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Forum Contributor 2015, seeker of the knowing of t
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After some feedback in my Ensemble exam today, I have decided to really focus on my time. I've started being really disciplined about using a metronome for everything I do but I'm not sure that's enough. What other techniques or tips do you guys use to lock in your time?

Cheers
 

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or the first and third beat of the bar (if it doesn't make you lose the swing)
first and third beat makes you be in sync with the bass most of the time, second and fourth sync with the hi hat of the drums.
I use both, when it's a really up tempo I tend to use one and three more or even only just the one.
Taming the metronome can be challenging, when a click appears to be a bit later then expected you're rushing. It makes you aware of those tendencies very clearly.
I drag a little sometimes when I listened too much to Dexter and Mobley....:bluewink:
 

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Metronome is probably still the best thing. Another idea might be to play some percussion. Seriously. A tambourine would be enough, you don't have to get a drum kit. If you find you're drinking too much and can't talk in complete sentences you'll know you're taking the percussion thing a bit too far.
 

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I second playing percussion. Drum kit is quite demanding in many ways and I would say from experience it's not the most effective one.
After I started practicing congas my band members have complemented me for my improved time. Bongos are easy to start with as they are small and don't require a lot of technique to start with. Anything that makes you continuously subdivide to 16th's and hit each subdivision accurately works.
 

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I agree with RootyTootoot and jokunen: Play some percussion. I took a few months of Latin percussion lessons on congas and bongo. It is hard on your hands at first, but that only lasts a week or so. There are only 5-6 basic hits on each, so you can sound like you know what you are doing rather quickly if you memorize the patterns and get a couple slick lines under your fingers.

My sense of time and my sax playing improved a lot during that time even though half of my practice time was spent off the horn. I was also turned on to a whole area of music I had never explored before. Cuban singers are gold mines for phrasing and material when they are improvising. Plus, the groove is so great when compared to straight ahead jazz, swing, or even "Latin Jazz." Added bonus: When I was in Dallas and Fort Worth I got more calls for percussion/ percussion plus sax work than I did for sax alone.

Here is a link to an excellent Bongo, and a great seller (bought my congas through them). They usually sell for over $300 USD: http://cgi.ebay.com/New-Gon-Bops-Tu...aultDomain_0&hash=item2563f2993c#ht_611wt_907

If you get serious about it, you will also need to add a bongo bell and beater. Being the bongo player is great: Solo through half the tune, and kill it on the cowbell while everyone else solos! Conga players are the backbone, so you have to stay a little more honest on them.

I do use a metronome when I am practicing scales and things like that, but a lot of times I put it on either 1+3, or just 1. I like to feel where the clave lies in tunes, and it frees me up to go more easily between 4/4 and 6/8 while improvising over just about anything.
 

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After some feedback in my Ensemble exam today, I have decided to really focus on my time. I've started being really disciplined about using a metronome for everything I do but I'm not sure that's enough. What other techniques or tips do you guys use to lock in your time?

Cheers
I think the answer is pretty much already in your question. If you want to play with a more accurate time feel, you just have to commit to practicing that way. For me, this means "visualizing" how any given scale/pattern is supposed to sound, and then not letting myself off the hook by playing it sloppily. Similarly, it means paying attention to the tricky parts in any given key--the ones that throw me off--and really grinding it out to make them work. Thinking about where the breaths go is pretty important too, I find.

In this sense, getting good timing is pretty much the same problem as getting good tone.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Some great ideas here.... thanks everyone :)
 

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i learned some simple drumset skills when i was teaching my kids percussion (they far exceeded me). it DOES improve your timing....
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i believe the key reasons are: it forces you to employ your body parts as a timekeeper; it gives physical feedback (to your body parts) at the timing points (when the skins/cymbals are hit).
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the drumset forces you to use both arms/hands and both legs/feet (hihat or double bass), so your whole mind/body gets 'trained' by forced involvement.
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if you don't go the percussion route, the suggested lesson to take away from this is to USE YOUR BODY (like stormott says). even subtle physics laws become visible when your body is involved that will help you keep time and be relaxed while doing it, like the fact that it takes time for an object to move from one place to another (ie: the time between beats) and the momentum and repitition of the movement foretell the coming 'beat' to your brain.
 

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Some Cuban-style percussion players that have much better time feel than most of the sax players will ever have say you need to learn to dance in order to play in proper time.
That's not about the linear metronome time anymore though but the "swing" concept they use (oversimplification, I know).

Watching regular ballroom dancers where I live (far from Cuba) makes me feel dancing would do the exact opposite.
 

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Necrophiliac?
 

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2 things:
- Your metronome shouldn't babysit you. Use one click per measure on whatever beat or offbeat you want. Make it swing!

- Work out your phrases and rhythms by clapping the microtime.
 

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If you are reading music, use the metronome on 1 and 3.

If you are improvising, try to find the original recording of the song and play along with it. It'll be very easy to tell when what you're playing isn't matching up, or groovin. I know it does for me.
 

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Really? I would say completely the opposite but, you know, whatever works..
I think it's harder when you're still getting used to moving and playing separately at the same time. I've seen people have this problem. However, once you get the hang of letting your feet, knees or hips kind of go on "autopilot," I agree with Rooty and stormott that it helps immensely with your time. I had a really incredible class in college (one of those that changes the way you think), where the professor made the case that moving not only helps YOUR time, but your audience's comprehension and comfort with your time. I think he was right on the money, there.
 

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Playing along with a metronome doesn't help one bit if you are not playing ON THE BEAT.

Now, that doesn't mean that, if you are in control, that you can't play behind, ahead or whatever, using the metronome as a reference but if someone is having basic problems with their time, first and foremost, they have to be able to play exactly dead center of the beat. The rest - e.g. playing around the beat - comes later.

SaxPunter, can you play quarter notes and eighth-notes exactly on the beats at tempos from mm = 50 to mm = 200?
 

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Playing along with a metronome doesn't help one bit if you are not playing ON THE BEAT.

Now, that doesn't mean that, if you are in control, that you can't play behind, ahead or whatever, using the metronome as a reference but if someone is having basic problems with their time, first and foremost, they have to be able to play exactly dead center of the beat. The rest - e.g. playing around the beat - comes later.

SaxPunter, can you play quarter notes and eighth-notes exactly on the beats at tempos from mm = 50 to mm = 200?
Exactly that's what I meant. If you put the metronome on "4 and" and manage to keep it there you have a steady beat to start with. Not saying I'm there yet though.
 

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When using a metronome, you have to learn to subdivide - in other words, as you hear the beat 1-2-3-4 (or whatever), you are thinking in your head 1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and. Then fit your eight notes to the rhythm in your head. Do not proceed to 16ths or triplets until you have the eighth notes down. It sometimes helps to hear internally a subdivision higher than what you are playing - for example, a line with eight notes, you would be marking 16th notes in your head (or triplets if you are in swing time, though triplets are correct for swing only at a few slower tempos...).

This has the effect of locking you onto the real tempo.

You can use a drum machine instead of a metronome for working on jazz or funk or rock or hip-hop time - I like kick on 1 and hi-hat on 2 and 4, works for all kinds of grooves.
 
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