Achieving excellent timing

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Joe Nerve, