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10 Essential Tips for Better Practicing, Part 2

how to practice to get the best results

10 Essential Tips for Better Practicing, Part 2

It's All About That Rhythm

Mr Michael loves teaching at Greenwich Arts Academy
Mr Michael
For Students
August 9, 2022
I

n our last visit to this subject, we discussed scheduling your practice time. Put it in your calendar like any other appointment.

So now it's time to actually learn some music. Just jump in, right? Both hands on the instrument, one, two, three, four, off we go!

Or not. There's a specific formula to use which will really help you achieve your goal in the shortest time possible. And it's not diving into the deep end with both feet. Here's the quote I included in the last installment:

work with the brain the way the brain likes to learn

And the brain prefers to get the rhythm down first.

When you're an advanced musician, it's possible to get the rhythm and the pitches at the same time -- this is much easier if you've listened to a recording first. If you're stuck working strictly from printed sheet music, then rhythm-first is a sound strategy to follow.

So let’s dive in.

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Essential Tip No. 12: Master Your Rhythms First

As you look over your sheet music, you see several streams of instructions coming at you at the same time. What note to play. When to play it. How to play it. When to let it go. It doesn't matter which instrument, it's always the same set of instructions. We're focusing today on the "when to play it" bit.

Depending on your instrument (and your teacher's method), you probably learned some kind of verbal counting device. One-and, Two-and, Three-and. Or, TA TA TI-TI TA. Some way of verbalizing the rhythmic content.

We live in a rhythmic world

Taking the music a phrase at a time, you want to sing the rhythm to yourself. You're teaching your ear what the music should sound like. You're not trying to sing accurate pitches -- go for it, if you want to! But pitches aren't the point right now... -- you're just sort of beat-boxing the rhythm. Do this several times until the rhythmic structure is clear to you.

You can add pitches after you've got the rhythm down. Professionals do both pitches and rhythm at the same time -- when you're ready for that, you'll know. :-)

We live in a rhythmic world. Speech is rhythmic. Breathing is rhythmic. Heartbeats are rhythmic. Our bodies (and lives) are governed by rhythms both subtle and not-so-subtle. Music should be approached the same way.

Rhythm motivates the music, literally "makes it move." It's best to start there.

Part 3 coming soon!

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