Improving one’s timing.

Improving one’s timing.

Hi Session!

I am seeking advice on how to improve my timing. Everybody excepting myself can hear the fact that I push up against the next beat. I have the same number of beats per minute, but mine are too soon. Since I don’t often hear what they mean I have found the metronome to be of limited practical assistance so far. Has anyone got some exercises with or without the metronome that they could suggest?

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Among jazz players, playing ahead of the beat like that is a valued skill – if you control it.

Are you consistently playing just ahead of each note or are there particular places where you rush a bit and then fall back in synch?

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Relax and play along with recordings as much as possible. Metronome is of very limited use in traditional music.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

It sounds like you might just have a tendency to speed up, once the metronome is turned off. Suggestion: Try to give each note its due, i.e., its full duration—don’t be too eager to get to that next note.

I have to be watchful for that, myself, especially on newer tunes—it’s like I’m trying to get through all the notes before I get distracted or something.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Try consciously to play a fraction behind the beat. It sounds to me as though you have a learned behaviour/technique (I don’t know what to call it). You will have to retrain your hand/ear co-ordination. The fact that you know you are doing it is half the battle. If you have some recording software like Magix, you could record yourself and another track, and compare them visually. That would give you a handle other than an aural one. If that makes sense.

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

Hi John

Try playing while walking in time. Not stompy marching, just your bog standard walk. Try keep it even. Feel the whole movement through your body. Feel it, don’t try to think where the timing is with yopur brain, try tro let you body feel it.

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

Walking’s a good idea, or even thinking about a walking pace, if you’re playing a less-portable instrument. Also, try slowing down the tune, get it way below "session speed", but keep the phrases together. You don’t want a sort of very slow dit-dit-dit-dit thing, like a dripping faucet, but try to get the structure of the tune into your head. If it helps, think of yourself as a Martin Hayes parody, but even slower (he doesn’t play that slow, really). The idea is to get yourself thinking about the flow of the tune, and thinking about the tune in phrases instead of notes.

Another thing you can do, while you’re at the session, is to try to synch up with just one other player near you. Try to play as much like they do as you can, and lock in to their phrasing. (It’s a fun game, especially if you don’t tell them that’s what you’re doing) This should help you get the feel of the thing pretty well.

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I love the thing about walking. There is so much movement in it. So much more than dit dit dit. The movement of your feet rolling across the floor, heal ball toe. The connection through your legs to the gentle see saw in your hips. The gentle s curves in your spine and the twisted rocking of your shoulders etc. etc.

Walking is such a musical thing and the beauty of it is you learned to do it without thinking about it. Transfer this to your music making and you should be able to achieve a lovely natural feel to your rhythm. Not mechanical, but human, fluid.

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

apparently metronomes are great for helping develop timing…

;-P

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Is it the same when you lilt/sing/whistle/hum/la-la a tune?

Do you tap your foot in sync with your playing or the group’s beat?

I like that walking in time idea, llig, though I’m not sure if I’ll try it with the under 12s class!

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Then there’s the movement of one’s feet rolling along a trail. It can be fun keeping the rhythm of the tune even, as you scramble over un-even ground. I don’t claim to have perfect musical timing myself; just happen to like combining walking with whistling tunes. Try whistling polkas without letting them become marches as you walk.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Yes, I find walking good for keeping tune in time with feet, not the other way round, and steady uphill gradient best. Uneven ground is a bit advanced for me.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

I think that it is most important to get out there with other people and play. It sounds like you are playing with people honest enough to give you constructive criticism, which you are humble enough to listen to, which is half the battle. If you keep your ears open, it will come.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Make it physical, and the walking bit is great, but even better ~ dance, as that will also put you in touch with the larger rhythmic structures, beat, measure, phrase. This can be accomplished in the walking dances too, such as English ceilidh and American squares and contras… Best of luck ~ ‘c’

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Here’s one place in the Pacific Northwest where you could start to tap into the physical fullness of this dance music ~

http://www.bubbaguitar.com/ ~ squares

There’s also regular contra, Irish and Scottish dance all across that part of the world, and the richest veins are as you’d expect ~ Seattle & Portland and their surrounding areas…

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Good one, ceolachan, I am surprised it took us so long for someone to say that, and I am glad you did. Dancing has been a large part of my growth as a musician.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Sure, dancing is great. And I’m not knocking it. But what if you want to play too fast for dancing? Or what if you want to play too slow for dancing?

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

Sing the tunes in the shower. Play the tunes while you’re doing something else, like shouting at the news on ra telly.

