What really throws me is when I’m looking at a new piece, whether at home or sight reading in orchestra, happily playing along with quarter notes, maybe a dotted quarter and an eighth.   All of a sudden, there’s a measure with a rhythm that is different from what I’ve been doing (what was that composer thinking?).  I know we’re “the metronome” and I’m supposed to keep the beat going, but sometimes I get a surprise.

It happened to me in orchestra this week.  Merrily playing along with uncomplicated rhythms and then I see this:

OK, I was fine with the first measure but I was stopped at #41.  I do have a few methods of dealing with this.  On the fly, not so great.  I think I stumbled over the first 2 beats and just played the last 2, which isn’t the worst case.  But when I got home, I took a better look.

One of the things I do is add notes, then take them away.   So I’d play 4 eighth notes for the first 2 beats, then the last 2 quarter notes.  I ignore the tie.  Then I play the first 2 notes correctly, remembering to count it as One-ee-and-a (my go-to method for 1/16 notes).  The first note gets the “One-ee-and” and the second note gets the “a”.  (As an alternative to this, I could just play 4 sixteenth notes, then eliminate the second and third of the sixteenth notes.)  I play this a few times still ignoring the tie and playing the next two eighth notes and 2 quarter notes.

FInally I add the tie.  Just omit the first eighth note of the 2 that I was playing.  Now I have it.   I play the measure about a zillion times because I’m old and it takes a lot of repetition for my body to remember.  I like the “add notes and take away” method.  It works well.

The nice thing in this piece is that I get this pattern 3 more times so once I’ve figured it out, it’s good throughout.  And one more thing:  keep counting.  It always helps.


1 thought on “Rockin’ Rhythms

  1. David B Teague says:

    I like your solution. It’s more fine grained than mine. I didn’t get it right until I counted in 16ths, but counting 16ths in real time is at best brutal. If we can look the page over before reading, then, if we can avoid being intimidated (as I was when saw a similar passage), we may be able to count well enough to get it right.
    My cellist friend and sometime mentor, Pat Johnston, agrees with you, saying, “Count everything. Count all the time.”

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