Friday, May 24, 2013

Getting off Beat

   Maria was playing a difficult piece with all the right notes but she seemed unaware of the rhythm pulse. On which part of the beat did the notes enter? Her brow furrowed and her body tensed. I asked her to isolate two measures and write in the beats. A moment of fear passed her eyes. What exactly did I mean? We started at the beginning. How many counts did the half note get? 1 & 2 &, she squeezed the symbols under the staff and waited as the next note appeared to be tied to a following note. Where did that tied note fit in the beats? We seemed to be as far away from the flow and beauty of this song as possible. In frustration she looked at me, silently asking how this could possibly clear up her practice problem.

  The ear and the senses are remarkable tools in playing the piano but they are sometimes 
wrong. Often we must go back to the linear math of music to see how the notes are put together. Ideally that should happen the first time we read a new piece but we get seduced by the sound and get carried away, guessing instead of knowing what the notes reveal.
  Life is like that to. Quite often we do not take stock of what is happening. We "play it by ear" and find out later we are fuzzy on the details. Our experience feels out of sync and no longer holds the joy we thought possible. That is when we must go back to the beginning and count. What action should I have taken at this point in the experience. How is the moment tied to this action? As the linear processing unfolds we begin to feel the steady beat, and now we know when we are right. There is nothing as physically satisfying as being "right on the beat".