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

I will admit to this problem and have to keep a constant watch myself, I find it too easy to pull ahead of a tune particuarly when I know it well. The following I found helpful.

Relax when playing…the laid back, in-the-zone relaxation of say Denis Cahill. The start of this set is just so wonderfully laid back
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jb8ywufW7-I


Keep tight control of rolls, get the timing of rolls spot on (or eliminate most of them) can help. Bad rolling technique is guarenteed to throw out your rhythm.

Falling in with the rhythm on just one very rhythmic musician in the session group is really good.

A metronome is a great help. Try learning new tunes for a while using a metronome rather than trying to correct all existing learned tunes.

Slow down. Practice slowly putting in as much lift as possible.

Record yourself playing in sesson and listen to what you’re doing in session.

Use your feet. Watch feet http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YLo3wH8dsk

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

I just don’t get it with the metronome thing. Fair enough for a percussionist or maybe rhythm player but a lead player? If you play to recordings of good players either on CD or youtube, not only will you be practicing playing in time with others but you will also be practicing pitch and lift. To me youtube is the best, partly because you know they are not playing to a click, they’re timing is natural without the constrictions of starting at one speed and having no room for maneuver. A lot of the tunes in the database here have youtubes in the comments so it’s pretty easy access to practice with great players if you can’t do so in real life.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

gtag, you say that a metronome is a great help? And yet you still admit to having timing problems?

Consider this, the metronome is making it worse.

Specifically, playing with a metronome will not give you the ability to play in time without one. You have to learn for yourself, on your own, how to do that.

If, for example, you tend to speed up certain phrases (maybe for a reason like you say, badly timed rolls) then all the metronome will do is make you slow down the next phrase to get back in sinc with it. And so making your problem twice as bad.

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

Did a mean old metronome scare you when you were in the cradle, llig? πŸ™‚

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Go for the holistic appoach…attack from all angles including…..using a metronome to learn new tunes. Find out what one (more than llikely combination) works for you.
Feel the fear and do it anyway!

and…llig…I agree with Albrown. Boo!

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

But is the metronome working for you?

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

I’m still not convinced that, for dance type music, slowing down to get back in sync by the next beat is bad. And if I don’t do that when walking, then it defeats part of the object of walking. I wonder if the main gain from walking (and Martin Hayes style foot tapping) is a something neurological combined with the inertia of several kilos of limb.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

a metronome, with a stronger click on the downbeat, let’s you know precisely where the 1st beat of a measure is. Using one, while playing a tune, may help you hit the downbeat on pulse. I am not convinced that it helps work out the most typical timing problems ~ speeding up (or slowing down) through particular bits in a tune. It simply puts you back on track with the next downbeat … until the next time … & the next …
I’ll give metronomes the benefit of the doubt, since debating online is an act of redundancy (I know you are, but what am I?) That aside ~ know the tunes, know your instrument, know the articulations you play, know your mates ~ then your timing will naturally improve.

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

If I’m losing the 1st beat its time to clap and sing.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

I think there are two separate issues about timing going on here. One is even, controlled phrasing. The other is speeding up (or slowing down).

The metronome won’t help your phrasing, it will with certainty make it worse. However, playing with a metronome will stop you speeding up or slowing down. The question is, will that exercise have helped when you turn it off? Is it a crutch that allows your muscles to atrophy or heal?

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

david, last time I was in a room full of people clapping & singing it was not on beat ;)

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

Which of those does unintentionally rushing through some bits of a tune fit into ?

Re: Improving one’s timing.

If they’re clapping in time and SLOWLY that can be worrying - or deserved πŸ˜‰

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Last time I was in a room full of people singing none of them were clapping - but it would have helped if one of them had been.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Kevin Burke has no problems with phrasing and he uses a metronome. Thats since he played with the Bothy Band.
For the OP, If you try double timing with the click track, that is 1/8th note per click this should sort out any issues of speeding up within the bars. I did this when I wanted to record a piece in 7/8 but the metronome wouldn’t do that so I set it at 1/8. This also allows a lot of possibilities to swing your timing while keeping steady, especially if you try it nice and slow. Anyone who hasnt done this can hardly tell us that it doesnt work now can they?

. A post earlier suggested it was alright for drummer’s and rhythm players to use a click, but why melody players…. I would ask; why should melody players not have to keep the rhythm and good Timing?
Also playing along with CD’s etc is suggested, but Its patently obvious ,that just playing along with other players haslittle benefit timing wise. If it did then anyone playing in sessions would therefore acquire good timing. They dont.
If you have not spent Time with a metronome then how would you know what it can offer?

