or its associated Common or Period) it is manifested as a "Linear" causality.  That means:  once one plays a set of notes, it rhythmically progresses from Point A to Point B to Point, C, et al.

Conversely, Dr. Nelita True (Eastman School of Music) teaches as the "Norm," that practicing certain difficult passages in rhythmic patterns (absent to the "Score") can produce a positive result.  She even promotes the concept of playing certain passages "Backwards."

Most importantly, this Lady Teaches/Lectures this BS to thousands of Piano Teachers Worldwide.

Accordingly, there is much more to the Epistemology of Rhythm than what has been discussed here.  Therefore, if you want further advice/commentary (No Fee) you may contact me by PM.

And, thank you for your inquiry.  It is a subject every single Pianist in the World has had to explore.

Offline adodd81802

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1114
Re: Why do practicing in rhythms helps with technical issues?
Reply #4 on: June 07, 2018, 11:07:06 AM
Louis. You should have been a politician.

OP. I'd say that rhythm practice is still slow practice... so don't be confused that you can't have one without the other

I think it's been mentioned, the benefits of rhythmic practice are control in the fingers and (controlled) speed.

if you play something at slow tempo say half. If you give every note equal value then you are playing all notes at the half tempo.

With dotted rhythms you are speeding up small collections of notes, almost tricking your brain into playing it quicker without upping the tempo.

The benefit to doing it this way instead of simply playing single rhythm and upping the metronome, in my mind is 3 points

1. it better engages the brain. If I repeated the same passage 10 times, i'd start to switch off. With different rhythms, my brain is thinking about the the pauses, the interruptions I feel like i'm better dissecting a piece, playing it in a way other than what is written on the score

2. The control. It's easy, to run away with the hands and fingers and use the motion of momentum alone to carry you to the next notes. With the pauses, I find that I have more control over my fingers for example the 4th isn't relying as hard on the hand from the previous note.

3. "muscle memory" when you pause, (at least for me) you automatically prepare your finger that is about to press the next note by having it hovering or resting above the note. The split second that you hold that, I believe you're reinforcing muscle memory in the shapes requested for your hand to achieve the notes you want to play.

Lastly on a separate note, I find if you combine rhythmic practice with fast preparation, it really helps improve accuracy and speed. This type of practice will be more noticeable when there is jumps or large intervals between notes and you have trouble with accuracy. When your rhythm pause results on you pausing on the note AFTER the jump, quickly prepare your hand there as if you were playing it full speed.

Your pause will allow you to still find the notes, at the same time getting more used to the feel of the jump or the gap. Don't try and move your hand so fast that you don't maintain accuracy, but faster than the indicated tempo you are practising at. (I hope that makes sense!)

Rhythm examples
(1 = play, 2 = pause)


Already you have 9 different and more interesting ways of repeating a passage (10 if you include just playing at the tempo you're practising at)
"England is a country of pianos, they are everywhere."

Logo light pianostreet.com - the website for classical pianists, piano teachers, students and piano music enthusiasts.

Subscribe for unlimited access

Sign up

Follow us

Piano Street Digicert