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Beginner Tricks to keep rhythm while sight reading

MrJ

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Since I have started playing I have become really good at sight reading and I have been told that I have a good sound and breath support by my teacher. The problem is that I can't keep time in the manner my teacher wants me to keep time while sight reading. They believe I should count tempo in my head. No matter how much I try an practice this I cannot seem to read and play the notes while counting in my head. I can tap my foot, use a metronome, or play with another interment just fine but I can't seem to count it silently in my head. I do much better paying it thru 20-30 times then bringing up up to tempo or just matching tempo by ear. I am told not to tap my foot because it disrespectful to the orchestra. However I have no intention of being in an orchestra and if I was I could keep time by ear and practice. My lessons are starting to drag because I get stopped every time I mess something up.Ifsthere any drills I can do to solve this and keep time the way my teacher wishes me to keep time. Right now its just frustrating me mostly from being constantly stopped and told I'm doing it wrong. I generally work things out in practice but this has been a challenge regardless of the time put in.
 

Tenor Viol

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You can try something less obvious like twitching your big toe, or moving your heel so it’s not externally obvious you’re ‘tapping your foot’
 

Guenne

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They believe I should count tempo in my head
Nobody "counts in his head" while playing. After some time, you feel where the beats are.
1 or 3+ or 4+ is just mathematics, and serve as a means of understanding.

I agree that"stomping" your foot is not a good idea, but as @Tenor Viol said, you can do it so that it is not visible if you feel better.
One thing you could do is sing melodies you have to play in your head while walking, or find rhythm in sounds around you (and maybe count in your head).

I'm frequently teaching in music theory classes, and a common "problem" is that when people count, they count "chopped", like a robot would. No way to keep track of a tempor that way. I tell them to count in a way that the 1 last until the 2 comes and so on... So you can easier divide the beats the way you need it.

Cheers, Guenne
 

Pete Thomas

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Nobody "counts in his head" while playing. After some time, you feel where the beats are.
1 or 3+ or 4+ is just mathematics, and serve as a means of understanding.
True, and very often the problem is when there is some syncopation which is accented do can have a tendency to force the “count” onto the syncopated notes. The meter itself then goes out the window. Far better to just let the music flow like words or phrases when speaking. Easier said than done but the sooner you try rather than counting the sooner that ability becomes the natural way of playing.
I agree that"stomping" your foot is not a good idea, but as @Tenor Viol said, you can do it so that it is not visible if you feel better.
Same applies of course.
 

Yansalis

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Do rhythm exercises while counting out loud. You will get used to having the count and the music going at the same time. Then just do the count in your head, then start doing it while reading simple tunes, etc.
 

nigeld

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I'm not sure what you mean by "counting tempo in your head". If it means thinking "One, two, three four" while playing, then that is rather hard in my opinion. I would only do that during rests or very long notes. But if it just means having an internal metronome, then that is useful. You could try imagining a metronome ticking away. Or, as @Tenor Viol suggests, you could tap your big toe invisibly inside your shoe. The problem with tapping your foot is not that it is disrespectful, but that it is too easy to set your own beat which is different from the rest of the band. And it can be distracting for the audience. But if you look at the start of this video of the Duke Ellington band, you can see the bari player's foot tapping away.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTFK1M5hY0A


Personally, if I'm sight reading then I don't try to get both the notes and the rhythm first time, and none of my teachers have expected me to do this. If the rhythm is tricky then I was told to play it in one note at first until I have got it right.

My teachers have always told me to play with a metronome quite a lot- very slowly at first and then gradually speeding up. This has really improved my sense of rhythm, since there's nowhere to hide. Not allowing the metronome seems a bit odd to me.

My lessons are starting to drag because I get stopped every time I mess something up
That sounds to me like you may need a new teacher.
 

mizmar

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You're not alone. Seems to me that building up a solid sense of rhythm is as big a challenge as anything. I just practice lots of different things in the hope of building up, slowly over time, the right bit of brain. Entrainment of an old brain takes time.
To add to the usual list, a thing to practice is also rhythmic patterns so that you aren't going note duration by note duration, but "bam-tiddy-bam" or "dah-dah-dum" if you see what I mean.
 
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Guenne

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Very good book:
Very good app:
 

Pete Thomas

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Do rhythm exercises while counting out loud. You will get used to having the count and the music going at the same time. Then just do the count in your head, then start doing it while reading simple tunes, etc.
Might be good to set a metronome, count with that and do some clapping rhythm exercises, gradually getting more complex/syncopated
I'm not sure what you mean by "counting tempo in your head". If it means thinking "One, two, three four" while playing, then that is rather hard in my opinion.
Exactly. It is about just developing a sense of time/meter. I think we probably all agree that foot tapping is best avoided but just transferring the need for some personal "beat| to be going on from your feet to counting in your head is going to be rather hard.

So whatever exercises (as above) can help to internalise a sense of time that doesn't involve counting otr tapping is a good thing IMO.
 

