When learning a new piece, break down the music into manageable components. Problems with rhythm are most effectively dealt with by tapping the time values. This frees us from the need to read and play notes so we can devote our attention to the rhythm.
How to Tap
- Tap the beat with the left-hand and the time values with the right-hand. Tap on your thighs or lower the lid to the keyboard and tap on the lid
- The right-hand remains down during long notes and up during rests
- Accentuate the meter (the upbeat is weak and the downbeat is strong)
- Enjoy the rhythm
You will learn the rhythm more effectively by involving the larger muscles. Playing the piano involves a lot of finger wiggling while tapping actively involves the muscles of the back and arm. By actively generating the beat with the left-hand we have the advantage of a heightened awareness of the beat. Continue counting and tapping the rhythm until deeply absorbed.
Rhythm Testing in RCM Exams
The Royal Conservatory of Music published a new Piano Syllabus in 2015. A change presented in the new syllabus is the manner in which rhythmical testing is done during exams. Previously, candidates clapped time values. In the 2015 syllabus, they tap in the manner I have described. The syllabus outlines permitted variations of this approach.
A recommended book which uses this approach is Basic Rhythmic Training by Robert Starer. It is well organized and deals with time signatures in an orderly, comprehensive manner. Starer introduces all the signatures including methods of counting. The book is progressive staring from very basic exercises and building to challenging ones.
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