Music For the Love of It

June 2001

You Can't Have Too Much Rhythm

You've Got Rhythm: Read Music Better by Feeling the Beat

by Ted Rust

Like most experienced amateur musicians, I like to think I've already got it. I can read fairly complex rhythms with precision and security. When a new piece is really tough I can slow it down, piece it together, then crank it up and voila! But do I know what beat we're on when my mind is preoccupied with a half-dozen details of ensemble dynamics, intonation, tone color, balance and the last mistake I made? Not always. It's hard to be too rich, or to have too much rhythm. What this book can do is free your mind from having to count meter, by teaching your body do it. Your mind will thank you. “But I do use my body: I move with the beat and I breathe with the phrases.” Not good enough: a tapping foot may handle beats, but it's baffled by meter. What Dembska and Harkness offer is a physical language of meter: an articulate set of gestures—slap, clap and tap—that signal specific parts of any meter. (As they acknowledge, conventional conducting gestures can serve the same purpose.) They then provide as exercise their beautiful rhythmic text settings of classic English and American prose, which I consider reason enough to buy the book even if you do have perfect rhythm. Who since Cole Porter has come close to this: Stagefright gif

book with optional CD set