Thoughts on composing, teaching and performing music, by Fergus Black

A picture of numbers

Is counting natural?

Is counting natural? My experience tells me not! Many young children have to be taught to hear the pulse of music, and most of us have had to learn to keep a steady pulse. One needs to practise, sometimes, with a metronome.

My feeling is that before the age of the gramophone, musicians worried less about tempo, and went with the flow - one only has to listen to some 78s (transfers!) to hear that old way of playing. It's not that they couldn't play in time; and it is (usually) idiosyncracy: what they are doing is playing with flow. I like it!

Two tips for early grade aural tests

Here are a couple of anecdotal tips for early grade aural tests:

(1) I find that many young children can't clap in time, but they CAN tap their foot in time. Is that a common experience? Why would that be? Is foot-tapping entrainment, but clapping isn't - also, they try and clap like seals, rather than tap with the fingers of one hand into the other.

(2) Most young children can count 2-in-the-bar, but some seem to have difficulty with 3. Perhaps 3-in-the-bar is a more unusual time signature in these days when almost every pop song is in 4, or perhaps it has always been so. I have been known to tell ABRSM exam candidates, that if they aren't sure whether the piece in the Aural Tests in in 2-time or 3-time, that it is most likely in 3-time. I know that's bad of me, but it does usually work.

Notes: Entrainment on Wikipedia

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