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Clayton Haslop

How Two Come to Play As One

January 25, 2010 at 5:52 PM

A couple days ago I had a question regarding the Bach ‘double’.  Specifically I was asked how to go about creating ensemble with another player.

Now with Bach the challenge is really just two-fold.  Both players must play in tune and in time, it’s about as simple as that.  But hang on, that is certainly easier said than done.  And don’t think I don’t know it.

So here’s how you train.

To begin with, you’re not going to get anywhere if you cannot ‘live’ within a tempo.  The first challenge, therefore is mastering the flow of time.

And this is where my counting technique is so important.  Though metronomes are well and good, they are no substitute for being able to take personal responsibility for ‘time’ while playing.

Now this may mean an investment of time in playing SLOWLY while you master the ability to verbalize the beats while playing the music.  As you begin this process, you may even surrender keeping a steady tempo all together in favor of putting beat labels and notes together.

When you force yourself to account for the beats as you play, you began to get control of the music at a much deeper level.

Yet I’ll say it again.  This takes patience and discipline.  You must believe me when I say there is a breakthrough moment when the mind opens and the learning process springs forward like water bursting through a dam.

The secret is to take it down to the lowest common denominator.  Where speech and physical movement can be absolutely knit together.

Once you CAN verbalize as you play only THEN do you begin focusing on the steadiness of the time, gradually raising the bar as you are able.

All the best,

Clayton Haslop

P.S.  One final word about this counting thing.  Once you have the control to do this playing with another person becomes a snap simply because all the excess conscious control you have can now be brought to bear on LISTENING to your partner, with no sacrifice in what is coming from your own instrument.  Now all you’ve got to do is convince your partner to do the same for you! 

From Tom Holzman
Posted on January 25, 2010 at 7:15 PM

Clayton - very interesting and helpful blog.  One aspect confuses me:  you use the phrase "verbalize the beats."  Does this mean counting out loud or something else?  Sorry to be dense.


From PM Rolf
Posted on January 26, 2010 at 12:29 AM

This is very interesting and since i have some serious counting issues and it only becomes more apparent when I'm playing double concertos.  Do we count out loud? force myself to figure out 1 and 2 and 3 and , and figure out exactly where I come in?

From George Fillerup
Posted on January 26, 2010 at 10:08 PM

Clayton advocates counting out loud.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on January 26, 2010 at 10:19 PM


the counting aloud that Mr Haslop advocates is one of the few simple techniques central to his teaching approach as taught on DVD which I have reviewed in the discussion section.  It is an extremely powerful technique in developing one`s interna? ??????as opposed to the consatnt external application of the metronome which is very much a double edged sword.  It also aids in the release of tension through improper breathign habits and is a powerful tool to use stage fright in a positive way.   Through regular practice one can learn to focus on this aspect of the music leaving oneself with no spare brain cells to actually get nervous.














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