this is my first time posting here.

So I have been learning to play piano for around 7-8 months and while I am able to pick up new pieces quickly and pretty good at sightreading, I don't seem to have a good inner tempo/pulse.

If a piece has all of the same note durations, then that is fine and I can play that well. However, I seem to stuggle, for example, not being able to get a quaver exactly half of a crotchet in a piece (one will be played too fast or too slow) or crotchet/minim etc - essentially whilst I know how long a note should be played compared to another, I can't seem to do it in practice.

If I play with a metronome, then everything goes well, however I don't get to use the metronome when playing with my teacher and in future, exams (thus why my "inner" tempo is bad). In addition, when I count out loud, then the tempo also seems good, however for fast and varying pieces I can not do this (or can't think of a counting method for fast pieces).

If you wish to know any more information about tempo issues that seem to keep cropping up (i.e when I have two of the same notes one after another, I tend to take longer going between them while perceiving it as normal), then let me know.

I am desperate to try get a better tempo, I do enjoy playing but I feel like this is really holding me back and bringing me down quite a bit.



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    Keep practicing with the metronome. Continued use of this will help you create your own internal metronome Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 15:12

5 Answers 5


Welcome and thanks for posting! Sometimes I get voted down for posting touchy-feely answers, but here goes.

Many experienced musicians feel the beat, as if they have a metronome going inside their body or mind. Some even have a very accurate sense of what the tempo is in beats per minute without having a physical metronome.

Do you like to dance? When you dance, how do you know when to move your body? Dancing might be a way you could understand how to feel the beat in your body. Or if not dancing, then clapping your hands to music. When you clap your hands to music you have to feel how fast the music is going in order to clap at the right time. It's the same when you're playing. Try practicing by clapping your hands or tapping your toe to music and paying attention to how your body knows when to clap or tap.


Having rhythm is not something everybody is endowed with, but most people can learn how to achieve it. I'm guessing you're no dancer - if you were the problem shouldn't be there!

Listen to a lot of music - especially pop type tunes with a steady rhythm. Use various parts of your body to keep time (or try to, initially!). Click fingers, clap, tap feet, shrug shoulders, nod head for starters.

Do this in various ways. You could click on every beat, or nod on every first beat, or clap each off beat (2 and 4). Make up your own rhythmic patterns along to songs - tap on a table: 1 and 2 and 3 4 , or nod on 1, tap on 2 and 3 and, and stamp on 4. There are literally thousands of different combinations. Explore lots. Try counting out loud at the same time. Sway in time, to slow, fast and medium tempo songs.

A rhythm box - aka drum machine - is a good investment. Play along to that - at rather slow tempos initially, giving you time to think a bit as well.


If the other answers don't work for you, you could try this, or if this doesn't work, you could try them. Solving this problem is much more important than how you solve it.

My answer depends on your statement that "If a piece has all of the same note durations, then that is fine".

Taking advantage of that: have you played anything with the so-called "Alberti bass"?

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I'm not recommending this piece specifically, it is just an example. The point is that the left hand has unvarying time values. If you can program such a figure into one hand, you can use it as a metronome to guide the other.

This suggestion is open to criticism: you would be relying on finger memory to keep time for you, rather than deriving it internally from the metronome that you swallowed as a child*. However, the fact is that this happens in practice. I often had this experience as a teenager with quite complex repertoire, where one hand with a rhythmically simple or unvarying part acted as an anchor to the other which handled complex rhythms. Sooner or later, the complexities are conquered, and internalized, and the guide is no longer needed.

I strongly agree with Tim's first paragraph. This skill can be learnt. What's more, there is no final mastery. Even such a celebrated pianist as Horowitz is on video record failing to stay in time during a Mozart concerto recording session. It's easy to find commercial recordings of orchestras that fail to master the rhythm in the Beethoven 7th Symphony. So, rhythm needs constant attention no matter who you are.

*credit goes to Artur Schnabel for this joke


when I count out loud, then the tempo also seems good

May count silently: subvocalise.

Guitar teachers tell me to learn to tap my foot: I'm not sure that's feasible with a piano, and takes practice; subvocalising is easier, I find.

however for fast and varying pieces I can not do this (or can't think of a counting method for fast pieces)

Playing (guitar) music in 4/4 time at 192 bpm, I sometimes find it useful to count every other beat: "1,2,1,2" instead of "12341234"

when I have two of the same notes one after another

I guess the most important thing for the audience (and for keeping time with other performers) is for each measure to have the same duration. It matters a bit less how long each note is within each measure, as long as they add up (e.g. you could play it as two crotchets or as dotted crotchet and a quaver).

Also of course it might be easier (and more methodical, deliberate, countable) to start more slowly, and later more quickly after it's practised enough to be automatic.


When I'm having difficulty keeping a song's tempo it can help to subdivide the beats further, especially when it comes to making sure each note is the proper fraction of the measure. Depending on the time signature, rhythm tempo of the song, this might just mean counting "one and two and three and four and" or it might mean dividing them further than that. If you have a piece that has very different rhythms in the right and left hand, practicing at a slower tempo and really focusing on where each note falls within the measure and beat.

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