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.