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If you’re marking an exercise for dancers, it can be tempting to ‘mark’ the tempo to the pianist as well – but this is an impossibility: giving a tempo is meaningless unless it’s the one you actually want. It only has to be about four counts to set the tempo, but you have to get out of marking mode and into conductor/musician mode for those four counts in order to convey the information. When pianists say of a teacher ‘oh she’s very musical’ or ‘I love playing for him, he’s so easy to work with’, 90% of this is down to being given an accurate tempo in good time. By contrast, ‘“that’s fine, but we need it half the speed” is possibly the most disheartening thing a musician can hear – if you need to halve the speed of the music, then it’s the wrong music, and you’ve got to start searching again.

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist