Practicing in Rhythms

Let me give you a little taste of what my week was like:

5 dance performances, 3 dance rehearsals, 1 orchestra concert, 4 orchestra rehearsals, 3 work-study shifts, 1 lesson, 1 studio class, 2 papers, a video review and going to various classes each day.  Needless to say, I was in a bind with my practicing.  Try as I might, I simply not able to fit in as much practice time needed to prepare my assignment of 6 etudes, the Sancan Sonatine and the Devienne’s Concerto #7 for my lesson.  

I go in to my lesson, and Mr. Langevin, per the usual, asks me to play my etudes.  “Let’s start with the Casterede” he says. Up until this point, I had planned on faking my way through Casterede’s sixth etude, UNTIL Mr. Langevin turns the metronome on to the tempo written in the score (dotted half-note = 60).  For those of you who do not know this particular etude, it is challenging, with its relentless triplets outlining every tonal triad in about a minute flat.  

At this point, I decide to come clean.  “Mr. Langevin, I was not able to get any of my etudes up to tempo this week…I’m sorry.  I have had all of these [insert excuses here] this week.”  “Ok” he says “What tempo were you able to work this one up to?”  “108 to the quarter” I replied.  Just for reference, that means my tempo was 36 to the dotted quarter, just a little over half tempo.  I struggle through the etude, even at this severely reduced tempo, as Mr. Langevin calmly listens off to the side.  

When I was finished. he simply said “Why don’t you try practicing this in different rhythms for me.” Since this entire etude is comprised of triplets, Mr. Langevin had me practice the entire etude using dotted-eight and two thirty-seconds.  I had practiced using a similiar method using an eight and two sixteenths, however Mr. Langevin explained that the goal with practicing in rhythms, is to make the faster notes as fast as possible while still remaining “clean” or without finger mistakes.  He then also had me practice the same rhythm in reverse, explaining that the long note can be as long as you need, just as long as the fast notes are as quick as possible.  

“Whenever I am in a bind” he explained (which I imagine he would be given the number of services the philharmonic has per week, combined with his teaching at both Juilliard and MSM) “I practice using these different rhythms. It is the quickest way to learn something [technical].”  

After having practiced the etude using the two rhythmic variations mentioned above, Mr. Langevin turns the metronome on again and has me play the etude through.  I was able to get through the etude with minimal mistakes, and little to my knowledge, he had bumped the metronome up from my original tempo of 108 to the quarter, to 120.  So in those 5 minutes, I was able to bump up my tempo by 12 clicks, simply by using two rhythmic variations.  

If you are in a bind, and let’s be honest, who isn’t???  Try practicing using different rhythms.  I have included some of my favorite rhythms to use while practicing below.  Have fun, be creative with it, and watch your productivity increase ten fold!

Rhythmic Variations for Practicing

Passages of eight-notes: Try using a) dotted-eight sixteenth or b) double dotted-eight thirty second.  

Passages of triplets: Try using eighth two sixteenths, or dotted-eighth two thirty seconds. 

Passage of sixteenth-notes: Try using a) dotted-sixteenth thirty second, b) double-dotted sixteenth sixty fourth, c) an eighth note with triplet-sixteenths or d) a dotted-eighth note with triplet-thirty seconds.

Note: All of the above rhythms can be reversed!  Please see the photo below for a notated version of the above descriptions!

Image

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