Piano Technique – How is your timing?

When I was still a student in university studying engineering, I once read a remark by a scientist that went “There is too much order in the universe for it to be a coincidence”.

The rotation of the sun, the orbit of the earth around it and the trajectory of comets within the galaxy are of perfect timing.

Much like the instruments in an orchestra – strings, woodwinds, brass, percussions and the piano – they work together in perfect harmony to create a symphony that is a marvel to listen to.

Which brings me to my question, how is your timing on the piano? Is there anything you can do to refine your piano technique by improving the timing?

In a piano score, there are time signatures written at the beginning of every line. They tell you at what speed the song has to be played, setting the tone for the whole composition.

If you play too slow, what is meant to be a playful romp of a song will come off as draggy and even depressing.

Moreover, beside the time signatures, there are always playing notes in the score such as moderato, largo, vivace and presto.

These are Italian terms commonly found in a sheet music, they are all terms meant to guide your timing while playing.

If you play too slow, the dramatic moments in a song when playing faster heightens the suspense will be lost – resulting in no sense of wonderment in the listener.

Contemporary romantic songs are well suited to improve piano technique, specifically the timing for slow paced playing. If you prefer classical compositions - practise with nocturnes.

Instead of going through the drudgery of practising with confining technical exercises, you plunge yourself into real music with genuine works of music.

They require delicate legato touch, lifting your arms over a stretch of octave without adding any rush to it and land on a key at just the right instant - useful as piano technique improvement exercises that develop control over your timing when playing slow ballads.

Sonatinas are great for practising to improve your timing when playing a fast paced song. This is because a sonatina is usually consists of three movements composed for playing at increased velocity.

It starts of fast (allegro), the second movement then shifts to even faster (allegretto), finally decellerating a bit in the third movement but still maintaining a fast paced rhythm.

A good song to begin practising with is Muzio Clement’s Sonatina Op.36, No.1. The combination of running up the keyboard with your fingers playing scales and rushing down it rendering an arpeggio will have your fingers equipped with the piano technqiue needed to play classical song with virtuosity in perfect timing.

In the early days of learning how to play the piano, do you remember your teacher counting the beats and clapping her hands when you were playing? This is the simplest form of exercise to get the timing correct.

If you find yourself struggling with the timing when learning a difficult phrase, go back to basics and count. After a few attempts with counting, certainly you shall be able to feel the music and capture the intended timing.

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