The Right Note At The Wrong Time…
…is the wrong note. End of story.
Apparently this is a quote from Robert Shaw, but honestly, it’s just the plain truth. I’ve always felt that this was generally understood to be the case, but lately I’m wondering. I’ve had conversations with no less than 3 musicians in the last few months who have mentioned that they 1) consider themselves to be weak at rhythms, and 2) have no plans to fix that. As a musician, that makes me both sad and angry.
Sad because, as a conductor, I know that rhythm matters. It directs our understanding of musical structure, it creates an additional layer of variety on top of (or underpinning) pitch, it can make boring chord combinations sound new and fresh and fascinating. Rhythm literally drives music. The thought that there are so many musicians out there who see it as an add-on (“how the words go”) – and that some of them are music educators – is depressing, to say the least. So much musicianship left on the table.
Angry because, there is no reason for any musician to be weak when it comes to rhythm. Rhythm is logical, it is consistent, it is learnable. With the application of a consistent sense of beat, in combination with a consistent sense of beat division (I’m fond of beat-syllable systems such as Takadimi for this), and the general application of diligent practice, anyone with any musical sense can have rhythmic sense.
It does take thought. Diligence. Research, and a will to improve. Not to mention practice. Lots and lots and lots of practice. I know, I know, that sounds like work. But here’s the truth: rhythm matters, folks. If you ain’t good at it, you ain’t good at music. No matter what you tell yourself. So go get good at it. No excuses.