Counting and playing : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

Like everybody I count when I need to work out the rhythm of a piece or a few measures. As I learn the piece, at what point should I stop consciously counting? I find counting is distracting and takes away the musical and emotional part of playing as I can't concentrate on the sound while trying to count to myself.

-- JOHN FLEMING (, March 13, 2002


I have answered this question by looking for a musical way to count. First I sing the phrase while walking in the tempo. I may use the Gordon system of rhythm or I may make up words that fit the phrase. sometimes I will conduct as I sing the phrase. when I am clear I can feel the rhythm in my body then I will play the notes on the piano using the same singing rhythm with my voice. then I do it again whispering the rhythm and then again hearing the rhythm inside of me. It is part of the emotional underpinnings of the piece, never separate, like dynamics.

another favorite way to bring the rhythm inside of me is to sing the rhythm with the dynamic context of the piece. This can be fun to do with a student expecially one that is discovering the dynamics for the first time in the piece.

-- ellen Johansen (, March 14, 2002.

Hi John,

I like Ellen's musical approach above, but I also wonder what your teacher says about this counting issue. If you have found a good teacher whose ideas you value, then you should follow your teacher's advice.

For students of any level, I believe that one great value of a teacher is to help students focus on an area that needs attention.

I agree that counting is part of learning how the piece goes. If you do it properly, it leads you to a rhythmical approach to the piece. Rhythm is what you are really after, not counting. Read about outling or pulsing on this board (farther down), or read the books by Abby Whiteside--a source of good ideas. If you are sure (and this is the hard part) that you feel the rhythm exactly right, then of course you can stop counting. But it is always good to return to counting from time to time. After all, part of what teachers pass on to their students in the art of practicing is how to return to simplicity and how to enjoy it.

-- alan (, March 16, 2002.

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