Rushing: An Epidemic in the Music World
Hello, readers! Sorry that this blog post is coming a week later than usual. I’ve had a very busy week with performances, rehearsals, working on reeds, etc. and I didn’t get enough time to reflect on certain topics I wanted to write on. With the extra week to think on some subjects, I found one subject that any performer and educator can agree needs some attention. Rushing, crunching, blipping, or whatever you want to call it, is destroying the music we make and work so hard to perform for other people, that it’s almost rude for the listener, the performer, the composer, and most importantly, the music.
There are several forms of rushing that can be made present when a musician performs, whether it be a solo piece like a concerto or a sonata, chamber works like a quintet or a trio, or ensemble works such as symphonies and serenades. I’ve taken the time to write on what sources I’ve noticed in player’s performances when they rush, and some potential solutions to rid these sources.
I think the first group, and by far the largest group of people who suffer from rushing, are the people who get nervous during a performance. This is more apparent in solo performances when the majority of the audience’s attention is focused on the player, which isn’t surprising at all.
When musicians give their recitals, play a big big solo in the orchestra, or play an audition in front of a panel, they feel as if the ears they’re playing for want them to fail. This is simply not true at all, as everyone who is listening to you play wants you to succeed. This is true even for an audition panel, where they would like for you to have an adequate audition to help alleviate the process just a little bit.
This motive might not work with all performers, so other external measures need to be taken. I for one like eating a few bananas before a solo performance. They contain potassium, which is a natural relaxant for the body to absorb. And yes, I know some people have debunked this theory proving it to be fake, but it’s the placebo that counts.
Another source of one’s nervousness could also be the fear of a certain passage in a work that has not been “ironed out” in time for a public performance, which has been proven to trip people up. Even if you think you’re playing it correctly, bumping the tempo down a few clicks on the metronome could tell you otherwise, which brings me to my next source of rushing,
Lack of Preparation
You would think this concept would be more apparent to hard-working musicians, but there are times when musicians don’t give their full 100% attention to the music. Lack of preparation can make or break a performance, I’m a firm believer in that; If you put in the necessary work and effort needed into your practice, you will be receiving the same amount of pleasure in your attempt at an exceptional performance.
Musicians think that when they have to break out the metronome, it’s insulting to their playing and practice. No it isn’t! As a matter of fact, you’re taking on the responsibilities of being a responsible, mature, proactive performer. Some people also fear that when you use a metronome in practice, you’ll rush in performance anyway because you won’t have a metronome at your side. There’s an incredible app on the App Store called “Time Guru”, where you set the tempo just like any other metronome, however there’s a slight chance the beeping will stop after a few beats. It’ll continue beeping after those silent beats, ensuring if you’re rushing or not. This should help with any unstable passages that aren’t ending on time.
Giving the rests “the rest”
So let’s say you’re getting enough sleep, not very nervous, well prepared, but still rushing. “I played all the notes right, and that tricky passage felt like it was really under my fingers. What gives?” Well sure, you might’ve worked really hard on the notes, but have you thought about working hard on the rests? This can be very challenging for people, as many are just simply not very patient these days. Musicians want to pick up their instrument and just start playing right away as soon as they get the chance.
This is all too common in rests of short value, such as quarter and eighth rests. Just as we play our long-tones at full value, we must also “play” our rests at full value, or we’ll be wrong every time. The human mind likes to go into autopilot mode frequently when performing mundane things like driving or doing the dishes, but it also likes to go on autopilot when you’re on stage and counting rests. Don’t let it happen; If you even have to count in your head, that’s still a better fate than coming in early on the next passage.
Playing the whole note
Playing the entirety of notes is also a healthy approach to not rushing, especially things like whole notes. Doing long-tones helps with engaging this concept and helping to grow it. When you play long sustained notes in an audition, the entire committee that’s listening to you is counting in their heads to see if you are as well. The same concept can be applied to faster passages with uniform rhythm, such as strings of sixteenth-notes, with the “I go to here” motive, which you can read about in this article.
Respecting the Music
There sometimes when I’m in a rehearsal and everyone will want to leave because they feel as if they have more important things to do. This is unprofessional, to both the conductor and the players involved, and can sometimes result in rushing of phrases in chances of getting out sooner than anticipated. This is also not healthy for the music, even if it is just for a rehearsal. Always remember to look up at the baton for your beat, and adjust constantly. Be a proactive player, not a reactive one.
These are all just a few of what I assume must be the many factors that affect one’s tempo. In the meantime, I look forward to a world where these all become common knowledge to help achieve a more mature and sophisticated performance.