I don’t know about you, but I like my pupils to count – aloud. I don’t let them count to themselves unless they have already established a really clear sense of rhythm throughout the piece. Let me simply list the benefits I have observed about this over the years:
- They have a much better feeling for the steady beat.
- They much more quickly get a sense of how the music should sound.
- It helps them see the note values more quickly.
- They learn to count more accurately in 3 4 time when they hear the incorrect delay of beat one as they count it. It is especially noticed when beginners are learning 3 4 time after being used to 4 4 time.
Recently, I had a new pupil who was not used to counting at all, so I asked him to face away from the piano and listen to me play something. I wanted him to tell me the name of a very well-known tune. Then I played ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ with the correct notes but with unrecognisable note lengths. The child was mystified and had no idea of the piece. Then I asked him to listen again and see if he recognised it this time. Once I played the usual rhythm, recognition was instant. After that he saw that it was super-important to have a strong sense of the steady beat first.
If the pupil counts the beat aloud at a steady pace at the level they are at, they should be able to slot in the melody with correct note values without missing a beat. If they can’t, then the overall pulse it too fast.