Time and Rhythm

by Carl Czerny

The subdivision of the notes in music is a thing so certain and so positively determined that we cannot well commit a fault against it if we give each note and rest its exact value, and if in doing so we consult the eye rather than the ear. For the eyes always see a right when it is supported by the memory, but the year by itself may often be deceived, particularly early in beginners.

The duration of the notes is, as you know, expressed by the fingers being held down on the keys: that of the rest, on the contrary, by the fingers being kept off the keys, and free, and we must take care not to confound these two things, for each note must be held exactly as long as it’s prescribed value requires, and the key must not be quitted either sooner or later. Simple and easy as this rule appears, it is often sinned against by much better players than yourself.

Those who vote down the keys too long, accustom themselves to a lingering, adhesive, indistinct and often discordant manner of playing. Those who quit for the keys too soon, falling to an unconnected, broken style of playing, which is without melody, and which at last degenerates into mere hacking and thumping the keys.

Is of great advantage to you that in every piece your worthy teacher either counsel allowed each separate measure, or beats the time with a pencil or bit of stick, by which you are compelled to continue in the right time. Equally useful is it that you have already studied several easy pieces as duets for four hands, occasionally playing the lower or bass part. When long rests occur in both hands. Counting (mentally or allowed) is exceedingly necessary, for you know that in every musical composition, each measure must occupy the same portion of time as each other measure, whether it consists of notes or rests.

We may observe all this correctly, and yet commit errors against time. These faults consist in this – that in the course of a piece we other play continually quicker and quicker or slower and slower, or else that we sometimes play to quick and again to slow.

Into the air of accelerating the time, just such young and lively persons as yourself are apt to fall, and who knows whether I have not guessed right when I imagine that you sometimes begin a piece which goes up pretty fluently, and first quiet and sagely, but then become excited as you go on, you play quicker and quicker, and at last finish with such rapidity as if your fingers were holding a runaway pony? Have I not guessed right?

The opposite fault of hanging back are dragging in the time generally proceeds from our having begun too fast, and by that means stumbling against difficulties which we cannot overcome in that quick degree of movement.

Hence this capital rule: never begin a piece quicker than you can with certainty go on with it to the very end.

There are some exceptions to this rule which you will be taught when you come to learn the higher arts of expression.

Study Maximums from Czerny

The first principles, namely, a knowledge of the keys and notes, are the only really tedious and unpleasant points and learning music. Such pupils as manifest from the very outset, a desire and love for the thing, and who strongly and rationally apply their memories to the matter, will acquire perfect knowledge of the keys and notes in a very few weeks: others frightened at the apparent tediousness of the acquisition, often lose several months in attaining the same object. Which then of these two is the better?

The percussion on the keys is affected solely by the fingers, which without any actual blow, must press each key firmly down: and in doing this, neither the hand nor the arm must be allowed to make unnecessary movements.

You must take care not to strike any key sidewise or obliquely, is otherwise a contiguous and wrong key may chance to be touched, and nothing is worse and playing wrong notes.

The most important of the fingers is the Psalm: it must never be allowed to hang down below the keyboard, but on the contrary should always be held over the keys ready to strike.

After the percussion, each key is so firmly pressed down as to cause the full tone of the instrument to be audible.

Note: Czerny doubtless intends merely to warn the player against carelessly letting a key rise so as to shut off the tone before the time value of the note has expired: nothing that one can do to a key after it is once down can have the slightest effect on the tone otherwise.

Before the percussion, we do not raise the finger too high, is otherwise along with the tone there will be heard the blows on the key.

The hand and arm, even when striking with considerable force, do not make any jumping, chopping or oscillating movement, for you will find that the fingers cannot possibly play pleasantly and tranquilly when the hands and arms are unsteady.