Timing when playing lead

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by cr8z4life, Jun 12, 2006.

  1. cr8z4life

    cr8z4life Member

    Messages:
    3,670
    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2003
    Location:
    Fort Lee, NJ
    Understand this is coming from a recreational player that needs to hone his skills and chops......:jo

    Its easy to count away the measures when your playing rythmn guitar.......but are there any tricks to keeping track of measures when you are concentrating on lead...... I am sure if you play full time for a living this comes easier, but time waits for no one and sometimes I find myself losing the pocket or losing track of fitting the lead to songs into the amount of measures I have....

    Anyone have an easy way to get better at this??

    Thanks in advance
     
  2. spencerbk

    spencerbk Member

    Messages:
    531
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2004
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Chances are you're playing a solo over a part of the song that previously had lyrics or a melody on another instrument? Rather than "counting away" think about the song's melody and chances are your solo can relate its length and "shape" to that.

    If you get lost, which happens no matter how good you are, thinking about the melody of the song will get you on track faster than thinking about how many measures you must have missed.
     
  3. cr8z4life

    cr8z4life Member

    Messages:
    3,670
    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2003
    Location:
    Fort Lee, NJ
    Actually we are mostly doing classic rock covers......rather than learn the leads note for note I cover most of it but then there is room for my own thing......but there is obviously a certain amount of measures that covers the lead breaks....so somehow I have to keep track of when it ends......jamming is obviously easier because you can go as long or short as you want.....but when there is a set number of measures in a song.....you have to know exactly where the solo ends.....any way to practice getting better at counting measures or learning how to know exactly the timing?
     
  4. lhallam

    lhallam Member

    Messages:
    15,968
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2004
    Location:
    Lost
    Similar to spencerbk's advice, while practicing, pick a tune and learn the song melody then play it for your lead. Next chorus play it again but this time change it a little. Keep morphing it each chorus. Garcia did similar things and Charlie Parker would often fit melodies from other songs into his solos.

    Another thing you can do is learn a solo off a record and once again, change it around a little.

    These little exercises will help you keep track of where you are by feel.

    The best way to improve your timing: metronome or drum machine practice.
     
  5. spencerbk

    spencerbk Member

    Messages:
    531
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2004
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Just to clarify my earlier point - I was hoping to address specifically what you're talking about. You certainly do have a finite number of measures, but I'm guaranteeing that 95% of the time, if not all, your number of measures will be the exact same length as, say, two verses or one verse and one chorus or something else that was introduced earlier in the song - so if you keep those melodies in mind you'll be OK.
     
  6. Robotechnology

    Robotechnology Supporting Member

    Messages:
    827
    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Location:
    North, NJ
    I find that practicing the same song over and over and eventually you'll FEEL where you are and instinctively know where your part begins and ends.
     
  7. jspax7

    jspax7 Member

    Messages:
    2,226
    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2005
    Location:
    CA
    Practice 2 measure phrases. Most verses and choruses are comprised of even numbered measures. Leave a little space before starting the next phrase. A 2 measure phrase and a response would be 4 measures, etc...

    A 12 bar blues is 6 - 2 measure phrases.

    With some practice, you should instinctively feel the 2 measures, and you'll start to play as though you're having a conversation, and people will listen to what you have to say. :cool:
     
  8. KRosser

    KRosser Member

    Messages:
    14,154
    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Location:
    Pasadena, CA
    Practice hitting a particular high note, or chord on "one" of every bar, then every two bars, every four bars, eight bars, etc. I do this with my GIT students with this exact issue all the time. Never fails.
     
  9. Guinness Lad

    Guinness Lad Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    15,344
    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2004
    Location:
    On top a mountain of Chocolate Chips
    +1 on what KRosser said. In addition, here is some advice from a bass player friend of mine who has a unbelievable sense of time. He said think of 4 bars as a motif, this idea is taken from classical music and means you make a statement which is generally comprised of a specific length of time; in this case 4 bars. It could be less or more, it all depends.

