I am very sure that most of us like to think we have an awesome in-built sense of rhythm and timing. I know I do, and then I disappoint myself when I stuff up a seemingly easy rhythm – hah hah!
It is fair to say, however, that we do have to a degree an in-built sense of pulse and rhythm. Let’s just say though that this sense of rhythm and timing is not as precision as we would like it.
Not with me, not with you, not even with the seasoned pro up on the stage! I can assure you.
This is where our good friend counting comes in, especially when learning a new piece, embedding that sense of pulse and the rhythms associated with the piece into the old grey matter and fingers.
Yes, counting. I’m pretty sure that most of us can do that. Even me with my number dyslexia!
It helps us get our head around complex or not-so-straightforward rhythms, where we might have overlapping contrapuntal lines or some syncopation going on.
Even with basic rhythms – are you giving those crotchets and minims their full count?! And the rests?!
Don’t be afraid to whack out your HB pencil and write in big, bold confident strokes the counting for a bar or phrase that needs particular attention rhythmically. Count out loud or mouth the counting whilst you’re playing during practice to (a) make sure that you’re playing it correctly and (b) that you’re confirming, verifying and embedding that rhythm into your body.
I can regale you with an example of a well-known and respected guitarist and teacher, who I saw very recently on stage counting along to the music he was playing like a maniac!
There you go – even the best of the best do it, so don’t be afraid! It doesn’t mean you’re rubbish, it just means you want to play the music in the best way it can be played!