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How To Play Complicated Rhythms

A simple trick to make complicated rhythms easy.

Lisa Witt - Oct 15, 2019

There's a lot to learn when you play the piano.


Think about one line of music. You need to know the key signature, the time signature, then you need to read the actual notes AND figure out which fingers you'll use to play them.


And we haven't even got to the rhythm yet.


Rhythm is one of those things that can easily derail your playing and demotivate you -- if you don't know how to approach it correctly.


This is especially true when it comes to complicated rhythms. Luckily for us, Cassi is here :)


And she has fantastic advice for how to make complicated rhythm sections seem easy.


Write it out by hand


We're going old-school. But this is an amazing technique to help you get the rhythm into your head.


It's so easy. 


Simply write out the RHYTHM of the line you are working on. Don't worry about the notes -- we are only interested in the rhythm. 


I'll show you what I mean.


Look at this line from Ecossaise in G Major by Beethoven:



There's a lot going on here. We have eighth notes and sixteenth notes, plus we're in 2/4 time signature.


So for now -- don't even think about what the notes are. Look at the rhythm and write it out by hand. 


I'll look something like this:



As you can see, it also helps to write out the beats underneath.


Clap it out


Now we have the rhythm written out -- it's time to clap.


This will get the rhythm into our heads, and counting out loud will also help here.


Do this as often as it takes to really remember the rhythm.


Play it!


Now you know the rhythm by heart, it's time to go back and focus on the notes themselves.


But because you already know the rhythm -- it will make it a LOT easier to learn which notes to play.


And the great thing about this technique is that you can apply it for one hand -- or both.


Once you have the right-hand part down, take a look at the left hand, and write out the rhythm.


But this time -- instead of clapping, tap on your leg while you're playing the right-hand part.


It's a fantastic bridge between learning the song hands separately and putting it all together.


Final tip


This is a big one - use a metronome!


You should be using a metronome for all of your practices, but it's especially important when learning a new piece with difficult rhythms.


The metronome will keep you in time -- and will help solidify the beats in your head.


So now you're ready to tackle that song or section of a piece that you've been avoiding.


And as always, have fun!



#Piano Lessons


#Piano Practice

#Time Signatures


#Complicated Rhythm

#Practice Exercises


Hi, I'm Lisa Witt

Lisa has taught in a variety of settings from beginners just getting started to recording artists preparing their songs for the road. While her background is classical, she loves helping students play the music they love by ear and is excited to be a part of YOUR journey.