What can you do to avoid rushing during your piano solos?

Have you ever been disappointed to hear your favorite pianist rush the tempo during their piano solos?

I have. In fact, I’ve done it myself at times.

I think there’ something so complex about playing a right hand solo while accompanying yourself with your left that even the most experienced pianists will occasionally rush while improvising. I was watching an Elton John video the other day and he did it. I’ve seen great jazz pianists like Oscar Peterson do it in concert. And I even heard my favorite pianist, Keith Jarrett, speed up considerably while playing “Solar” on a live video where he played a solo concert of standards. The song ends considerably faster than it began.

So what’s going on here?

It’s probably simply that we pianists sometimes get so caught up in the emotion of the moment that we stop feeling the underlying groove. It doesn’t happen that much, and it’s probably a little unfair to single out the pianists I mentioned above. They’re all accomplished musicians and I only did it to say that if the established “greats” speed up occasionally, then you shouldn’t get discouraged if you do it too sometimes.

But like everything else, keeping a steady tempo is something you can practice. The key it to isolate it and devise a way of practicing that lets you focus on playing a variety of articulations over a steady underlying beat. Play staccato, play legato, play short phrases, play long phrases. Experiment with loud and soft too. Mix things up in your RH, but don’t let it interfere with your feeling of the beat. If you tend to rush while soloing, this may take some dedicated practice but don’t get discouraged, your effort will pay off. After a while you’ll develop such a strong relationship with the underlying beat that you vary your musical approaches in your solos without disturbing the tempo. And of course if you’re playing with a rhythm section, you just need to listen to them at all times and they’ll give you lots of help with staying “in the groove.”

Here’s a short video to show you how to practice this. Good luck!

You can try some more free piano improv lessons HERE.

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