Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Develop a Sense of Beat

Easy tips to help you develop a sense of beat

In this video, Robert gives you an easy way to develop the sense of beat and rhythm. Even if you think you have it right, his advice is sure to be helpful.

Released on October 1, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin with a viewer question: "How to develop a sense of beat?" That's right. Just as some people are supposedly tone deaf or have very difficult time trying to match pitch, much less be able to sight sing, there are people who have great difficulty simply tapping to a song. You know? And so how do you develop this? Is this just something you're just born with and that's it? Well, not completely. Yes, there's a certain amount of talent. Some people just naturally have a better sense of rhythm than others. But just like an ear can be developed with ear training, a good sense of beat can also be developed.

So, what do you do? Obviously, they are things that good teachers will show you, like counting out loud is very important. Clapping your rhythms. Working with a metronome a great deal. These are all valuable techniques. But what about the student who just still can't get it. Everything is kind of clumsy and awkward and not quite with it. Is there anything you can do? Absolutely. First of all, just simply listening a great deal to music is very helpful. Rhythmic music, all sorts of music. Listening develops the language. More than that, movement is so vital. Dance, of course, is a natural. But just simply walking, for example, in step while singing your music or walking around the room to the beat of the music.

Trying to incorporate motion with your music is a tremendous way to develop a solid sense of the beat. There's a whole discipline called Dalcroze Eurhythmics, which explores movement and music to develop, to make the connection between motion and the beat. And this is tremendously valuable because when you're walking, the step is pretty much going to be steady unless there is some difficulty with walking. It's natural to get that sense of pulse in your music.

So these are all valuable tips. Using motion and dance in your music, doing a great deal of listening, and of course, a lot of work with a metronome. Playing with other musicians is another valuable technique. Taken together, you'd be surprised at the great sense of rhythm you can develop by incorporating these techniques in your practice and in your life. Thanks so much for the great question. I'm Robert Estrin here at and Keep the questions coming in. See you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Tosh * VSM MEMBER * on April 26, 2017 @3:38 am PST
Wonder if in a future item, you would be so kind as to explain the difference in the feeling or emphasis with respect to classical music rhythm and jazz rhythm, e.g., with respect to where the strong and weak beats are? That has been a puzzle to me for years, particularly with respect to, but not limited to, how jazz musicians play fast passages of short notes, like sixteenths, etc. Perhaps you could illustrate the differences by playing the "same" piece or passage in classical style versus jazz style. Your various items have always been much appreciated by me, particularly with respect to the clarity of your explanations and their applicability to performance. Thanks very much for all your efforts on our behalf.
Robert Estrin - host, on April 26, 2017 @11:55 am PST
That is a great and challenging subject for a video. I will put it in the queue!
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on October 1, 2014 @5:50 pm PST
Do you think that people who play piano alone, may develop a tendency to slow or accelerate the tempo according to their own feeling for a certain piece of music, therefore getting out of a strict rhythm? I tend to do that, maybe I should use a metronome all the time? (How annoying that clicking! )
Robert - host, on October 1, 2014 @6:12 pm PST
You are absolutely right. Pianists in particular are guilty of indulging in freedoms other instrumentals don't because pianists are so accustomed to playing alone. Metronome work is vital. Playing with other musicians can be enlightening!
John Beach * VSM MEMBER * on October 1, 2014 @7:14 am PST
Does the term "beat" always refer to one count of the time signature, ex.., the "first beat:" of the measure?
In 4/4 time, for example, a quarter note is one beat or one count. If the quarter-note count were two eighth-notes, is that referred to as a change in "rhythm," or "meter," delineating fractions of a "beat?"
Vocal and choral music is frequently notated according to the syllables in the lyrics. With respect to correctness of descriptive terminology, does this vary the "rhythm," or "meter," but NOT the "beat" or "count" relative to the time signature? Choir members frequently experience confusion with this concept.
Robert - host, on October 1, 2014 @10:07 am PST
This is an excellent question! The fact is, you can feel larger and smaller beats within the same piece of music. If you have a piece in 4/4 time, try feeling the quarter note as the pulse. Then, play or sing the same phrase at the same tempo while tapping half notes. You will have a very different feel to the music. You can even go further and play to the whole note for very long phrases. Different compositions will come to life feeling different note values as the beat.
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