Rhythm to piano songs is captured by listening. Listening to rhythm allows it to live in the heart and mind without which reproducing it is like wandering in the dark.
One bar in particular has me perplexed today at practice. I have been at it for a few weeks now and have got the fingering right but have been made to realize that I have the rhythm wrong. Which is probably why progress with the rest of song has been dragging. The bar has been calling out to me to fix it first before I am allowed to proceed.
It is not the first time either, even with other songs I have studied, whenever I have not been able to make gains it is usually a bar or phrase that I have erred with that is holding me back. They speak to me in some mysterious way, telling me to get my act together or else.
When the problem is rhythm, or more specifically capturing it and then repeating it on the piano I am left to turn to a wiser pianist. Since I need to hear it to capture it my piano teacher would play it for me. Having a teacher next to me is also of a great help because I can see her hands and fingers move therefore get an idea on how the keys are struck and their timing for the rhythm to be coaxed out of the piano properly.
That was many years ago, now at my own device without a teacher by my side I tried to figure it out on my own by staring at the score and played each note with utmost care – but in vain. The score can tell me which keys to press for how long but it does not have a voice to sing the rhythm to me. My own inner hearing too is failing me on this particular bar.
Frustrated, I had to swallow my pride and did something I avoid doing except when no other options are available – resort to watching piano tutorials on YouTube.
Trying to capture the rhythm by only looking at the score without first ever hearing it, is like trying to describe a painting by Rembrandt orally to someone who has never seen it without ever showing it to him.
My inner hearing did not fail me because it could not hear the rhythm by looking at the score, but because it forgot what the rhythm sounded like. I had to remind it.
So resorting to watching a YouTube video of the song, listening to my teacher play it or a recording of it does not make me a lesser pianist or weak at sight-reading, there is just no other way to get rhythm - only listening to it. Like the Rembrandt, you will have to see it to get it.
It occurred to me that I could play the rest of the song quiet well except for that one bar. Why is that? Sure it has more chords in it, making it slightly more challenging but I am landing on the chords accurately, the sound is coming off as firm and solid. No problems there. Just the rhythm eludes me.
I have heard this song numerous times before, who hasn’t? Ballade Pour Adeline is one of the most famous romantic tunes ever written, catapulting the pianist who performed it to super stardom.
Even so, attention is mostly given to a few phrases that are highlights of the song, depending on the listeners’ own unique inclinations they may vary, I am drawn to the phrases shown in Image 1 and 2. They live in my mind and occupy my heart since I first heard the song, years before I even picked up the piano.
As a result, spiritually I was already in possession of the rhythm and can play them well. Now all I have to do is gain possession of that one stubborn bar shown in Image 3.
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