Ten-year-old Anna's piano lesson today was spent working on a piece filled with triplets. Before she began to play, she commented, "Really, if it weren't for this," - and she pointed to the word Moderato at the top of the page - "the triplets could be as fast or as slow as you want. And so could the quarter notes!" I was pleased with her realization and understanding, as all too often students have misconceptions that an eighth note is "a fast note" or a whole note is "a slow note," rather than perceiving the speed of any note within the structure and proportion of the overall tempo. As we talked about this concept a bit, Anna exclaimed, "So if the tempo were really slow, a quarter note could last, like, forever!"
"Wait," she amended, "Not forever, because eventually the piano strings would just chill out with the vibrating."