Beat and rhythm are as important to the modern keyboard player as to any other popular music instrumentalist, but in piano teaching, the development of natural rhythm skills is usually left to chance, if not actively discouraged.
Classical piano pupils, for example, are told never to tap their feet in time with the music. Of course, this would not look good on the concert platform (!), but rhythm is much more important in modern keyboard styles, and modern keyboard players can and should approach rhythm skills methodically.
'Snake Dance' Syncopation Challenge!
The ‘Snake Dance’, (aka The Streets Of Cairo, Poor Little Country Maid, There’s A Place In France) is an evergreen beginners’ novelty favourite – and a great place to start learning some syncopation (playing off the beat).
Mister Musicarta challenges you to see how far YOU can get with Part One of the Musicarta Snake Dance Syncopation Challenge!
The hands stay in D minor Basic Music-making Position (BMP) – two root position triads, for the fundi – with the LH thumb making an optional one-semitone excursion to B flat for variety (bars 10 and 11). Once you’ve got your starting positions, it’s just try, try, and try again!
If you’re wise, you’ll stop when the going gets tough and figure out the together, left, right (TLR) which-hand-plays-when ‘events’. One section of the manuscript has the TLR analysis between the staves, but learn to do it for yourself – it’s the efficient way of working.
The right-hand-under is an extra for novelty, but it certainly focuses your attention on which hand’s doing what. Try to get to the final ‘LH rolling, with-gap/RH-under’ benchmark performance (and well done you!) – and stay posted for more tricky stuff to come.
You can download the ‘theme’ music here, but try to ‘get it’ from the video first. Learning and playing by ear and from memory is where it’s at, in the end!
Rhythmic patterns in popular music keyboard playing
Hand patterning in modern keyboard playing often looks like bongo or conga drumming, and taking the time to learn complicated rhythms away from the keyboard quickly pays off. (Modern keyboard players of all ages should aim to become expert foot-tapping desktop drummers!) Get systematic help for your inner drummer with Musicarta’s tapping exercises for rhythm and syncopation.
Syncopation and anticipation
Popular music is characterised by playing notes off the beat (anticipation and syncopation). Ragtime (ragged time) music, the fore-runner of jazz, exploited syncopation as its main selling point. Any modern popular musician needs to have these skills ‘in the bone’. You can quickly assess your skills and develop them directly with Musicarta’s Syncopation and Anticipation series. Click through to Beat and Rhythm: Syncopation and Anticipation Lesson One here. Lesson Two continues the work.
Reading and writing complicated rhythms
Written music conveys complicated rhythms accurately, but on the page they are difficult to read and write. If you’re aiming to improve, you need to apply yourself directly to the problem. Go to Counting and Writing Difficult Rhythms (in preparation) for an overview.
Using a simple drum machine (rhythm station)
Counting and Writing Difficult Rhythms suggests using a rhythm station (drum machines) to make sense of written-out rhythms. Computer-based rhythm stations don’t have to divert down the electronic music road. On the contrary, free entry-level rhythm stations like Hammerhead can help develop even elementary rhythm skills in several ways. Click through to the Hammerhead page (in preparation) for more information. In the meantime, go to
http://www.threechords.com/hammerhead/ and download the programme.
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