Several of you have contacted me about doing a post on the subject of practising in dotted rhythms, that process where we deliberately and willfully go against the composer’s express wish for a passage  to be played evenly by changing the rhythmic notation for our own devious ends. This is a tradition that has been passed down from teacher to student for eons. It can work well when used carefully, but it is not a panacea for all technical problems. Pianists will claim that by taking a passage written in a constant stream of fast, regular notes and playing it several times, each time using a different rhythmic pattern, they have much more control over the passage mechanically.  This seems to strengthen the fingers, apparently (what does that actually mean?), or  it is to do with regrouping the passage – the brain sees the patterns slightly differently with each rhythmical variation and when you return to the original, it is easier to play faster, evenly, more accurately and effortlessly. Quite possibly so, if this has been done well. Are there any negative side effects to this? Absolutely, even if this has been done well! Rather like the ablution ritual of an hour of Hanon exercises, practising using a bunch of different rhythms gives a formulaic, mechanical structure to a practice session that allows both mind and ear a significant tea break while filling in time very nicely. There is a sense of achievement possible here, it can be real halo polish. If you have done an hour of Hanon and then practised your passages in dotted rhythms, you are bound to have practised well! But I often question what, if anything, has been achieved, or […]