Tennis in Three-Four-Time

Using Musical Concepts to Improve Your Groundstrokes

The basic or “common” time signature in music is four-four-time, meaning that there are four beats to a measure. When learning to keep time in music, your music teacher is likely to count off, “One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four,” as a metronome clicks in the background. Being your own music teacher on the tennis court as you hit your groundstrokes will have you singing at the end of your weekly match.

Different Beat Emphasized in Tennis

There are two primary differences between basic time signature in music and the time signature for musical tennis. Instead of the musical foundation of four beats (4/4-time), three-four-time (3/4) or three beats form the musical tennis foundation. The second primary difference between music and musical tennis is that although all of the beats are important in both, the “one” is emphasized in music, but the “three” is emphasized in musical tennis.

Use Musical Tennis From Take-back to Contact

Using musical tennis’ three-four time signature as you take your racquet back and strike the ball can enhance the rhythm and timing of your groundstrokes, which in turn will increase power when desired. Focusing on your tennis rhythm also serves to take your mind off the outcome of a shot, which will contribute to increased relaxation during the stroke.

How to Use the Count

To incorporate musical tennis into your swing, start the “one, two, three” count as you begin to take the racquet back with “one” being the motion that gets the racket all the way back. The count of “two” should prompt and signify a drop or lowering of the racquet into position in preparation for the forward swing. The “three” beat signals the swing forward as you accelerate through the point of contact with the ball.

The “Three” Count is Emphasized

The “three” is emphasized because this is the beat upon which the power of the stroke that has been built up and stored through the rhythm of your backswing is unleashed into the ball at and through the point of contact with the ball. Just as a conductor will make a more emphatic movement with his baton on the “one,” the musical tennis player’s racquet makes an emphatic move toward and through the ball on the “three.

Explode on “Three”

Count out loud or to yourself as you practice your musical tennis. Begin your count with the “one” and “two” being at the same volume, and elevate your volume on the “three.” If you are familiar with Monica Seles’ “grunt,” you know that it was a two-part sound with the second sound being louder and more elevated in pitch or tone. The louder sound was made as she exploded through the ball and that is what your count of “three” should be: an explosion through the ball.

Vary the Emphasis

As with any element of tennis technique and strategy, you must consider your physical abilities, the situation, and your objectives as you attempt to harmonize your game with musical tennis. The degree of “explosion” through the ball, or the amount of emphasis that you put on the count of “three” on any given shot should be influenced by what you are trying to accomplish on the shot, what your general physical capabilities are, and the position of your body in relation to the ball and the dimensions of the court.

In other words, the force or emphasis that you place on the count of “three” is related to the type of shot you are trying to hit, what your body can accommodate comfortably, and what type of shot you are in position to hit. If you are trying to hit a passing shot with increased pace, your “three” will be louder, more emphasized or forceful, than if you are merely returning a ball to sustain a rally.

Consider Your Physical Condition

If you have a physical ailment or condition that limits explosive movement, only emphasize the “three” to the extent that you can without pain or discomfort. If you are close to the net and the ball is lower than the top of the net, you will either want to really emphasize the “three” for a lot of topspin to keep the ball in the court with a full swing, or deemphasize the “three” for a softer shot.

Musical Tennis Leads to Sweet Song

The important thing to remember is that your game is yours and yours alone, and your musical tennis rhythm is yours alone. Count out loud or under your breath as you practice with the ball machine or with a friend to develop your own rhythm on the tennis court. If you do so, your backhands will be humming, your forehand will be fortissimo, and you’ll be singing a new tune when you leave the court.

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