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Exercises for timing


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2 hours ago, chris_b said:

Start up one of the online metronomes and play to it.

This.....and record yourself on your phone whilst you do it. I did NOT like recording myself at all but found that whilst I was playing I "felt" my timing was ok but when I came back to watch it there were some areas that were a bit looser than I remembered! 🤣 It allowed me to focus on those bit's and get them much better and pretty quickly.

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Record yourself in GarageBand (or similar) playing along to a click.  Then you can go back and analyse after your practice.

If you want material, just take out a subscription to Scott’s Bass Lessons.  It’s peanut compared to what most people spend on gear, and has hours of great tips and tuition on this subject alone. 
oh, and make sure you join a band with a good drummer.  Nothing beats working with a great drummer for focusing on timing. 

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Thanks. We've got a really good drummer. I'm very aware that I'm the weak link in the band which is why I'm making a big effort to improve. 

I did try Scott's bass lessons but gave up because I didn't enjoy it. None of the practice pieces were anything I enjoyed playing so it became a chore.

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Mostly variations on the metronome theme. As mentioned, it can be really useful to record yourself... and practice, practice, practice.

Just my view... it’s better to be the weakest link in a band than being the strongest. Great motivation to stretch yourself and improve.

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You’ll need to do some regular daily  practice with a metronome and a rhythm book (we used Bellson’s 4/4 book at music college but there are loads). Recording yourself is a bonus as well if you can manage that too. Improving your rhythmic accuracy and awareness is going to take time (months and years rather than days / weeks) so you’ll need to settle in for the long haul. I’d also suggest that you focus purely on rhythm initially (I.e playing rhythms just one one note) - by breaking it down into just focusing on the rhythms / timing you can add the notes in later and it will all come together much quicker. Good luck you’ll not regret it!

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Thanks. If it takes years then that's what it takes.  At the moment I spend the first 15 minutes playing a simple riff to a metronome (Iron Man this evening) and then bash out some fun tunes for half an hour then half an hour to an hour working on whatever song I'm learning. 

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3 minutes ago, SteveXFR said:

Thanks. If it takes years then that's what it takes.  At the moment I spend the first 15 minutes playing a simple riff to a metronome (Iron Man this evening) and then bash out some fun tunes for half an hour then half an hour to an hour working on whatever song I'm learning. 

I’d take the first 10 mins doing just rhythms on one note and then add the riff in. 

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1 hour ago, SteveXFR said:

Thanks. If it takes years then that's what it takes.  At the moment I spend the first 15 minutes playing a simple riff to a metronome (Iron Man this evening) and then bash out some fun tunes for half an hour then half an hour to an hour working on whatever song I'm learning. 

If you are practicing that much on a regular basis I think it will come.  I would try and turn the “bash out some fun tunes for half an hour” into doing that, but focussing on making every note count, so you get used to playing solid all the time.  I’m sure you don’t do that anyway, but noodling around rather than focussing on your playing tends to develop bad habits.

Recording yourself definitely helps.

The other thing I find helps is to listen to other players and hear how they groove.  Some of the isolated tracks are just great for this.

Ultimately you’re doing the right thing.  Practicing loads and asking for tips.  One of them will click with you. 

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At the risk of being self-serving, try the exercises in the video below. Playing along with a metronome is one thing, but using a click won't automatically give you good time; you need to make yourself more responsible for keeping time by gradually reducing the amount of help the meronome gives you.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

@SteveXFR - I'm struggling with the same thing. 

I fear I've been rather oblivious to my timing issues but I've been recording myself more recently and realised that actually I'm a little more out of the pocket than I would have liked.  My biggest problem is I over anticipate the next note and play notes a fraction ahead of the beat. I glad I stumbled on this thread.

@TKenrick - I'll check out your video , I've enjoyed some of your previous videos so I'm looking forward to this one.

@dodge_bass- thanks for the book recommendation.  I'll check that out too.

 

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Interesting topic. I never feel that I sync very well with a metronome or a recorded track, but I don’t seem to have a problem live. It’s something to do with following rigidly that puts me off.

I’ve noticed when some people play along with tracks on YouTube they lock in super tight e.g. when Rick Beato plays along on some of his “what makes this song great” videos it can be hard to tell him apart from the original player. Obviously he is a really talented musician though.

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One exercise I do is to set the metronome to something like 13/4, but have it so that only the 1st beat is audible. Start off at a tempo of 90 and play a note when you think the 1st beat is, so you have to train your internal sense of rhythm to guess where each pulse is. In another exercise you can try guessing the 3rd and 12th beat. Or decrease the tempo.

 

You can also try playing each of the standard basic building-block sudivisions such as these, but play the same one on each beat for several measures.

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After you've learnt them and got the timing right, play each one randomly when you're jamming.

 

Hope it helps.

Edited by TheLowDown
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A good drummer told me he only did one exercise for his timekeeping, and it helped me a lot.

It's a simple subdivision exercise. Similar to TheLowDown's.

Put a metronome on very slow, maybe 20 bpm. Then count 1 with the click, then try to place 2 3 4 evenly before the next click on 1. Each time, you will be early or late - adjust your spacing until you land on 1 with the metronome consistently. Then do the same but counting in 3/4 - 1 2 3 1, dividing the metronome into 3 beats.

The important thing is to count aloud. If you count in your head, you can 'fool' yourself that you were closer than you actually were. Counting aloud is the key.

This builds up you internal sense of time which I think is the main issue with timing. I did it for 10 minutes a day for a month, and it fixed a lot of my time problems and helped me to hear what else I needed to work on.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 20/06/2021 at 18:04, phagor said:

A good drummer told me he only did one exercise for his timekeeping, and it helped me a lot. 

I just tried this today. It was extremely hard to start with. I got in to the groove after about 10 mins though. I'll make this part of my daily routine for sure. Thanks. 

I've also tried metronome exercises in my busy living room (TV on, lots of chat, kids games etc.) to see if I can keep a steady tempo with many distractions. Also very difficult! 

 

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To the OP: the answer to your problem is to know exactly what you think is missing. The replies above cover all of it, but usually timing issues fall into three areas;

  1. Accurate execution of rhythm - so play one of the many exercises above, are you giving each note it’s correct value (that is when to start and when to stop each note) and can you lock that in with another timing source, which may start out as a metronome but could be anything?
  2. Internal clock - can you play without accompaniment and retain a strong sense of pulse and tempo without drifting? One of the most common examples is a drummer who generally plays solidly but rushes the fill and comes back in on the “1” early! The partial metronome exercises above are great (personally I prefer some kind of drum sound rather than a metronome as it is more musical).
  3. Feel - now you can play accurately in time and with a reliable pulse, can you lock in with and make other musicians sound good? In some ways this can go counter to the above as good feel is often not metronomically accurate timing. But you have to understand correct time in order to make it breathe a bit.

I’m by no means an expert, but IMHO, number 1 can can be solved fairly rapidly with the right practice. Take it easy, relax, and devote much of the practice to listening (a very important and under-used skill in music). Number 2 is a bit more of a challenge but is again achievable with both practice and experience. Number 3 takes longer because of the breadth of music and musicians - I found the fastest way to get better was to get the chance to place with other musicians who were much better than me.

As Trueno said, recording yourself is valuable as what you think is perfectly played comes back at you with pauses, uneven rhythm and hesitation. The first time can be demoralising but it does get better.

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