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Practice Strategy: Quarter Note Technique

Tricky rhythms and syncopation got you down? Can you play each hand separately just fine, but have trouble putting the two together? Piano players, here’s a trick to help you learn those parts quickly and efficiently - the quarter note technique!

What is the quarter note technique?

With this technique, you simplify all rhythm down to quarter notes to be able to track where you hands hit together and where they alternate. This makes learning syncopated music much easier and clearer attempting to go through note-by-note with both hands at once. Here’s an example of how this works.

Say you have this phrase: 1. First, tap out the rhythm of the separate hands. That’s probably easy enough to figure out. But putting the two together is still difficult! So, on to step two.

2. Make every tap a quarter note. Just read through the music, tapping each hand but with none of the written rhythm. Just even quarter notes. Using the same phrase above, you’ll be tapping something like this (just for reference): It’s not important to be super precise with your “quarter notes”. This is just an exercise to get you to see where your hands are hitting together and where they are alternating. It might be even easier to mark where they hit together like so: 3. Now, tap hands together with written rhythms. Once you’re tapping out the quarter notes like a pro and you’re comfortable with where your hands alternate and where they hit together, try to go back to the written rhythms. Do it first with separate hands if needed, then bring them together. Remember to start slowly to make sure you’re not practicing anything wrong!

4. Add the notes. Final step - add the notes back in and play as is! It should be much easier to read the section now, since you got the tricky part out of the way (the rhythm).

Still having trouble? Better Practice is a toolbox full of features to make your practice easy and efficient, so you're bound to find a solution to every problem.