“There must always be a sense of progression or movement towards definite landmarks.”
–Tobias Matthay, pianist
The Musician’s Way, p. 23
Rhythm comes alive when it propels listeners forward through a phrase.
Aside from choosing a suitable tempo, two ways to create forward motion are to steer shorter notes into longer ones and move from upbeats toward downbeats.
Creating Forward Motion in Music
In the following excerpt from Mozart’s Sonata K. 333 for piano, the gravitational tug of the downbeats pulls the melody notes forward to the longer notes that conclude each bracketed group.
Play or sing the melody multiple times, and experiment with driving the shorter notes toward the longer ones.
When the note values in a composition are more uniform, one way to create forward motion is to slightly extend the durations of prominent pitches and then push the subsequent ones forward.
Repeatedly vocalize or play the next example, and propel the sixteenth notes following a strong beat toward the strong beat to come. For example, you might extend the duration of the sixteenth notes on the first beat of each measure and do so minutely on the third beat.
As you play, take care not to distort the baseline pulse. Ensure that the first and third beats in each measure coincide with the pulse of a metronome (the second and fourth beats might or might not line up with the metronome).
Yet expressive timing forms the backbone of artistic music making, so it’s a crucial area for aspiring musicians to study and refine, especially with the aid of a personal recorder.
© 2015 Gerald Klickstein
Adapted from p. 31-33 of The Musician’s Way