During your learning process on the piano or any instruments you will learn note lengths and musical terms. The musical terms associated with timing are bars, bar lines, time signatures and counting. You will need to know these in order to play a piece in time.
If you have just learnt a new note or a new time signature or are struggling with a concept read on.
What Could Your Timing Problem?
1. not understand or remember the note lengths, bars, bar lines and time signatures
2. have counting issues like:
~ not be counting at all
~ counting unevenly
~ finding counting difficult
3. be thinking about all the other factors about playing the piece, like getting the notes correct, dynamics, as well and thus the timing goes.
Strategies to Help Your Timing
1. Know Your Note Lengths
Here are some exercises to reinforce note lengths
Please note that counts and beats mean the same thing.
1. Copy the note lengths in the diagram below.
Write the note length name underneath.
Then write the note length or number of counts each note represents.
1 count 2 counts 3 counts 4 counts
Please note that there are other names for these notes which you may be more familiar with.
Crotchet = Quarter Note = 1 count
Minim = Half Note = 2 counts
Dotted Minim = Dotted Half Note = 3 counts
Semibreve = Whole Note = 4 counts
You can also do this with other note lengths you are learning or struggling with.
Copy them from your tutor book or ask your teacher.
2. Copy these note lengths and write below each note the number of counts.
3. Draw 8 notes of the same note value, like the picture below.
Write the counting underneath each note, for example: 1 underneath the crotchet or 1 beat note, 1 2 underneath the minim or 2 beat note etc,
You can draw all the note lengths you have learnt like this.
Clap and count.
Play and count with any key on right hand and then left hand.
Please note that you can count out loud or quietly. Have a go at both ways.
4. Create a Rhythm of Different Note Lengths
Draw 8 notes of different note lengths or place note length cards side by side as in picture below.
I would suggest to definitely draw the note lengths but if you can create note length cards then it provides another method of creating a rhythm.
Write or place the counting underneath each note, for example: 1 underneath the crotchet or 1 beat note, 1 2 underneath the minim or 2 beat note etc as in the picture below.
Clap and count
Play and count with any key on right hand and then left hand
Create a rhythm using any note length with
1. 5 notes
2. 12 notes
3. you decide on how many notes
5. Draw the type of note needed
2 count note 4 count note 1 count note 3 count note
6. Copy the picture and draw a line from the notes at the top to the correct note value underneath.
2. Know Your Bar Lines, Bars and Time Signatures
Bars: A bar is represented by the music between the bar lines.Another name for Bar is Measure
These are the 2 numbers you see at the beginning of every piece of music.
Beginners start off learning time signatures 4 3 2 C
4 4 4
The top figure tells you the number of beats per bar
The lower figure tells you the type of beat that gets 1 count
So a time signature of 4 means there are 4 one beat notes in a bar
C as a time signature means common time and is another way of writing 4
From the picture below write down the time signature and how many beats to each bar underneath each one.Hint: the sentence in this colour above may help
3. Counting Per Bar or Measure
Once you understand and remember what bar lines, bars and time signatures are then you can count the beats per bar to help you keep in time.
So with a piece in 4 time, you count 1 2 3 4 in every bar or measure.
Every time you get to a bar line you start the counting at 1 again.
1. Exercises: to get used to counting and help with the counting issues as mentioned above.
Copy each picture in i. ii. and iii below and:
i. Write the counts in each bar
ii. Fill in the bar lines.
iii. Add in the time signature at the start.
iv. Clap and Count out loud the exercises in i. ii, iii.
v. Play and Count out loud the exercises in i, ii, iii on any keys with your right hand or left hand or both.
vi. Create a Rhythm Using Rhythm Cards
You have seen my rhythm cards in the examples above.
My set consists of the note lengths, time signatures, bar lines and counts.
You can create these yourself by hand or on the computer.
A teacher can hand over a set of cards for the student to use within a lesson or a student / do-it-yourself-learner can use their own cards.
A teacher can give you criteria using the notes you know so far or a student/ do-it-yourself-learner can just decide on the notes to use.
Create a Rhythm of ‘X’ number of bars with a time signature of ‘Y’ and the note lengths you know so far.
Let’s be more specific
Create a Rhythm of 4 bars using 3 time signature with time lengths of 1, 2, 3, 4 counts, like the picture below.
Add Counts underneath the notes using counting per bar.
Remember, the picture gives you an example. You need to create another rhythm.
Clap and Count the rhythm counting per bar.
Play and Count the rhythm on any note on the piano using the left or right hand or both.
4. Learn A Piece One Step At A Time
When you first meet a piece there is a lot to learn.
You have to learn to read the notes and note lengths and then add the other musical features like repeats, dynamics, accents and more.
So focus on one thing at a time so you don’t get confused with trying to get all aspects correct at the same time.
Here is what you can do
1. Know how to read your notes and locate which keys to press down on the piano.
2. When you are comfortable with playing the notes focus on your timing. Play slowly and count carefully.
As the notes become easier then the timing of these notes become easier with more even counting. If there is a difficult section, pull out and practise separately.
3. Then you can concentrate on the other factors of the piece.
5. Playing Lots
… of the exercises and pieces in your learning process and pieces you like. By repetition you get to know what the notes and musical features look like.
When you are first playing an exercise or piece:
1. Play slowly:
This helps you get used to the notes and counting of the piece, which is especially good for the non-countersto start counting.
I recommend playing at the speed of the hardest bar or section so the timing of the piece is more likely to be even throughout. This is great for the Uneven Counters. But focus on slow playing. Think of Dancers needing an even beat to dance to or Marching Girls having to keep in time.
2. Count out loud:
I have found with students that most keep better time when they count out loud.
3. Count to self:
You will not be performing your piece with loud counting so get used to silent counting.
The more you play the piece, the easier the notes will become to play and flow more easily in time with even counting.
People who have difficulties with counting need to understand and remember what all the features mean, do the suggested exercises above and play lots using the Learn A Piece One Step At A Time Strategy.
To Help With Your Timing When Playing A Piano Piece You Need To
KNOW YOUR NOTE LENGTHS,
KNOW YOUR BAR LINES, BARS AND TIME SIGNATURES
COUNT CAREFULLY AND EVENLY
LEARN A PIECE ONE STEP AT A TIME
TO HELP WITH THIS
DO EXERCISES AND ACTIVITIES
If you have been learning on your own and are struggling This May Benefit You.
Maybe you play another instrument and you have difficulty in Timing and would like to start learning the piano then This May Interest You.