Tips to improve timing

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by wire-n-wood, Feb 13, 2012.

  1. wire-n-wood

    wire-n-wood Member

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    I play a mixture of lead and rhythm in my band. I'd say that my #1 weakness is my sense of timing. I know it when I hear it... but particularly when I'm nervous, my timing sounds a little stilted... not real easy or natural. (My dancing is like that too, but we won't go there.)

    So... what tips do you have for improving our sense of timing? I'm not talking about speed, just talking about that natural sense of time... the stuff you don't notice until it's a little forced.

    At the moment, I'm trying to just close my eyes and loosen up a little... just move with the groove and feel the rhythm. It helps, but I'm wondering what the experienced players out there think about this.
     
  2. Scott Whigham

    Scott Whigham Member

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    My timing has always been an issue - it's something that, if I go two weeks without working on it, I notice it. My solution is to do this: "When you are at home alone, practice with a metronome/electronic drumbeat on a click at least 'x' days a week".

    'x', for me, is usually 5!
     
  3. Cheeseisbestyes

    Cheeseisbestyes Member

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    Play to a metronome. Do it in a way that's fun, like play scales and licks over the steady pulse, or funk rhythms.

    here is something that could shake things up a bit...let's say you're playing at 80 bpm. Give yourself a set of rules...you will play only quarter notes for 4 bars...then the next four bars play 8th notes, then 8th note triplets, then 16ths, 16th note triplets...etc! Feel free to switch this around.

    After you can do this in order and backwards, then start doing it more randomly. Let me tell you...it is tougher than a lot of people thing to go from 16th note triplets backwards to 16th notes! Or, from 8th notes to 16th note triplets! An example...first 2 bars play 16th notes, then next 2 play 8th notes, then 16th note triplets, then quarter, then 8th note triplets. Harder than you think it will be, for sure...but it is really good training to help you understand and feel how the faster note values feel "divided" between beats. The more you do it, the more natural it will become.

    You don't have to do this with just scales, you can also really train your rhythm playing (namely funk rhythms) as well.

    The thing is playing to each extreme side of the metronome (slow, and fast) as well as the middle. Each BPM has a hugely different feel, and you'll find for some tempos you'll be able to play triplets more naturally than say...16th notes. If you really work on this for about a week or two, you'll start feeling the effects right away.


    Hope that helps
     
  4. Hotspur

    Hotspur Member

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    Another fun metronome exercise.

    Set the metronome to a reasonably fast pace. Say, 120. Nothing crazy. Practice a scale once every click.

    Now cut the speed in half, but play the scale at the same speed - you're now getting a click every other note. Not so bad.

    Cut the speed in half again. Play at the same rate - now you're getting a click every fourth note ... and it gets a lot harder.

    You can experiment with odd timings, too. A click every 3 or a click every 5 is great practice even when you're working in a 4/4 context - the idea is that you're conditioning yourself to not need the metronome.

    If this is too easy with a scale, practice it with a chord progression or riff. And if it's still too easy, start improvising around the riff - but make sure when you hit those clicks, that you're hitting them dead on.
     
  5. Tomo

    Tomo Member

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  6. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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  7. AndyNOLA

    AndyNOLA Member

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    I found that paying attention to the picking hand helped me a great deal.....time comes from that pick, not from your fingers, unless you are hammering on of course. But paying too mich attention to the frets can be a mistake....
     
  8. SixStringAxis

    SixStringAxis Member

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    Playing songs to a metronome at slower speeds, occasionally increasing the bpm until you get to the songs actual speed. This really gives you a sense of rhythm you never felt before.

    Try leaving things out of a song you know well. On piano this is called hands separate, playing only what the left hand plays in a song. Only play the notes or chords that are on down beats.. then try playing only the notes or chords that are on the up beat. Again always do this to a metronome.

    Say with a Hendrix song when he plays lots of bass and lead in the same riff.. you can see why only playing part of the riff would be a good exercise. You have more rests but you still have to try and keep the same feel.

    If you hate metronomes.. When you start playing with one everyday and your playing really improves... it usually changes your mind.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2012
  9. GtrWiz

    GtrWiz Member

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    I took a lesson from Wayne Krantz, and he said I had some rhythm issues. He suggested that I record myself playing to a metronome for one minute then listen back. Change the tempo and repeat 10 times a day. It takes 20 minutes and has made a world of difference in my playing.
     
  10. JonR

    JonR Member

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    THIS!

    The idea of halving the click rate (for the same bpm) is to force you create the missing beats yourself, and - of course - to get them in the right place. This is really the only way to train your inner clock, your sense of timing.
    Practising to drum machines or backing tracks is all very well (and better than nothing), but they tend to provide too much information - you hardly have to do any work yourself, just listen. The advantage of a metronome is its very simplicity - the fact that it gives you too little information.

    Victor Wooten demos the principle here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9X1fhVLVF_4
    - and then goes off into come crazier exercises after around 5:00 :bonk.
     
  11. wes37

    wes37 Supporting Member

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    A basic exercise for your internal clock is to clap along to a metronome. If you do it right, your clapping will drown out the metronome and all you'll hear is the clap.

    As with the above, once you can keep a beat, halve the metronome tempo and keep the same BPM with your clapping.
     
  12. ldizzle

    ldizzle Supporting Member

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    click in one ear/drum loops in the other.
    both will mute when you're locked in!=)
     
  13. AndyNOLA

    AndyNOLA Member

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    Have a drink or light one up. It will help your dancing.
     
  14. ivers

    ivers Member

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    Practice some flamenco. It's really hard to work seriously on that stuff without ending up improving the timing, because it's so reliant on a strong rhythm, and screams "lame" if you lose your focus practicing it.

    Playing bossa nova and samba is also a nice way to work on a natural solid time feel.

    Of course, metronome (or other rhythm device) work is always nice to do a lot of.

    I think whatever you do, try to think rhythmically, even if you noodle with no time reference. I mean, play coherent phrases with a clear start and finish, do rhythmic pauses, play a chord, then a rhythmic fill. Noodling with no rhythmic context easily drains the musicality away from what you're doing, and it an almost sure way to end in a rut.
     
  15. Uniphasian

    Uniphasian Member

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    I heard a saying once: "Dance like no one is watching." That goes for playing music too. When you are living entirely inside your song, the timing will come.
     
  16. AndyNOLA

    AndyNOLA Member

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    A big yes to that......I just picked up the guitar after ten years on the keys, and what I love about guitar is that I can play standing up and dance. If I am dancing my playing is usually on...
     

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