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Discussion Starter #1
OK .. bear with me, because I have a theory !

I have poor timing and a weak sense of rhythm. This is not new - I've never had it.
When I was a teen, playing guitar in garage bands, the other guys would always jump on the drum kit whenever the drummer was doing something else - everyone seemed to be able to play a decent beat - but not me.

Then for the next 25+ years I played parts of tunes ... and lead guitar licks (usually as fast as I could) by myself. Never counted beats or rests .. or even played tunes all the way to the end.

So my lack of timing became ingrained over the years - like an accent !

When I began sax lessons a couple of years ago, my teacher zeroed in on my poor timing right away, and we've been working on it (with excruciatingly slow progress ) ever since.

The accent analogy came about because my teacher is Russian. He's lived in Canada for 12 years and speaks and understands English fluently - but his accent is thick. His kids speak both languages without a trace of accent, but he sounds like he's a KGB agent !

So I told him that, just like him - I've been speaking (musically) the same way all my life, and I can't just learn to slow down and not rush .. or count on 2 and 4 .. etc ..

Does this make sense to anyone ? :mrgreen:
 

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Yeh, does make sense logically, but I think it's just an excuse. It might be hard work for you but it's going to be harder if you don't accept that it simply has to be done in order for you to progress.
 

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Oh yeah .. I'm only half-serious.
But hard work is right ... it's frustrating when playing the notes is easy, but playing them at the right time isn't !

I'll be "Brendan - the human metronome" someday .. ha ! :bluewink:
 

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Agreed - giving notes the correct value is bloody hard work. I use a metronome nearly all the time now and I'm annoyed at how often I stumble about trying to keep up with it. Metronome = zen master. Worth it though, the tune reveals itself a lot quicker.
 

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Focus on your weakness until it is your strength. Don't listen to music without tapping your finger exactly in time. If you have a hard time with that, try tapping a bit early for a while, a bit late for a while, etc. Hone in on the center between early and late until you can do it consistently. Practice everything with a metronome, click track or drum machine, always. Do not play your instrument without one of those devices running in the background. Devote 90% of your practice time to rhythm studies, and obsess over rhythm and time while you take the train, when your turn signal is on, just basically always. You'll get better quickly.
 

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I'll add to what Dan said by saying you need to practice without your sax . Tap a beat with you foot or finger and hum or scat rhythms while you are doing it. Always do it in phrases. Start with 4 beat phrases and then 8 beat phrases. If you can do that then you can practice 16 hours a day. If you can sing it then you can play it.


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Sometimes, I'll have a student that has a really hard time with this and I'll have him count the beat with his fingers in the air. 1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4.......... Then you sing random rhythms while you do this. Focus on where one is. You have to get to a point where you feel this no matter what rhythms you are playing.


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Play slowly. REALLY slowly. Play your scales in quarter notes at 60. Focus on moving EXACTLY on the beat. It'll suck but it'll get the job done.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I'll add to what Dan said by saying you need to practice without your sax . Tap a beat with you foot or finger and hum or scat rhythms while you are doing it.
Thanks - I've been doing exactly that for awhile now, and it has really helped.
Lately I've been trying to tap on the two and four for all tunes I hear. (Even in my head ! )

Working with the metronome I often slip back onto the 1 & 3 beats whenever there are long rests ... argh !!
 

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Working with the metronome I often slip back onto the 1 & 3 beats whenever there are long rests ... argh !!
Can you play evenly and in time with the metronome on 1 & 3 (or on all 4 beats)? Because if you can't, you should probably get that down before trying to play with the metronome on 2 & 4.
 

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I have been struggling with a blues rhythm guitar piece that you swing the eights and then they toss in an assortment of triplets. one ah trip a let three ah four ah...
 

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For some time I've been involved with African ryhthms and African (style) drummers. Anyone who wants to drum must be able to dance. Feeling the rhythm throughout your body and having it ingrained is part of what makes a good drummer. In the west we tap a foot, finger, count, etc., it's a mini version of the same thing but not as engorssing as dancing or at least feeling the rhythm throughout your body.

Get the music out of your brain and fingers and into your whole body. Once you do this you wonder how people can stand still and play.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Can you play evenly and in time with the metronome on 1 & 3 (or on all 4 beats)?
Yes I can ! I've improved a lot since I started lessons 2 1/2 years ago .. it's just slow going.
When I started I couldn't tap my foot and play at the same time .. even when playing a scale slowly.

The scary thing is I play the bari in a quartet - where the other horns always seem to be conspiring to throw me off !
There's nothing like having the one member who's supposed to hold the group together (me), playing in some random, spastic fashion !! :twisted:
 

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Put some music you like that is at a good tempo on an MP3 player. Then take a walk and move your feet in time. See if you can stay focused for an entire piece without loosing the beat. Then 2 pieces in a row. Eventually the entire walk. Try keeping beat one on your left foot, that will help as a check for focus in case you somehow get to beat one on your right foot, then you'll know you slipped. Do this for months. If not a walk, then while you work around the house or something. Be conscious of the time, internalize it, then move in time to it. Get to where you own it. Maybe dance lessons in your future, one on one.