Another small point, llig suggests that a>> metronome will do is make you slow down the next phrase to get back in sinc with it.>>

I would ask ;how on earth an inanimate object make anyone do anything?
πŸ˜‰

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Before anyone takes Ionannas’ advice on timing, listen to the sample on his biog page of The Rights of Man first

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

llig is right about having to develop your ability to play without a metronome. Walking is good for the reasons he already put forward

there is another exercise you can try….

this is based on the idea that you are doin gwhat you are doing becaus eyou do not yet have an internal clock. This is a musical skill and it has to be worked on like everything else…

so here’s the exercise: start a recording of a tune you know. start singing along. then turn down the recording so you can’t hear it and continue to sing through the song.

then turn the volume back up and see how far off you are

the longer you can go and still stay in synch, the better

Re: Improving one’s timing.

another exercise:

set your metronome to 120bpm

start tapping the rythm

stop the metronome and tap time for 8 bars, noting the time

the 8 bars should take exactly sixteen seconds

when you can do 8 bars consistanly, move it out to 16, then 32

32 bars should take exactly one minute 4 seconds


another exercise:

for this you need at least one other person. We used to do this one with a 9 piece blues band

first, begin by clapping out a tempo together. Clap for 4 bars of 4/4 time, a clap on each beat (quarter note)

then stop and silently cout time together

on the down beat of the 4th bar, you should both clap in complete unison

when you can finally do that, increase the silent count to 8 bars

continune to progress to longer periods of silent counting. We used to do this exercise at the beginning of rehearsal. When 9 guys can count 64 bars and come back in absolutely together, then you know you have an ensamble that has a conception of time

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Interesting Exercises Nate,
There are 2 separate issues here, timing and speed. A master fiddler can speed up steadily over the course of a 5 min solo set and is quite normal as they warm up into the tunes .
This is different to rushing or dragging within bars and uneven timing which is a common problem with beginners.

[url=http://www.filefreak.com/files/76712_dtdqp/05%20Down%20the%20Back%20Lane_Donnybrook%20Fai.mp3]05 Down the Back Lane_Donnybrook Fai.mp3[/url]

Re: Improving one’s timing.

ah ha! … "rushing or dragging within bars and uneven timing"

I again refer the honorable company to aforementioned Rights of Man.

I remember last time we had this daft ol’ spat about metronomes. I had a go at a thing similar to Nate’s game. I set the metronome going and started to play with it (not a pleasant feeling, but that’s by the by). Then walked into another room where I couldn’t hear it and back again. I did it a few times, taking longer and longer in the other room. I got bored.

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Its the doorways I find tricky. Especially walking backwards with a flute.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Yeah Ionannas, thanks for that. Nice to see you being of some use … for a change.

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

Isn’t the Bobby Casey clip illustrating what Bogman said higher up about learning from recordings not made with a click ?

Re: Improving one’s timing.

Yes, I think it is.

And Ionannas’ clip illustrates the value of him playing with a metronome.

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

llig’s exercise of walking out of the room with the metronome and walking back in is another good one. We would do that one too. But I have to be honest, and maybe some of you will have experienced it this way yourselves, but I only learned to keep good time by playing with players that kept good time

the first time I played with somebody who really had good time it was like riding a well tuned bycycle. I just couldn’t believe it.

and so it’s that sort of a vicious circle. You have to play with good players to learn it that way, and you won’t get to play with good players very long unless you can keep time

and so we wander around the house with a metronome on contemplating the ticking tock

Re: Improving one’s timing.

I wonder if the frequent occurance of recordings at close to 120bpm is to do with long-case clocks ticking in the corner day in day out.

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I’m telling ya, I keep an old fashioned pedulum clock in the house for that very reason!

I had a good friend who played low brass and had perfect pitch. I lived with him for a time and realized that his refridgerator buzzed at a nice steady 440Hz

No wonder he had no trouble remembering where A440 was!

Re: Improving one’s timing.

I don’t remember anyone suggesting this, but machjuan you said that you can’t hear what it is that others are saying that you’re doing.

Sounds like you should record yourself, nothing fancy, just record yourself playing those tunes people say you’re doing it on, and study them. I’m sure you’ll see where you’re doing it, and perhaps that will help you be conscious of it.

I find that players normally rush what I basely and disgustingly call ‘the barf of notes’ which pop up in the B parts of reels. Usually there’s a big ol’ heap of notes that flutter by, and it’s easy for newer players to rush through those phrases, putting themselves off or being ahead of where everyone else is in the tune.

