Why You Must Have Rhythmic Tension in Your Music

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Hi, I’m Robert Estrin. This is LivingPianos.com. Today’s subject is, “Why You Must Have Rhythmic Tension in Your Music.” What is rhythmic tension? What am I talking about? I’m going to tell you why it’s so important to have rhythmic tension in music and how to create it.

Rhythmic distortion is crucial when playing dance music.

By taking a piece of music that is a dance form, a waltz for example, there must be some distortions to the rhythm. Now you might think you should play exactly what the composer wrote. Truth be known, composers only wrote notes down as guidelines, a skeleton of the composition you must flesh out. So for example, if you were to play a Chopin Waltz with no rhythmic distortion, just absolutely straight where you could play it to a metronome, it would sound lifeless.

You can do your best job at creating the shadings, the expression and playing faithfully to the score, but it will still sound lifeless. Why is this? Well, there has to be motion in music and I chose a waltz for good reason, because dance music is based upon motion, the motion of the dance. A waltz has a strong first beat and a third beat that leads to the next first beat. It’s not just the emphasis, but it’s a pull from one beat to the next. And this rhythmic distortion is essential to be able to get the right feel, not just where it’s obvious in 19th Century music with rubato, or in this case a Chopin Waltz, but with nearly all styles of music.

How do you know if you’re distorting rhythm too much?

You certainly don’t want to play a different rhythm from what the composers wrote. So here’s the key: One way is to play right with the metronome, spot on every beat. Another approach where you may not be able to play along with the music perfectly, however, there is never a gain or loss of any beats. And more importantly, if you tried to tap along, you will feel the pulse. So you pull the listener into the performance. That’s what makes it so compelling! That’s why you must have this rhythmic variety in your music, which you could call distortion. But it is absolutely essential in order to bring your music to life.

I hope this has been interesting for you. I welcome differing viewpoints in the comments below!

Thanks so much for joining me. I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. See you next time!