Rhythm is a vital aspect of learning music. But, often rhythm can be the hardest bit to learn! Students usually enjoy playing the chords, but it is the rhythm of the melody that most of them struggle with the most. More so, reading rhythm and feeling rhythm are two separate things.
So, we’re going to look at four techniques you can start using today to improve your sense of rhythm and timing when you play music.
Tuesday, June 14th
1. Counting and Slow Tempo
When you want to perform specific songs, remember that they are written with a particular tempo. Hence, you are expected to play them at that same tempo. And to learn how to do this, it’s recommended that you practice with a metronome.
Most common time signatures will count up to four in each bar, but you might find some counting to 3, 5, or 6, for example.
When you are familiar with counting, leave the metronome ticking and try to play along with your instrument. You may find it helpful to tap each beat with your foot to continue “counting” even as you play.
You usually start on the first beat, as most pieces will begin on “1”. If you want, you can also play the original track in the background as a reference to make sure your rhythm and timing are correct. However, this requires careful synchronization of the metronome with recording.
If you find the rhythms challenging to play in time, reduce the tempo on the metronome.
2. Record and Play Back
When you feel you are getting better, try playing your instrument without the original song or metronome. If you still think you need some rhythm reference, try to tap your foot quietly or gently move your head to feel the tempo better.
Now take a sound recorder and record your performance. When you are finished, enable the metronome again and play back your recording in sync with it.
Please pay attention to the parts with complex rhythms and their timing, as those are usually the ones that will take time to master. If the metronome ticking stays in sync from start to end, you can tell that your timing is good. You know you have a good rhythm if you hear each note appear precisely when it should be compared with the steady beat. For extra confirmation, you can compare your recorded performance with the original song recording.
3. Divide the Beat
Professionals who want to ensure their rhythm and timing are perfect use a simple technique called “beat dividing.” This time no metronome is involved because, as the name describes, the beat’s regular tempo is further divided.
What’s the advantage? Well, it means that even if almost all notes arrive simply on the beat, you’ll know exactly where to place it when one does appear in between beats.
Without subdividing the beat like this, you have a big empty space between each beat, and it’s difficult to place notes accurately. With subdividing, you are essentially creating a lot more markers during each bar which let you place notes in precisely the right places between beats.
4. Keep Rhythm and Timing in Mind
Rhythm and Timing are so fundamental to music that they are skills you will continually sharpen and develop as you improve as a musician. Don’t expect overnight mastery, but keep them “front of mind” whenever you practice music.
This article is a re-post, with minor modifications, of “How to Improve Your Rhythm and Timing” published on musical-u.com