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sorry david, been away. What the clip shows is good timing, but he imperceptibly gets faster over the course of the 5 min set.. But how do you think playing along will help your timing? if you can position your notes, the same notes, on top of Bob’s then that would help right enough, but you have a number of different issues to deal with , notes ornaments, phrasing, etc etc a gnome as a tool means you only need to concentrate on the one issue. and you still end up playing faster at the end of the set than at the begining.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

correction;>>and you still end up playing faster at the end of the set than at the begining if you play along with the clip. Which of course I do as well , as I learnt the third tune of the set this week.
Playing along with other good players and recordings is obviously a primary ‘tool’ a gnome ‘is a secondary tool, but if Kevin Burke says ‘you have to learn to play with a metronome’ then who argues with the metronome argues with Kevin Burke. But as he said, he has no wish to be involved with the arguments here. He also told me he records his studio albums with a click.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

1. It goes without saying that if you can’t even play along with a metronome then you are surely utterly hopeless.

2. And then, the ability to play along with an invisible metronome in your head is the next step. (I’m not sure whether Ionannas is up to this yet)

3. But then, of course, is the ability to disregard such rigidity … as Bobby Casey so playfully illustrates.

Or

You can jump straight to number 3, as Bobby Casey so obviously did.

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Re: Improving one’s timing.

Our new church choir director said last night at rehersal, "Stop trying to follow the beat, and start feeling the pulse of the music."
And also, "Don’t be so concerned about getting the sixteenth notes right that you forget to praise God with your singing!"
I think I am going to like this guy.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

"uttely hopeless" - how about not yet having sufficiently developed motor skills for that instrument?

Re: Improving one’s timing.

On the face of it, I agree david. But the more I think about it, I don’t really think you can make the distinction. You don’t learn the motor skills first and then learn to play music. The two are contemporaneous. Once you’ve developed the motor skills to play the first line of "three blind mice", or even the motor skills to clap your hands together, you should have also developed your internal timing to be able do those things along with a metronome.

It’s a different thing, of course, to try to go straight from three blind mice in time to crackling reels in time. But that’s not how you should be playing anyway. I’ve always said that you shouldn’t be trying to play anything you can’t play. And that includes play in time.

In the long run, you’ll become a much better player, a much more relaxed and precise player, if you are not constantly banging beyond the edge of your ability.

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Er, there is quite a big difference between "utterly hopeless" and "become a much better player". There is also a matter of the tolerances. If the playing along is "not too bad but could be a bit tighter" does one become a better player by practicing at that tempo or slowing down ?

Re: Improving one’s timing.

slow is fast. You have to develop the motor abilities to the point that they are truly automatic to be smooth at a good tempo. By practicing slowly, and even medatatively if you want to go crazy about it, you are training your nerves to fire precisely. You can also take the time to listen to your tone and get it clean. I mean every little thing, too, or you are wasting valuable practice time. We only live so long, you know.

so all you are doing by banging away not very tightly is practicing all the little mistakes that are holding you back

thus, the Mystery of Speed….slow is fast

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Especially as Kevin effectively said he couldn’t actually play with a metronome at first, this was after the bothy band! so I think the ‘utterly hopeless’ comment , seen in this light, can be safely disregarded.
There is a reason why James Kelly recommends the metronome as a tool and I doubt its because he was ‘utterly hopeless’.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

to add to that, my experience is that beginners generally do not practice slowly enough. so the slower you can play the better. Especially if you keep the time strait.

It’s a bigger challenge to play slowly and in time than it is to play fast and be all over it when you really get down to it

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Thanks Nate. I’m not doubting the "slow is fast". Its just that it is possible to find speeds at which I am sure that the bits that could be better are getting better. At a slightly slower speed I might think they are OK but it may just be that I can’t tell that they are not. It is partially a "not having a teacher" issue, but I do know teachers who will spend time both consolidating extending.

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consolidating and extending.

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Lots of good suggestions here. Walking/marching is good - in fact playing marches you can’t go wrong.
Playing for dancing is great, if you can’t get to do that, I suggest playing along with recordings of good Ceili Bands, such as the Kilfenora. I found that very useful.
I always use a click track when recording, and don’t find it interferes with any natural phrasing. Once you’ve got used to it, it’s ok.

Re: Improving one’s timing.

I highly recommend practicing very slowly (half speed or less) then increasing the speed slightly …. over and over. Keep going till slightly faster than your target speed, then back off a bit. Don’t push past what you can play evenly. You learn what you practice.

Here’s another metronome trick: Get a friend to occassionally change the metronome speed slightly (up or down) while you play. This helps you learn to listen and learn to follow - just as important as playing steady.

It may take months of practice … but the results will come.

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