No, this won’t be about using your metronome (which is the best way to stabilize and improve rhythm). Today’s quick fix is so simple and fast, but very few musicians are doing it. Ready for the secret?
Before you begin playing anything, count at least two measures in your head. If you’re comfortable tapping your foot, this will also help internalize the tempo. Just make sure you aren’t counting by moving part of your body which can affect any fundamentals – like clarinetists moving the elbow or shoulder, which can disrupt the embouchure….and make you look like a chicken trying to fly.
How do you find a good tempo for a piece? Find the hardest or most technically demanding section in the music and finger through it to determine what speed you can cleanly execute it. Voila – there’s your tempo. Doing this also prevents you from the inevitable crash and burn from starting too fast and having to slow down to accommodate tricky passages.
Taking a few seconds before you begin playing will dramatically solidify the rhythm. This is especially true in auditions or performances, where nerves and adrenaline kick in and bump up the tempo. Want to take it to the next level? Practice giving cues when you begin. This will help lock in your (improved) rhythm with accompanists and fellow chamber musicians.
Cheers to Friday and to better rhythm!