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Bending Time: Understanding and Teaching Rubato

Today I'd like to share a special presentation with you. This was given by my former piano professor and mentor Dr. Steven Smith for the 2021 Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association conference.

The topic is "Bending Time: Understanding and Teaching Rubato."

The term rubato comes from the Italian rubare, meaning "to steal." In music, "stealing time" is the art of taking just the right amount of time to tell the story through sound.

There is a golden mean to the art of taking time in music: Take too little time and your playing will sound mechanical; take too much time and it will sound unrhythmic.

The most important rule that Dr. Smith taught me about taking time in music was this: "Bend, don't break." This implies that the best way to take time in a controlled, musical manner is to keep counting, even in passages that should sound rhythmically free.

This lecture contains lots of music examples from the classical piano repertoire.

On a personal note, I have Dr. Smith to thank for taking me under his wing. I came to him originally as an engineering major who played piano on the side. I had only discovered classical music and the piano in my junior year of high school, and Dr. Smith took me from raw talent to young artist. Looking back, he certainly had his work cut out for him. Without his dedicated mentorship I almost certainly never would have made it to Vienna.

There are many more updates I'm excited to share with you in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I hope this presentation on the art of rubato will help you in your music studies.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep making music!

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