Learn to improvise. 2004-2005. Lesson 02: rhythm.

Music is a dynamic art. Every moment changes. We will ignore sound vibrations, interesting for the builder of instruments, and think more spacious: the tempo, the measure, the rhythm, the touch and such-like, because you have influence in it yourself during playing.

Rhythm is the fundamental one of the three main aspects of music: rhythm, harmony and melody, because if notes don't change in the time they don't make a melody, and if harmony doesn't change in time it gives no music, at the most a sound, but rhythm on a drum without harmony and melody may be considered as music.

In this respect improvisation has an advantage over playing from sheet music. The latter gives the measure and the counting, but those are only part of the rhythm. There is no indication of the little things that touch the emotion, that stir up, that gives a heavenly feeling, that stimulates to dance and motion, or to meditative contemplation. I think of milliseconds and fractions of decibels, the fine details, that make the music rock or only woodenly. Move your wrists waving to obtain a heavenly atmosphere, your fingers stiff for a sturdy jazz and your body and legs to get dancing music, etc. The distance from the hand to the keys immediately before the touch has much effect, not only for the volume but also for the timing.
Hands high on the 2nd beat gives this effect.
If you don't hinder yourself in natural motion you improve your mental empathize and by that the expression of your personality.

Improvising giving impulsively expression to human feelings, may directly approach the hearts of others. (This may also be irritating dependent on the personality of the player.) What an improviser lacks in quality of harmony and melody he may make up by timing and touch. My tip is to apply yourself to it. (This skill will improve the performance of your sheet reading also).

The swell pedal of an organ influences all tones simultaneously. A piano has the luxury to have a separate volume controller for every single key. It has the possibility to give simultaneously two notes, the one being soft, the other loud. The touch sensitivity of a piano is not restricted to volume, it also influences the timbre and the attack. During the development of the digital pianos it turned out how complex a piano tone actually is. It took years before an acceptable level was reached and still it is not perfect. Experiment with different ways of touching. Especially improvising exploits the typical strong points of an instrument. This holds also for an organ, accordion or a detuned piano. Compositions of Mozart are played exactly as he wrote them though they were made on a different instrument. An improviser will adapt his play better to the circumstances.

The pedal of the piano also is important. When the damper pedal is pushed down, the strings resonate together in a very complex way. In digital pianos the so called 'sympathic resonance' was developed to realize the same effect, but the result is so poor, you may better switch it off. Pay much attention to the pedal. It makes all the difference in your performance.

In my sound examples I took it for granted everyone could play his left hand in an automatic mode, e.g. broken in the so called 'Alberti bass' (c e g e c e g e ....). Only recently I discovered some people have difficulty in tapping with the left hand in a constant pace, when they tap with right hand irregularly. Try this. Tap on the table (or box or the like) with your left hand constantly and with your right hand irregularly (if the right hand has a box with a different sound it is easier to hear the effect).
Click here to hear what I mean.
If you have difficulty in keeping your left hand constant you may either exercise or accept. As long as you don't play together with others a free rhythm is no problem and even may be agreeable to hear. If, however, you have an independent constant left hand, you may create indescribably complex rhythm figures, even in dance music.
Click here to hear what I mean.
HOMEWORK: Keep the structure of your chords simple (lesson 01 through 04 of the previous year), but pay much attention to the touch, the timing, the pedal and complex rhythms. Sell your play to the audience.
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