how to teach 3 against 4 : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

I am attempting to teach the first latin prelude by C. Norton I am not sure which is the best approach on teaching 3 against 4 Can someone please help Thanks

-- m.n.gate (, February 17, 2003


I find that in teaching any rhythm, it is crucial that the player understand how it should ultimately sound. All the counting methods in the world are for naught if they don't hear it. Work from the sound and the hands will take care of themselves.

-- Arlene Steffen (, February 18, 2003.

The lowest common multiple of 3 and 4 is 12. So I draw 12 little boxes in a row for the right hand, and underneath these, 12 little boxes in a row for the left hand. Supposing there are 3 notes in the r.h. and 4 notes in the left hand. That means for the r.h. you draw a note in the first, fifth, and ninth boxes; for the l.h., you draw notes in the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth boxes. Then the student can see how the two hands will interact. Thus, the second r.h. note is closely after the second l.h. note, and the third r.h. note is closely before the fourth l.h. note. Have the student tap this chart with the correct hands.

Then you play the four notes in the l.h. plus the next note (so that your l.h. melody has direction)until smooth. We'll call this l.h. passage L. Then you play L with the note that follows the three r.h. notes (f) Then you play L plus the third r.h. note and f. Then you play L plus the second r.h. note, the third r.h. note,& f. Finally, play L, plus the first, second and third r.h. notes, &f. Always play forwards.

Then you gradually speed this up and feel it more and more.

-- Anita Greenways (, February 20, 2003.

Thankyou anita your response was very helpful I will give it a try

-- mn gate (, February 20, 2003.

My method is "Pass The Golden Butter".

What you do, is you have the student tap with both hands on the piano lid. The word "Pass" is with both hands. The word "The" is with left hand. The syllable "Gol" is right hand. The syllable "den" is left hand. The syllable "Bu" is right hand. And the syllable "tter" is left hand.

If you say that sentence "Pass The Golden Butter" accenting the syllables "pass", "gol", and "bu", you get the triplets with the RH. Meanwhile the other syllables (not accented) are the 16ths w/ LH. There's your 4 against 3. It's not as complicated as I probably made it sound in this description. Try it, you'll see.

-- Eric Scott (, February 21, 2003.

Thank you Eric for that suggestion. I have used the word Rachmaninoff for two against three, but I hadn't heard of a sentence for three against four. Do you have any sentences for four against five, five against six, and six against seven?

By the way, my teacher used to insist on saying three with four, not against four. I guess she didn't want to set them in an adversarial position. Then again, she also insisted on correcting parents who said they wanted to expose their children to piano rather than introduce them to piano.

-- Anita Greenways (, February 22, 2003.

For 2 against 3 I've heard: "A cup of tea." Recently someone suggested Debussy's Arabesque being a wonderful piece to teach 2 against 3 (or should I have said: 2 with 3?). I have also used the crazy word: dum-dip-i-ty. I teach a 3-note beginning scale (only going up) like C-D-E-C-D-E in the right hand and 2-notes C-D in the left hand trying to get them to hear "A cup of tea" or "dum-dip-i- ty." If they hear it we add a few more notes like C-D-E-F-E-D-C... (over and over) in the right hand with only C-D in the left hand. Eventually they practice 3-octaves scales ascending and descending in the Right Hand while the left hand plays 2-octave scales ascending and descending.

On a different note: with Chopin's Nocturnes there are so many frilly runs that when one of my students saw the different groupings of notes, 7 here, 8 there, another with 15 (not just the typical triplet)...she would say, "here is a 7-let, or an 8-let, or a 15- let."

-- Sandy Wilkinson (, July 21, 2003.

I should have preceded my answer (above) with having a student tap on the fall board: triplets in the right hand while taping duple in the left hand, listening for the phrase of choice. This way they aren't having too much of a melt down at the start. I also tell them that while they are going through any of these processes (tapping or playing) they should be able to focus their attention on their right hand and hear the triplets being played evenly, then switch to the left hand and hear the duple rhythm being played evenly. This should be similar to doing 3 against 4.

-- Sandy Wilkinson (, July 21, 2003.

"nice cup of tea" is 2 against 3...isn't it? that's what I remember as a mnemonic to use... both hands on "nice," and then alternate coming back to the next "nice."

-- Constance Lindgreen (, August 25, 2003.

"one cup of tea" works very nicely...that's my vote too! :)

-- C.MacKinnon (, February 17, 2005.

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