Move to Improve Time


Have you ever seen a professional saxophone quartet or string quartet? Or, have you watched a conductor conduct an orchestra? Notice, I’m not using the words “heard” or “listened”, and there’s a purpose for that. In this post we’re going to talk about what you can see in a performance, and how moving (while you are playing), can help your time improve.

The Exuberant Conductor

Sometimes when conductors really get in the zone the audience member may become enthralled with the movement the conductor uses to lead an ensemble.

Sometimes the conductor becomes so lively that some people may begin to laugh at the exaggerated movements. Whether the conductor is over the top or not, there’s a purpose to that movement.

Small Groups

This type of movement is also seen in popular music, all the way to a string quartet. In popular groups, the audience may think that the performer is really getting into the performance (which they may be), but this is not just for showmanship in many cases. It’s for keeping time.

Even the contemporary string quartet may move so significantly that people who are not familiar with this style may think the movement is a bit strange. But remember, this helps with time.

The Reason

When the performer moves freely, it helps them keep time. Can you imagine the opposite? What if a performer was absolutely still (besides what’s needed to play the instrument); that would be strange.

A Student Example

A couple of weeks ago one of my students was having a difficult time playing their major scales with the metronome. Now, I don’t expect my students to rock out when playing their scales, but a little movement can help improve the time. Once he started moving, the scales locked in. It was pretty cool to see.

What He Did

I instructed this student to count 8th notes in his head, while the metronome clicked for a few measures. When he did this, he locked in with the metronome before he even began playing.

Obviously, this had a significant impact on playing in time, but what happened next was interesting: he naturally moved, in time, starting with his breath. Just in case my description is not clear, hopefully the next example will help.

Picture a Conductor

Have you seen a conductor begin their conducting? There’s movement before the group begins, in preparations for playing. Check out a conductor on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean.

How to Apply

Simply stating that you should start moving when you play is not great instruction. Instead, do what my student did and lock in with the metronome (in your mind) before you start playing.

When you go to take a breath (right before you play) allow that breath to be in time, along with the body motion. Taking a breath will automatically produce body movement, so your focus is to make sure that movement is in time.

You’ll most likely find (if you lock in with the metronome before you play) that starting in time, and taking a breath in time, won’t be too difficult. This will be your first step to move naturally while you play, and using that movement will help lock in your time will result in increased maturity in your playing.


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