-anchorsax
 

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For some time I've been involved with African ryhthms and African (style) drummers. Anyone who wants to drum must be able to dance. Feeling the rhythm throughout your body and having it ingrained is part of what makes a good drummer. In the west we tap a foot, finger, count, etc., it's a mini version of the same thing but not as engorssing as dancing or at least feeling the rhythm throughout your body.

Get the music out of your brain and fingers and into your whole body. Once you do this you wonder how people can stand still and play.
You know, it is an interesting thing that the dance culture is different in the west, east and, the African.

In the west, the feet comes first, in the east it is the hands, in Africa it is the body. If you check the dances in those three different cultures, it is totally different on what they focus on. I do not know how this effects the music but, I do believe it does in someway.

And to the OP, what I believe is, you need to practice the rhythm alone. Before playing with a metronome or other players/instruments, you need to play a down beat as down beats, a up beat as up beats. I posted a exercise on the "Practicing" section quite a while ago as "exercises based on hearing". Hope it helps.
 

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Anchorsax has it right on. I`d just add a thought that has helped me. "The beat is boss. Submit to the beat". Don`t listen to the music, just let the beat soak into you. You won`t even need to count, you`ll just sense/feel the thump.. thump.. thump.. thump.. and slot whatever you`re doing into it.
 

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Play slowly. REALLY slowly. Play your scales in quarter notes at 60. Focus on moving EXACTLY on the beat. It'll suck but it'll get the job done.
Agree. I think practicing (slow & fast)tunes, licks, everything, with a metronome at 60-80 BPM helped me most of all.
 

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So I told him that, just like him - I've been speaking (musically) the same way all my life, and I can't just learn to slow down and not rush .. or count on 2 and 4 .. etc ..

Does this make sense to anyone ? :mrgreen:
To answer this question, yes it makes total sense. What you are describing is a bad habit ingrained. It's more difficult to overcome those bad habits than to learn it right in the first place. I know I've had to overcome some bad habits and still have some to work on. I don't think it's unusual for players to have to deal with this, whether it be rhythm, phrasing, technique, etc, because many of us are at least partly self-taught and there are many 'pitfalls' (bad habits) in learning a musical instrument. So you can do it, especially since you've already taken the first step to realize that you have the problem.

All the advice above is right on and will work for you eventually. I still have to really force myself to play things 'in time' when practicing, not just when playing with the band. So the real trick is to slow down and be sure to keep the meter, no matter what. One thing to do also, is practice starting on the up beat and get a very clear feel for what that is. It's easy enough to start on a down beat, so you want to keep the two concepts clear. It really makes a difference when using passing tones (usually on the upbeat) and placing chord tones (often, but not always on the downbeat.
 

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To answer this question, yes it makes total sense. What you are describing is a bad habit ingrained. It's more difficult to overcome those bad habits than to learn it right in the first place. I know I've had to overcome some bad habits and still have some to work on. I don't think it's unusual for players to have to deal with this, whether it be rhythm, phrasing, technique, etc, because many of us are at least partly self-taught and there are many 'pitfalls' (bad habits) in learning a musical instrument. So you can do it, especially since you've already taken the first step to realize that you have the problem.

All the advice above is right on and will work for you eventually. I still have to really force myself to play things 'in time' when practicing, not just when playing with the band. So the real trick is to slow down and be sure to keep the meter, no matter what. One thing to do also, is practice starting on the up beat and get a very clear feel for what that is. It's easy enough to start on a down beat, so you want to keep the two concepts clear. It really makes a difference when using passing tones (usually on the upbeat) and placing chord tones (often, but not always on the downbeat.
IMO, this is a valuable point. I remember Coltrane saying that to him, once he heard a man -- once he "heard his sound" -- to him, that sound *was* that man, and he would recognize it the same way we recognize people's voices after just a word or two. All of the great players I have known (that I can think of) have made similar statements, and you can hear what they mean when you hear them talk. Their playing is talking. This makes sense because (there is a TED speech on this topic, somewhere on the web, by a brain researcher) improvisation uses the same parts of the brain that speech does.

One plays as one speaks ("as one is"), especially the masters. Sure, there are probably some masters whose playing is more of an abstract construction, but the same things that cause them to speak the way they do (the sum of their experience) will cause them to play the way they speak, in the end, in almost all cases -- for saxophone, this has a really cool added element, beyond just musical grammar, in that your body literally shapes the sound, just as it does your speaking voice. No doubt, you can create a different cadence and metronomic accuracy than is in line with your natural speaking cadence, but most likely a real change in your sense of *time* will involve a change in your sense of who you are (with that influence working in both directions). Pretty cool.
 

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Put some music you like that is at a good tempo on an MP3 player. Then take a walk and move your feet in time. See if you can stay focused for an entire piece without loosing the beat. Then 2 pieces in a row. Eventually the entire walk. Try keeping beat one on your left foot, that will help as a check for focus in case you somehow get to beat one on your right foot, then you'll know you slipped. Do this for months. If not a walk, then while you work around the house or something. Be conscious of the time, internalize it, then move in time to it. Get to where you own it. Maybe dance lessons in your future, one on one.

-anchorsax
Ditto! With the added benefit of getting some exercise! However, if you try walking to a piece in three-quarter time, you could be in big trouble with that "beat 1 on left foot" thing.:)
 
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