Rubato as a technique

In church this morning, I played a song from my new CD that features a solo violin. The violinist that played with me did great. Though the music itself is quite simple, (the song was one of the four very quiet, laid back ones on the project), the heavy rubato I like to use made it a bit challenging for her.

Over the years, I have started leaning more and more heavily on rubato. I do not use it merely to confuse the people that play with me though some of them might think so.The real reason I use rubato is to create an atmosphere of natural, effortless music that can affect the hearts and emotions of the listeners.

I will say that some think I go way too far and others just simply don’t like what I do in this regard. I have listened to some of them, considered their opinions, and so far, rejected their advice. That is not to say that I might not change my mind in the future, but right now, I like heavy rubato.

I am just not a fan of mechanical sounding music, or music that sounds like it was practiced too much with a metronome. That is just not natural to me.  If I had to choose between the Baroque and Romantic periods of music, I would choose the Romantic period every time.

The variance of tempo is simply a mechanism to employ tension and release and create interest. There are two ways to do it. The first way is to vary the song’s actual tempo itself. The other way is accomplished by keeping a very steady tempo in your head but playing against it by either getting ahead or lagging behind the beat.

The second way is actually the more modern way. You may have heard singers do this by singing slightly behind the beat and catching up from time to time. Jazz musicians use this technique a lot.

I suppose I use both techniques though I am much more prone to use the first one. Rather than listen too much to the people telling me not to do it, I prefer to listen to my music itself. If it sounds natural to me, I like it. If it sounds halting and a little disjointed, I don’t like it. Actually, I like it best when you do not even notice the rubato. In my opinion, natural rubato does not draw attention to itself.

If you want to try to add rubato to your music, my best advice is simple to focus on sounding natural. If you sound natural, you will sound good.