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I have got trouble playing this passage with both hands. I can play the hands separately, but can't join them together. I have tried really slowing it down, but the rhythm is too complicated for me to play it slowly and precisely. Any tips?

PS: I found the sheet music here: https://musescore.com/imicus/your-reality If anyone is interested.

  • It looks weird. I'm pretty sure this is created using an automatic transcription software. When you download something from MuseScore, It is better to play it on the player to see how it sounds, then start practicing. Mar 16, 2021 at 8:57

5 Answers 5


Where did you find this? It is notated extremely poorly and the division of the beats is not intuitive by looking at it. I am not surprised you are having trouble with it. I would, too, and I am an excellent sight reader. When I have difficulty seeing the rhythm between hands (which only happens when I am reading very slow Bach pieces written with loads of 32nd and 64th notes...) I draw lines to show where the beats are located. I also will write out the counting numbers where appropriate.

In the piece above, I would write out "1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a" across each measure, making sure that all the note values are accounted for and placed correctly. Then count slowly while trying to play hands together. I hope this helps. That notation is a mess.

The better thing would be to rewrite it with ties in the proper places so that the measure can be visually divided into four beats, but you may not have permission or the desire to do that.

  • 2
    I don't think some measures account fully for all beats... EDIT: No, they do, it's just so poorly written that I thought some 8th notes were beamed with 16th notes when in fact they're not
    – psosuna
    May 25, 2018 at 22:56

Bars 1 through 5 are identical rhythmically. I suggest just playing the 1st (or 3rd) bar over and over until you get it. then move to bar 2 (or 4). This will remove one thing to think about making it just a little bit easier.

Secondly, forget tempo for a minute and just play the notes one 16th beat at a time as slowly as needed, even if it is not constant. really break it down. so the downbeat has both hands playing together. play those two notes. the next 16th is just holding the downbeat. move to the "and" of beat 1 and again both hands play together. play those two notes. NOW things get interesting where the left hand plays a note on the next 16th but the right doesn't. then the right hand by itself. And so on.

breaking it down like this without worrying about the tempo will help you get a sense of when to play each hand. loop the bar through as many times as you need to until it starts to feel like you can play it at a tempo...a very slow tempo, 40 beats per minute if needed. if you can't play it super slow, you will never be able to play it fast. Use a metronome to keep you honest. put it on eights or even sixteens at a really slow tempo if you need to and then back to quarters as you speed it up.

lastly, i am not sure if it is a musical style issue but i feel that this is written very strangely. and it seems to violate the "imaginary bar line" which makes it really hard to read, at least for me. maybe consider re-writing it.

Here is some info about the imaginary bar line if you are not familiar:

"An imaginary barline is a notation convention designed to help the music reader know what’s syncopated—off the beat—and what’s not. It’s not an actual notation mark; it is an understanding and a notation convention."

EDIT (since i though of something else): Have you heard this piece yet or are you just trying to read it? IF you have never heard it and can't site read it well enough to play it you don't know how it should sound. I recommend getting a recording of it if one exists, or, if you have the ability, enter it in to a midi sequencer. this will allow you to hear it so you can understand what it should sound like. The bonus of doing it in midi is you can slow it down and hear it even better (i guess this can also be done to a recording with some software without changing the pitch as well). a 3rd option is to have a friend that can play it play it for you.

  • 2
    I do not believe this is a musical style issue. The actual syncopation is not unusual to me, just notated rather strangely. It sounds rather "Latin" in style, but needs ties to make the rhythm more readable.
    – Heather S.
    May 25, 2018 at 19:59
  • 1
    If you click on the link, you'll see that it has a playback capability built into the score itself.
    – BobRodes
    May 26, 2018 at 3:58
  • I know the piece really well, so I know how it should sound.
    – Zektor
    May 26, 2018 at 8:18
  • @bobRodes I noticed that after posting, but decided to leave it for others that may find it useful.
    – b3ko
    May 26, 2018 at 12:58
  • @b3ko Makes sense. :)
    – BobRodes
    May 27, 2018 at 0:54

Your "the rhythm is too complicated for me to play slowly and precisely" reminds me of an amusing story.