MrJ

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Might be good to set a metronome, count with that and do some clapping rhythm exercises, gradually getting more complex/syncopated

Exactly. It is about just developing a sense of time/meter. I think we probably all agree that foot tapping is best avoided but just transferring the need for some personal "beat| to be going on from your feet to counting in your head is going to be rather hard.

So whatever exercises (as above) can help to internalise a sense of time that doesn't involve counting otr tapping is a good thing IMO.
Simple rhythm isn't really an issue for me. Its rhythms like dotted quarter notes. I do work with a metronome and clap out the rhythm or tap it out with fingers on a surface. I have been hyper focused on tempo while practicing. My teachers expectation is that I count 1 and 2 and etc in my head while playing. I try to internalize the tempo but I usually get interrupted while playing new passages to tell me I am rushing or slowing the tempo.That results in being stopped every 2 mesures and being told that I am not counting
 

MrJ

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Very good book:
Very good app:
Thanks, I'll take a look at those
 

Pete Thomas

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My teachers expectation is that I count 1 and 2 and etc in my head while playing.
In that case I take it back. We should not be giving advice here that is conflicting with what your teacher says or it will be confusing. I'm sure various different methods can work but best to stick to one of them
 

jbtsax

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There was a method of teaching counting rhythms that was popular in the US for a while that is called the "Breath Impulse" method. As the name implies, the student is taught to subdivide the notes values with pulses of air sort of like a breath vibrato. Some examples:

A quarter note: Tu - oo
A half note: Tu - oo - oo - oo
A dotted quarter followed by an eighth: Tu - oo - oo - tu - tu

Once the student can feel the subdivisions contained in the notes this way, the breath impulses are done mentally instead of physically. An exercise I used in my percussion class to help the students to internalize the beat and count mentally was to tap 4 beats to establish the tempo and give the instruction to clap on random beats: for example "on 5, 11, 14, 23" start. They weren't allowed to keep the pulse by moving a part of their body that I could see. It revealed right away which students sped up or slowed down keeping track of the pulse.
 
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Yansalis

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I have not run into this idea anywhere, and I have not tried it, but given the specific problem described, if I was trying to solve it I would use a metronome for feedback on exercises for counting in my head. This would depend on the available metronome settings, but the principle would be to have the metronome only click maybe every other beat, then every measure as you grew confident. Then just use it to set the pulse (visual 'clicks' then look away), video the exercise (be it clapping, tapping, or playing) and use the metronome to analyze your accuracy. I hope rather than know that modern cell video is accurate enough as to time.

Re: old brains. Neural plasticity is increased by discomfort, so if you can find a way to do your learning that involves some stress it's helpful (check out Andrew Huberman of Stanford on this topic). Another learning aid is aerobic exercise, which when coupled with learning, increases the growth and durability of neural connections (this from old animal research but I keep hearing confirmation, just don't have the cites handy). I have used this effectively for studying by alternating exercise/study/exercise/study.

Oh, and if indeed the actual issue is keeping the pulse, and the teacher is trying to get you to count in your head as a solution only to that (rather than to knowing where you are in the music in an ensemble situation), the solution sounds a bit counter productive and 'castle in the sky' in that it's putting excess demands on the student. On the other hand that's a perfect way of increasing the discomfort level which may well help learning at any age.

Yes this post has a lot of backseat driving in it so take with the appropriate-sized grain of salt.
 
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Colin the Bear

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Most players have tendency to speed up or slow down. That's why there's a need for conductor. Less so if the ensemble is regulated by drums.
This may be more about phrasing than . beat.
Dotted anything can be challenging.
I've never been able to sight read, unless I know how it goes.
With preparation anything is playable.
 

MrJ

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Most players have tendency to speed up or slow down. That's why there's a need for conductor. Less so if the ensemble is regulated by drums.
This may be more about phrasing than . beat.
Dotted anything can be challenging.
I've never been able to sight read, unless I know how it goes.
With preparation anything is playable.
I feel my teacher is good at what they do and has years of experience is teaching and performing. Maybe they are little rigid in how they teach. My personal way to learn is is to play thru it several times and once I have a feel for the sound and the note patterns then I start working on the correct tempo and rhythm. Its even better if I can hear it played. I do have a tendency to rush when sight reading the first few times.I spent most of today clapping out dotted quarter note rythems and when I practiced this evening I was able to play them much easier. I did not count it in my head but I did verify I was doing it right with a metronome.
 

Colin the Bear

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Maybe the problem is that your preparation is flawed and when you get to the teacher, what you're playing isn't exactly what's written.
If you need to hear a piece, as I do, before being able to play it as written, then it's your reading skills that need work and maybe this is where the teacher is focusing.
It can feel nit picky and annoying but to play in an ensemble from previously unseen charts is a valuable skill and a requirement in some scenarios.
Lessons aren't the only thing to spend your time on. Play and enjoy your horn too. ;)
 
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