Piano songs - Canon in D

Rhythm mistakes in piano songs due to difficult mathematical division of notes in given time such as quavers into semiquavers in 4/4. Play as breves to fix it.

Have you ever felt like there was a mysterious force nudging at you in piano practice? Especially when you were making mistakes. I have felt it many times. It was when I was playing a small portion of a song incorrectly but was completely oblivious to it. Confident in my execution, I already started practising the next phrase but was constantly pulled back to playing the portion in question. Since I could not see the mistake, I thought it was my obsessive-compulsive-disorder running amok.


  • What ? - Mistakes in rhythm
  • Why? - A dotted quaver overlooked
  • How? - Practise single hands, slow and count

After a few times, usually spanning several days the mistake would expose itself to me.

I would like to believe that I found it due to my brilliance, but credit is due to the mystery force.

After correcting the mistake, I could progress to the next part of the song with renewed momentum. No longer pulled back by what felt like an invisible chain.

A friendly force when playing piano songs

It was the nudging feeling that drew my attention to a section of Canon in D being practised incorrectly. The section is shown in Image 1 below.


The duration of the dotted quaver should be timed precisely as well as the divisions within the dotted quaver such as into semiquavers for instance. But it is more convenient to pretend temporary myopia towards the tiny dot and play it as a quaver. For the sake of more convenience, I played the semiquaver next to it as a quaver too and created a group of only quavers lined up nicely. The result is the composer’s writing is mauled, and the rhythm distorted.

Confronted by such a challenge I had to adjust my approach towards executing the phrase. When a task is difficult beyond your level of proficiency, downgrade it a few notches. Play it alla breve instead of trying to ram through it by playing as written.

Practising piano songs as breves

Practise hands separately, start with the left hand to accustom yourself to the pace. Then practice with the right hand. Be vigilant in adhering to each of the notes’ duration, they are breves so it is 2/2. If need be, count the duration of every note pressed out loud 1…,2,…3,…4. It seems trivial and sophomoric having to do this, although with this method even the most rhythmically clumsy student should be able to overcome the challenge posed. It could be simplified further still by isolating the voices in the rhythm and practising them separately, as shown in Image 2 below.

In conclusion, to execute its rhythm correctly the phrase could be broken into 3 parts. First, the accompaniment of the left hand notes, second the melody of the right hand notes and third, the 2 voices present in the melody. Practise each part separately. As breves. Adhere strictly to the duration of each note. Count each of them if necessary. After you could play them separately with firmness, play them together alla breve. Then play them together as written.

“Gotcha!”...traps in piano songs

Another trap piano students tend to fall into is one of hurrying over short notes resulting in distorted rhythm. In the example shown in Image 1, the semiquaver is the trap. The sight of short notes such as semiquavers triggers a reaction in the piano students to play fast. Conversely, the sight of long notes triggers a reaction in the piano students to play slow. 

To outsmart the reflex, one has to put in effort to actively slow down over short notes. Specifically, the solitary semiquaver shown in Image 1 for example. Draw out the full cantabile quality out of it. Listening a lot to good violinist and cellist who have mastered the craft of cantilena and know how to extract the singing quality of short notes helps to grow this ability.

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