Dance While You Play! (Rhythm’s in your body, not your head)
Today’s my first day back from vacation, and I want to share with you something that just happened.
I haven’t been playing the piano recently because I know how important it is, sometimes, to get away from my musical pursuits. And this morning, when I sat down to play, I couldn’t regain the excitement I usually feel.
And then I remembered the secret I keep forgetting and re-discovering: playing only feels good when I dance! Immediately, things changed for the better.
By “dancing” I mean allowing my body to move with the music. Encouraging that motion, even. Because when I do that, my playing comes alive.
It works like this: when I dance while playing, I feel the rhythm in my body. It’s no longer just an abstraction in my mind. So my playing becomes more precise. Which sounds great. Which jolts me into being 100% present and playing with more focus. And when I hear the music that results from that, I’m doubly inspired, so I play even better.
And so it goes. By moving with the music, I’m committing myself to being fully involved and emotionally connected.
You’ll find constant references on this blog and site to what I call a “whole body approach” to the piano, like this one:
The concept has many implications. For one thing, in many of my videos, I teach you to use the weight of your arms to produce tone. Besides relaxing you, that sets your arms in motion, increasing your rhythmic involvement.
As a private teacher, I sometimes work with students who complain that they have no sense of rhythm. But as soon as I encourage them to let their body move to the beat, they discover the truth–they have been trying to play with their head instead of their body.
So experiment. One of the reasons I focus on accompaniment in many of my tutorials, is that it gives you easy and fun opportunities to play rhythmically.
You’ll need to discover what feels right to you. “Dancing” can mean gently swaying from side to side. It can take the form of a rhythmic nodding of your head. It can be subtle, or obvious.
I suggest that you observe musicians of all kinds and see how they dance as they play and/or sing. (My own videos are certainly good examples.) Then, sit down at the piano, relax, and allow yourself to taste the same freedom, expressiveness, and joy.
Using a metronome, by the way, is often helpful. But ultimately, you need to be the metronome.