    Another thing to do which is very hard is set a metronome so it clicks at 30 to 40 beats a minute. Then play 1/8, 1/16, and triplets (or any other combination) in this time frame making sure everytime the metronome clicks you are dead on with the time. Use the click as your 1 and jamb all the other notes (evenly spaced) in between.

    Finally, listen to other guitar players (musicians). I was listening to Neal Schon of Journey and was amazed at how when he was soloing he broke up every phrase into 4 bars. I don't know if he did this conciously or not but it really works because it follows the pulse of the band. Why people slam this guy is beyond me.
     
  10. Mr.Hanky

    Mr.Hanky Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,957
    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2005
    Location:
    New Joisey
    Hey Keith;

    It really is a matter of practice, but there are some great suggestions here.
    Another one is to rely on your bandmates, maybe the drummer can give a little cue. It is easy to get lost during an inspired solo so it would be nice if the other guys could help out, teamwork.
     
  11. Luke

    Luke Senior Member

    Messages:
    11,900
    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2005
    Chances are your drummer already is giving the clue to the other members of the band, you are just not paying attention to it. Drummers roll in an out of parts, very rarely do they just go from Verse to Chorus without any fill in between. If you think your bass player is counting endlessly you are kidding yourself, he just knows what to listen for.
     
  12. dave s

    dave s Member

    Messages:
    6,191
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2003
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    You're hitting on one of those intangible aspects of playing guitar which is how much brain power does it take to play leads and how much brain power is leftover for listening and comprehending what's going on around you.

    A couple of things I listen for to keep myself ontrack when playing off-the-cuff solos is to listen mostly to our drummer who is very good about defining measures, blocks of 4, 8 or 16 measures by what he does and when. Also, our bass player follows the drummer fairly well.

    When I get off track, holding a particular note or playing simple quarter notes until I can feel my way back into to where I'm supposed to be seems to help. Honestly, I don't get off-track many times because I like to structure and rehearse what I do, but it does happen occasionally and looking to the drummer for correct timing seems to help.

    dave
     
  13. KRosser

    KRosser Member

    Messages:
    14,154
    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Location:
    Pasadena, CA
    I'm sure this is true, and it is very good advice to listen for the kinds of things other musicians play as landmarks to where you're going.

    That said, do yourself a favor - DON'T rely on a drummer, or anyone else, to be the 'time' for you. There's no good reason whatsoever why your time can't be as strong as any drummer's, with the right hard work, listening and diligence. And then, if you hook up with a drummer that has a strong and relaxed, confident command of time, and you do as well, then that frees both of you up to play music together. Trust me on this - I don't need a drummer to keep time for me, and I don't need him to give me fills to tell me where 32 bars is, or whatever. In my experience, drummers would rather not have to be referees.
     
  14. Mr.Hanky

    Mr.Hanky Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,957
    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2005
    Location:
    New Joisey
    I think that is a bit extreme. They don't need to be referees but the primary responsibity of the drummer is to be the bands timekeeper.
    I think it also depends on how you play, cause I still get caught from time to time getting a little too rambunctious and saying "holy sheet, where is 1". Doesn't happen too often but it does happen and I think that can be a great thing because you are walking that line where you are just about to paint yourself into a corner and then squeezing out, and for me, that is what it is all about cause that is when I feel challenged and come up with new and uniques stuff that I couldn't repeat if I had to.
     
  15. KRosser

    KRosser Member

    Messages:
    14,154
    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Location:
    Pasadena, CA
    I couldn't possibly disagree with you more. Drummers are musicians and in my experience enjoy being given the opportunity to do so. Out of the hundreds of drummers (and percussionists) I've known and worked with, including some of the best in the world, I can't think of a single one that would accept that thier primary job is to be 'the timekeeper'.

    Plus, who's gonna keep time for you on gigs where there's NO drummer? What if you're doing a four-hour gig as a duo with a singer or sax player?

