playing together when rhythm is the main point

March 18, 2005 at 05:14 PM · hi,

i'm just new here so my question is:

1) how can i maintain a good rhythm? my rhythm is bad because i tend to sing the 1..and..2..and.. just like the piece! example if i play minuet in G, i will count by singing it!

2) my ABRSM test is around the corner, how can i play in time with the pianist? i want a smooth practice with her before the exam

any suggestion is greatly appreciated..



Replies (18)

March 18, 2005 at 11:13 AM · i really need your help.... thanks

March 18, 2005 at 06:06 PM · Hi Azam,

Have you tried working with a metronome? Not just listening to the beats and *following* them, but learning to *anticipate* when the beats are going to fall? Once you can do this, you might consider buying the AB's play-along CD for each exam syllabus. The higher grade CDs have been delayed until the summer, but the lower ones should be available. One of my students has had real problems with rhythm, but found the CD accompaniment really sorted out at least his exam pieces, and I believe has been beneficial to his rhythm skills as a whole.

March 18, 2005 at 06:09 PM · Don't anticipate the beat or you will always be behind it. BE the beat. Become the beat. And remember that the pianist has to follow you. Therefore go see if you are trying to FOLLOW the pianist which is the same thing as trying to "follow" the metronome. Imagine that you and the accompanist are sharing one heart and that you are both going to the same heartbeat. But since you're numero uno, the heart is in your body (I did violin 2 in a racy duet at Christmas and learned a lot from my teacher in that respect). Maybe there's a point where you should stop counting the numbers. Just some ideas that might help. Oh, and the last two times that I was preparing for an accompanist, I played my parts during practice time by reading the accompanist's score and imagining our two sounds together and simply "played with" her in my imagination. There were a couple of sections where I guess there was some kind of syncopation going on. I took the violin and accompanist score and beat out the rhythms of both violin and accompanist on separate knees until I had the sense of what we were both doing. Maybe the professionals don't need to do any of these things, but in my "first stages" I found this very helpful.

March 19, 2005 at 12:30 AM · The above suggestions are very good--and I use them. I just wanted to add another idea, given that you tend to sing the notes that you play.

It can help to put the violin and bow back in the violin case for a few minutes. Turn the metronome on, setting it at a tempo that is well within your range; a tempo that is significantly easier than the one you will use in performance.

Try clapping your hands with the metronome, one clap for each beat. In order to clap with the metronome, you will have to learn to anticipate the beat. Difficult enough, but it is simpler and faster to learn by clapping than by playing.

Once you can clap your hands with each beat, try singing the notes in their rhythm while you continue clapping with the metronome.

If you have trouble singing the notes in their rhythm, then stop singing, and return to clapping with the metronome, but try clapping the rhythm instead of clapping the beat of the metronome.

Once you can comfortably sing the notes and clap the beat with the metronome on, start adjusting the metronome in stages, practicing after each adjustment, aiming for the tempo that you will play.

When you can clap and sing at tempo with the metronome, take your violin out and try playing a short phrase with the metronome.

None of the above ideas are in the least bit original, by the way, and I would cheerfully give credit where credit is due if I knew who needs crediting. I think these ideas have been taught by various instrumentalists for quite some time.

Once you become comfortable playing with the metronome, I find that is a relatively small step to play well with someone else, because your sense of strict metronomic time remains intact during the more expressive phrases. I hope this helps!

March 19, 2005 at 12:48 AM · Well, what is "good ryththm" or playing in time anyway? I feel that you should play with a metronome at the point in learning a piece where you have mastered the notes and durations and have determined fingerings etc. etc., but don't we want to get beyond the metronome? By the time one is ready to perform a piece, can't this be confusing and also, restricting? Assuming that a metronome was used earlier, we have choices. We are making music...not operating a drum machine. If you are not making any major rhythmic miss-counts, and if you are not rushing and dragging without purpose, and if your fingers are even...then the pianist will be able to follow you.

ALl that said, it might be good to go through the piece with a metronome and a notebook and figure out exactly where you are pushing, pulling, pausing, changing etc. etc. so that when you have your rehearsal with the pianist, you can save time and be aware of all the spots. It is good to be conscious of what we are doing to make sure it makes musical sense. If you've been doing it that way for a long time, obviously it makes musical sense to you. Do you have another ear who can listen to see if you really do have a problem?


March 19, 2005 at 03:16 AM · Azam, most of these suggestions (mine included) have assumed you're in the early years of studying, whereas Jennifer's post is better suited to someone of at least intermediate standard. It would be helpful if you could clarify which grade you are preparing for. From your post, I took your reference to Minuet in G to mean the one from Anna Magdalena's Notebook...

March 19, 2005 at 03:52 PM · thanks...

you all are very helpful and yes it's from the anna magdalena notebook, thanks a lot


March 19, 2005 at 04:04 PM · oh sorry... by the way Sue, i'm preparing for grade 2 test this June..


March 19, 2005 at 04:33 PM · I have found that if I can clap and sing the rhythm with the metronome, but I can't play the piece with the metronome, then the problem is not with knowing the rhythm--other technical problems with playing are interfering, and have to be addressed, one by one.

March 19, 2005 at 05:58 PM · You could always get a position in a community orchestra as a tympanist. You'd get a lot of practice counting, and you'd meet some really cool people (not).

March 19, 2005 at 06:07 PM · A good way to start is to say, "Hello there, technical problem no. 1! How are you today!" and so on.

March 19, 2005 at 09:48 PM · At this moment I wish I had some X's. Those last two posts are needlessly sarcastic and intimidating. Grade 2, in my mind, means little experience and needing some advice. What is obvious to the experienced is not necessarily so for the inexperienced. Anything concrete and actually helpful to add, Ben?

March 20, 2005 at 03:35 AM · The name is Benjamin, and I was just joking. Sheesh.


March 20, 2005 at 12:04 PM · exactly Sara, i can sing the piece with the metronome but i can't play with the metronome... can somebody clarify me what is my problem? can i cure it? i feel so 'tiny' among my friends since i already learn the third position, but still having this problem..

anyway any advice?

March 21, 2005 at 04:40 PM · help anyone?


March 21, 2005 at 08:30 PM · Would it be possible for you to ask your teacher? Lots and lots of technical problems are possible that can create this situation.

To narrow it down the possibilities, you could play one measure at a time with the metronome--or one or two beats at a time with the metronome--to find out exactly which beats are the most problematic.

You could play the notes with right-hand pizzicato with the metronome to find out which left-hand movements are not quite right.

You could bow the piece without using your left-hand (playing only open strings) with the metronome to find out which bowings are causing problems.

However, a professional violin teacher would see and/or hear the problems immediately, and would know how to help you. Good luck!

April 6, 2005 at 02:47 PM · well my teacher is more to "go practice" advice.

you see if i 'count the rythm with the metronome, it will go out of time" but when i play with the metronome,(without counting) i play all the piece 85 % correct in rythms. I'm really in the dark now, what is my problem??

p/s: sorry if i write in a bad english cuz english is my secong language

April 6, 2005 at 02:59 PM · Do you mean that in the first instance you are literally counting the words "one, two, three" and trying to play at the same time? But would you need to do that? If you are playing with the metronome and you are correct most of the time, isn't that what you're supposed to be doing, except to try to turn that 85% to a 99%?

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