Sub-dividing: Three Reasons Why It’s Totally Not Boring
When I think about introducing the subject of subdividing to a student during a private in home piano lesson, I can be sure that their reaction will not be one of explosive enthusiasm. But this is a mistake on their part, because subdivision is pretty awesome, and more importantly a complete cure for so many musical puzzles a growing musician is sure to encounter.
The first and most obvious purpose to introduce subdivision, is to turn rhythm into something more comprehendible. For some students rhythm may come easy, and they might be able to get by for years without any question being posed to the quality of their pulse, but for others, rhythm is a mystery box for which there is no key. For both these types of students, sub division turns the guesses, whether right or wrong, into successes. There is something about subdivision that makes the language of music more readable. It turns it into math, and it’s not like breaking down complex rhythms is going to be anywhere as complicated as even middle school math. Subdividing turns even the most complicated music into lego pieces.
Breaking Down The Phrases
The second reason subdivision is the my favorite is because it can break down long phrases into equal parts, making the musical line more obvious or clear. While in private in home piano lessons in Houston, a student can take any piece of music, find a long musical line, and see that it is usually a mix of rhythms. For the student, it takes work and time to figure out when a phrase is supposed to end and when it is supposed to sustain and continue. Obviously, some phrases are long and some are short. When applying some sort of subdivision to a musical line, we can see how everything comes together exactly, and really see what the composer was trying to do. Spinning compositions in different directions and gaining new perspectives is so important to mastering a piece of music, and subdividing is an effective and simple tool to do this.
The third and most interesting usage for subdivision is as an antidote for performance anxiety. When we think about nerves, or stage fright, or performance anxiety, what do we usually associate it with? I think the best way to sum it up would be to say that when a person is afraid of failing, they can choke and then sabotage themselves. Some might say the best cure for this is to stop worrying, or to just do it without thinking, but stress and worrying are more responses than conscious decisions, so I don’t necessarily agree with that approach. The correct cure for performance anxiety is more focus. When the pressure of a recital or a performance comes along, that is the time to hone the excited energy. All that electricity which flows through a performer on the big day is a good thing, it’s what makes the music sound alive ad spontaneous. It’s time to put a saddle on that energy and control it. I think you know where I going with this. Subdivision! Subdivision is the perfect tool to keep yourself focused when all that energy is flowing through you. It assures that when all those thoughts and fears are coming and going the only thing you’re focused on is rhythm. Strong, subdivided, unbreakable rhythm. The expression part will come through no matter what, but you need something that will control that energy.
Subdividing is a fantastic and essential skill which every student has to learn, but which I hope they will learn to love. In home private lessons are a great time to introduce this. It makes the musical language more simple, it can teach the player about the intricacies of phrasing, and can be a great way to control the nerves. There is a reason why the pros sub-divide every rhythm they read.
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