Once, when I was six years old, I turned on the hot water in the bathroom. It wouldn't get hot (I waited and waited, of course) so I left it running, went downstairs, and asked my father to fix it. He said "Let it run a little longer." Well, I had tried that, and I told him so. And he said "Let it run a little longer." I tried to explain to him a few more times, and he just kept repeating himself and grinning at me. Finally I got annoyed, stomped back off to the bathroom, and of course found that the water was hot. Which annoyed me even more, of course. The life of a six-year-old prima donna isn't an easy one.

So, my first tip is to keep at it. You have to be patient, and you have to persevere. At some point the rhythm won't be too complicated for you to play quickly and precisely.

Next tip. Sometimes, you have to start by stepping back and analyzing where the notes hit in relation to one another. Here's a difficult rhythmical problem that I had in college, from Debussy's L'Isle Joyeuse:

enter image description here

How to tackle that? Not so difficult to play the hands apart, but when you put them together you have five against three, five against two, and even some five against six where the 16th notes are.

I started with the five against three (bars 3 and 4). Five times three is 15, so I subdivided the measure into 15. The top notes hit on 1, 6 and 11. The bottom notes hit on 1, 4, 7, 10 and 13. So, I practiced it first by tapping my hands on the table.

I started by tapping 15 times per bar in the left hand, accenting where the notes fell, while tapping the right hand only where the right hand notes fell. Then I went the other way, tapping 15 times per bar in the right hand, accenting where the notes fell, and only hitting the left hand where the left hand notes fell. Eventually, I began to get a feel for how everything fit together and started tapping each hand only where the notes fell, going DAH-dah-dah-DAH-dah-DEE-DAH-dah-dah-DAH-DEE-dah-DAH-dah-dah in my head. Then I went back to the piano and started working on the actual notes.

Eventually I could just play it, without that 15-beat subdivision running through my head. Then I did similar work on the other polyrhythms, and eventually had the whole passage down. (Too bad I didn't put as much work into the rest of the piece.)

The same will happen for you, but you have to analyze how everything fits together.

One more tip. Go to the link, click on the first bar of the difficult area and play it back at 50% (see the metronome icon on the toolbar). Listen to it over and over again until it gets baked into your head. Then see if you can play what you hear.

That way, you're putting another part of your brain to work on the problem, sort of a left-brain-right-brain approach. If you work at it from both directions, you should make quicker progress.

But the most essential thing is to keep at it.

  • 1
    All this mathematical calculation is fine, except you missed two words written in the score: molto rubato. It doesn't matter if the two hands don't synchronize perfectly! So long as they both start and end at about the same time, don't get hung up about counting "15 beats per bar", just "go for it".
    – user19146
    May 26, 2018 at 11:28
  • @alephzero With respect, I disagree with you, and here's why. For one, I certainly did not miss the molto rubato, but I don't see it in the OP's interest to discuss it. Sufficient unto the day and all that. For another, molto rubato does NOT, IMHO, mean that one shouldn't have to know how to synchronize the hands perfectly. Your "just 'go for it'" begs the question "Go for what?" Rubato is a bending of the beat, but if you don't know the beat you're bending, the result sounds inauthentic. In fact, it pretty much sounds like you didn't go to the trouble of working out the beat.
    – BobRodes
    May 27, 2018 at 0:53

The notation looks a mess, but really this is quite simple. To play it "slowly and precisely", just count 16th-notes.

Just to scare you, this is what "really complicated" cross rhythms look like (from Sorabji, Organ Symphony No 3) - beats simultaneously divided into groups of 3,4,5, then 4,5,6, then 5,7,8. Note, this is for a solo performer - though of course the organist has to synchronise both hands and feet, playing three independent rhythms at the same time. enter image description here


My tip is to try and break it down mentally. A problem that I have quite often with notes like these is I think of them as only being played in a set, instead of as individual notes. Honestly, once you picture them being written as individual eighth and sixteenth notes, I think you'll find it a great deal easier. And practicing your hands separately for a while longer wouldn't hurt either :)

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