What Is Rubato? How It Can Help You Enrich Your Performances of "Night and Day" and Other Standards

In this article, you'll learn:

What Rubato is

How to play a song with rubato style

Why playing with strict and even timing is essential

How to balance the rubato sections of a song with those in tempo

Why including rubato can enrich your performances of songs like Night and Day and other standards

What is Rubato?

Rubato is an Italian word the means "robbing the time" (most music contains descriptive words to help musicians play a section of a piece of music more expressively.) Although I've seen this musical term for most of my musical life, we referred to it as ad lib tempo on the gig.

When I was playing in musical groups in the Catskill Mountains, often referred to as the Borschst Belt, during my college years, we often accompanied singers.

If they selected a song such as Cole Porter's Night and Day they might say to me, as the pianist, "let's take the first verse ad lib and then that the 2nd verse a tempo ."

Check out my Video of Night and Day below to see what I mean.

How to Play a Song with Rubato Style

Playing in rubato style can be quite a challenge. For years, I've been emphasizing to my piano students importance of playing with even tempo. When they finally "get it", I am thrilled. From there, of course, the goal is to get a feel for the music, whether it's swing, funk, Latin, jazz waltz or a ballad