Pulse…. we all have one!

Now, lovely students, you are all very clever, making good progress learning music and coping well with the oboe but why do most of you forget to count?

After hearing a piece I will often ask my students if they are counting. The alarming reply is generally, “urm no I was guessing”

We all have a pulse, it’s there constantly keeping us going and that is exactly what we need in the pieces we play.

If you start a piece without having thought about your speed (tempo) and what the beat (pulse) is of the piece then if you get the rhythms right it will be more through luck than anything else. To know how your quavers relate to your crotchets you need a firm idea of the speed which means knowing the pulse of the piece.

Try getting into a routine before playing a piece.

  1. Check the time signature.
  2. Have a look at the rhythms in the first bar and find the bar in the piece with the most notes.  Use both of these to try and work out the pulse of the piece.
  3. Before trying to play count the pulse in your mind so you have a really strong idea of what length your crotchets or quavers (and any other length note) need to be.
  4. Don’t forget sometimes you may find it easier to subdivide the beat, e.g. if it is a really slow piece, or complicated rhythms. In this case work out the subdivided pulse and count that in your mind before playing.
  5. Most important, now keep that pulse going in your mind while you play the piece.

When I get my students to do this in their lessons it is amazing the contrast to when they play without the pulse. All of a sudden all the random note lengths go away and their rhythmic playing improves hugely.

Do try to always think of the pulse when playing, it really is crucial. Its the back bone and the driving force for any piece of music.

If you have a way of finding and keeping the pulse of a piece of music or any hints and tips why not share them with us!

Now for the music clip for this blog post. Many orchestras rely on a conductor to show the musicians the pulse they want for a piece of music but many chamber orchestras don’t use a conductor. These orchestras rely on the musicians listening and literally following the leader (the leader of the orchestra is the 1st violinist) This group of musicians are playing part of the Four Seasons by Vivaldi. It is an incredibly exciting performance and requires every performer to work together as one to ensure they are all playing at exactly the same pulse without the aid of a conductor. Hope you enjoy this clip.