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Keeping Accurate Time

by Richard Peck
September 2002

One of the elements of music is keeping time. Each song is divided into measures and each measure is divided into beats. A song written with a time signature of 4/4 time should have 4 beats in a measure. If the correct number of beats per measure is not followed, the song will lack continuity. It will sound awkward. If you happen to be playing for dancers they won't be able to follow the music. Even songs performed freely must have a sense of order. The listener should feel comfortable listening to your music.

Keeping time is a problem for almost everyone who plays the keyboard. Regardless of the time signature, there are different ways to keep time. Of course one method is counting each beat. Another is to try and watch the light on the keyboard telling you when the measure starts. Both of these methods detract from your performance. If you try to count, you're not thinking about the song, if you try and watch the lights you will never catch up. There's another method that I prefer. It's called listening.

Learning to listen will help immensely in keeping good time. The rhythm patterns programmed in the keyboard usually repeat every 2 to 4 measures. If you take the time to listen to what the pattern is you will soon get a feel for how the song fits the time signature. Even if you are playing strictly from music you'll still need to know what the keyboard rhythm pattern is. Of course if you're not using the keyboard styles all this becomes academic.

Keep in mind that it is possible to play a song in 4/4 time and still be out of time. While each measure must have 4 beats, you may find yourself starting the song on the second beat of the measure. If you are trying to play with the keyboard styles, chances are you'll have a chopped up presentation of the song.

Your PSR-2000 has four Main style variation buttons (A B C D). As you go from button to button starting at the left, you'll hear the same pattern repeated. The difference as you move to the right is, usually, the addition of more instruments. Take the time to learn what the style sounds like in each of the style variations. It will make playing your keyboard much easier.

Take the time to learn how to listen. To test how you're doing, record a song and listen to it to see if it sounds like you want it to. Above all, regardless of how it sounds – HAVE FUN! Most of us will never make it to Carnegie Hall anyway.

Richard Peck
The Great Gumball Music Machine

This page updated on October 26, 2013 .