Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Wednesday 6th June - Rhythm! Pulse! Count! Use your brains!

I'll be blaring about this in in due course. It's just that I have spent a tough hour learning some piano accompaniments and I need to stop for a rant.

It's exam season. The music exams are scheduled for middle of June through to the first week of July, which means any time soon, and I have been asked to accompany various instrumental candidates.

I will have one, maybe two run-throughs with the various candidates before their exam (apart from one enterprising junior school which pays for their candidates to have up to four weekly rehearsals where we practise playing together, and also go through the aural test requirements. They don't know how lucky they are to have all this extra time!)

In the past I have accompanied students at fairly early grades who play pieces entirely devoid of any attempt to use any other note value than crotchets; like singing


all in one go, leaving out the "gaps after "star", "are", "sky" and "high". It sounds silly enough with good old Twinkle - it's a total disaster if you are playing something by Gershwin. I shall never forget the stunned look on the examiner's face a couple of years ago at the end of of candidate's rendition of "I got rhythm" all in crotchets;


So now, two weeks before the exams, I am faced with a young person who has ducked the issues of pulse, note value, syncopation, and triplets. I'm sure the instrumental teacher has gone over this in detail, over and over again. I know the student is clever enough, talented enough, experienced enough, to be able to deal with the complex rhythms. It's just that they haven't knuckled down to the detailed, hard, brain-aching work of getting to grips with the music. Which, at their grade, they should have.

I am frankly terrified - my own piano part has enough going on to keep me busy - and I have no chance, at the moment, of staying together with the student unless they get their act together and learn the rhythm. In two weeks. The big challenge is to get the student to a place where they can face up to the mountain they have to climb, provide them with a way of climbing it, and all without panicking them into a state of total funk.

(Time for some primal screaming and a cup of tea before I go back to the piano)

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