    I'm sorry, I'm going to disagree with you about one other thing as well - when it comes to the pursuit of my own musical goals, there is no such thing as "extreme".

    Command of time & form is every musician's responsibilty, and rhythm is a color for everyone's pallette, not just drummers
     
  16. Dajbro

    Dajbro Member

    Messages:
    2,117
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2005
    Indeed! All too often overlooked.

    David
     
  17. Mr.Hanky

    Mr.Hanky Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,957
    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2005
    Location:
    New Joisey
    Well, we can agree to disagree then. Like I said I don't think either extreme is good and if you can't function as a team then what good is it.
    The original poster admitted he is a "recreational player" not a pro level free form jazz guy.
    Perhaps style fits into this equation too?

    I actually agree with your point in theory, but in reality that is not always the case and some guys need a helping hand from time to time. Striving for independence musically is a great goal but you have to keep your audience (meaning the posters here) in mind.
     
  18. stratzrus

    stratzrus Philadelphia Jazz, Funk, and R&B Supporting Member

    Messages:
    19,295
    Joined:
    May 16, 2006
    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    Jimmy Garrison (bassist for John Coltrane) once told me that it's not the drummer's job to keep the time; it's the bass player's. IMHO, ultimately each player must keep time for him/her self bu developing a sense of feel for the overall structure of the piece.

    Jimmy also said a musician should know four things about soloing, "Know your instrument, know where you are, know where you've been, and know where you're going."

    A solo that's just an endless string of notes or licks isn't worth listening to. It's important to conceptualize what you are going to say within the limited time that you have. All solos have a beginning, an middle and an end, and each section has it's own unique role.

    It's easy, when atempting to build to a climax, to feel that you're not there yet and that you need to keep playing until you reach it. Instead, think about making a complete statement within the time allowed. Your playing will then support the song instead of the song being a vehicle for endless guitar hero noodling.

    Also, regarding losing count, sobriety (in moderation) can also help.

    stratzrus

    "The more notes you play, the fewer girls will be in the audience."
     
  19. KRosser

    KRosser Member

    Messages:
    14,154
    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Location:
    Pasadena, CA
    I'm OK with that, all due respect, etc. I was just throwing in my $.02

    Whoa, whoa - who said anything about 'not functioning as a team'? What I'm talking about is for the explicit purpose of getting the whole ensemble, be it rock band, jazz band, string quartet, vocal/guitar duo, 96 piece orchestra, big band, etc functioning MORE as a team, musically, by making time & form a shared responsibility.

    One drummer keeping time while a guitar player arhythmically wanks over it waiting for fill cues does not sound like much of a team effort, musically, to me.

    I don't look down on recreational players at all - he expressed a desire to improve something, which I have been in a professional capacity to deal with specifically, so I offered my advice. The degree to which he wants to get 'extreme' with it is up to him. But, I feel it's condescending to not give him the same information I'd give someone who did aspire to be a pro or 'free form jazz guy'.

    As I think I intimated above, I don't think 'style' is an issue at all, as I can't think of a single 'style' where having your own strong sense of time would not be to your advantage.

    Agreed - so who's going to be there to give the drummer a helping hand? If you can't keep time and can't keep track of a form, you can't. Remember, we are talking about teamwork, right?

    The posters here are intelligent folks and more than capable of handling anything I have to say, I'm sure.
     
  20. jspax7

    jspax7 Member

    Messages:
    2,226
    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2005
    Location:
    CA
    Good timing doesn't just happen. It is practiced. Even if you are a "recreational" player, you should be willing to practice and play with steady time if you plan to play with others. Even "recreational athletes" who stay in reasonably good physical condition will be better at their sport than those who are not in condition.

    Besides, wouldn't you want to be invited to the next jam because you play well with others?

    The 2 and 4 bar phrase is an essential element for any aspiring player. There is nothing more frustrating than playing with people who can't keep time.
     

Share This Page