Learn piano online - Consistency in pulse

Learn piano online, why pulse is a key component in music making and how to keep it consistent.


Leading the Big Band of Penang on the eve of Labor Day weekend with passion, his control over the 20 musicians playing different instruments was so complete that they were able to maintain a consistent pulse throughout the performance.

Like a mad scientist engulfed in his experiments, oblivious to the world around him. Perhaps, too harsh of a way to describe him, I meant it as a compliment though, alright I’ll re-phrase it; Jerome is one passionate dude.

It is only natural that pulse is somehow a key component in music making. It is so for the simple reason that in the very universe we are occupying, some type of pulse is reverberating around us at all times. In the form of magnetic waves, light and sounds. My own beating heart generates a regular pulse, the neurons in my brains sparks billions of bursts of pulse in a second.

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What is pulse?
It is in music and around us,
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What does pulse mean? 

A musical beat or other regular rhythm.[referenceOxford Dictionary of English @ Oxford University Press 2010, 2017]

Hammers striking the strings inside the piano result in pulse of sounds, the mechanics of the instrument itself is based on the generation of pulse. The pianist controls the pulse using the 88 keys on the piano with her skills and talent to make music.

Hence, keeping a regular pulse during piano playing is a necessity. Failure to execute results in rambling, incomprehensible noise instead of elegant music.

Speaking of elegant music, Clementi is one composer well known for being responsible for creating over a hundred elegant sonatas. I once attempted to perform his Sonatina in Op.3 in a piano competition, the experience taught me that its passages have to be uncluttered.

To do so the LH and RH need to be detached and the phrases in time – no rubato allowed here. Consistency in pulse is the product of the musical phrases staying in time.

Beginners just starting to learn how to play the piano have a tendency to rush. They are hasty in playing the note that comes next before the beat of the previous note is completed. I was guilty of the same crime.

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Making it consistent
The basis of elegant piano playing,
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The shorter the beat of the note the more hasty I became. Instead of playing a crotchet in one beat, I played it in half of a beat. A quaver half of its actual beat. The tragic outcome being the whole musical phrase accelerated out of its intended time. Pulse no longer consistent. 

The hastiness is caused by nervousness, in my case it was fear of making a mistake, wanting to finish playing the phrase immediately to perfection and the eagerness to impress my piano teacher. Ironically it was she who told me to calm down and take my time, “Do not worry I will teach you well”, she said.

One more detrimental effect of rushing is the tone is most certainly to come-off as rigid. A good performer enthralls the audience with natural sounding music, unforced and subtly soothing.

Break the icy rigidity by keeping the arms light and relaxed. When they are kept naturally relaxed in other words unforced, so too will be the music. Then it is only the matter of maintaining an even pace for the pulse to stay consistent.

You can achieve this by practicing in small sections. Determine which fingering combinations are most suitable for the particular phrases and stick to it. Using the same fingering builds security in the hands and muscle memory in the head.

The head also need to have clarity about the song you are playing, therefore the need to understand every note in the passages cannot be emphasized enough. The pianist keeps the pulse consistent by thinking her way through as well as playing the song.

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