Piano songs - Ballade Pour Adeline

Play piano songs in the right tempo by counting the beats, separating it from the rhythm and practising it first later putting them together to complete a phrase.

As a piano song, Ballade Pour Adeline has a broad range in swing of tempo. Perhaps one reason it is loved by so many. Beginning moderately, the tempo picks up significantly in phrases shown in Image 1 and Image 2 below. I find changes in pace within the song exciting, they kept my enthusiasm burning with passion in wanting to shift gear to acceleration at the appropriate times. Consequently, it demanded that I develop tempo flexibility from phrase to phrase.

Tempo is; the speed at which a composition is to be played [reference: WordWeb version 3.71]. In a composition the time signature governs tempo. In this song, it is 4/4 which means four crotchet beats in a bar is the required tempo for each bar.

Tempo in piano songs

However, the tempo increases if instead of crotchets, a bar consists of quavers. More so with bars consisting of semiquavers and demisemiquavers. This is because of the need to maintain the pre-determined requirement of playing a bar in 4 crotchet beats; 2 quavers make 1 crotchet beat, 4 semiquavers make 1 crotchet beat, 8 demisemiquavers make 1 crotchet beat.

The smaller the notes occupying the bars the faster the tempo of the bars become in order to adhere to the time signature. Tempo also increases when there are triplets or ornaments in the bars, but that is another subject that will be discussed in future articles.

Images 2 – 4 below show several examples of phrases with different tempo in Ballade Pour Adeline.

Moving in and out of a phrase would mean having to switch tempo. Therefore, in performing this song I had to have tempo flexibility from phrase to phrase. In short, it is about controlling speed. The challenge is to execute it while also staying true to the song’s tone quality, expression through emotion and projecting an accurate artistic image.

Counting the beats in piano songs

Counting the beats is a good way to grow a strong sense for the proper speed at which to play a musical phrase on the piano. As in, 1 count for a crotchet beat, 2 for minim, ½ for a quaver and so on. It is irrelevant whether I count out loud or silently in my heart, I have discovered both to be equally effective. When stuck on a bar, hearing myself count the beats had been helpful in overcoming the obstacles.

My playing partner uses the metronome to acquire a sense for the tempo when we prepared for duets, but I have never felt a need for it. Fortunate to have studied under a great teacher who taught me with passion, her own style of playing the piano without relying on the metronome also influenced me. Nonetheless, it might still be a useful device.

Tempo is interwoven with rhythm. From my experience in practising the phrase shown in Image 5 below, it was played correctly only after both have been fully comprehended. Certainly, they could be practised separately. First get the tempo right, then get the rhythm right and put them together to get the phrase right. Vice versa sequence wise works just as well.

It was an insightful realization of tremendous significance. Prior, I was struggling to succeed in executing both tempo and rhythm simultaneously from the get-go.

To play in the right tempo, be in control of the speed at which a phrase is played. Of course, the contents of the bars in the phrase had to be weighed into consideration to judge the proper speed of play. To make accurate judgment, count the beats. Tempo and its Siamese twin, the rhythm are tightly linked, complementing each other in conjuring up beautiful music. Since it is harder to get both right together at the same time immediately, practise each separately in the beginning.

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