Tempo Must be the Lowest Common Denominator

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Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is, “Tempo Must be the Lowest Common Denominator.” What does this mean? You may hear a performance that starts at a nice fast tempo and everything’s going great. Then the performer gets to a section they don’t know quite as well as the rest of the piece, so they slow down in order to make accommodations. Maybe they’ll speed up again when they get to a part they know better. This is a a terrible way to perform, but I understand the temptation. If you know a piece and you can play most of it at a nice tempo that sounds great, but there are one or more parts that you can’t quite play up to tempo, you might want to play everything up to that point at a good tempo and slow down for the sections you are struggling with. But, in a performance, you never want to do that. So, what can you do in order to correct this?

If there are just a few key sections of a piece that you can’t quite play up to tempo, work on those sections!

Zero in on the parts of the piece you can’t play up to tempo and work with a metronome. Set the metronome at a tempo you can keep up with, then slowly increase the tempo to get those sections up to the speed of the rest of the piece. Better yet, work until you can play them even faster than the rest of the piece! Then the weakest parts of your performance become the strongest parts. But if you ever find yourself in a situation where you don’t have parts of your performance up to speed, you must take a tempo at which you can play the whole piece, including those parts. This is very important if you are performing. At a piano lesson, or something of that nature, it’s not really necessary to do this. A teacher will understand if you haven’t quite gotten everything up to speed yet. But in a performance, be sure to lock in the right tempo!

How do you find the right tempo for your performance?

Think of a piece you’re playing where you have a couple of sections that you have really put work into, but your performance is still not secure. Listen to yourself play it. Then find the speed at which you can play those sections comfortably and make that the tempo of your piece. You will give a much more convincing and satisfying performance that maintains tempo throughout, rather than changing tempo to accommodate parts you can’t play as fast. You might think that it makes you sound less impressive because you can play some other parts so fast. But believe me, it will be much more enjoyable for the listener and they will be more impressed with you for giving a more cohesive performance.

I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
Please feel free to contact me with any piano related questions for future videos!


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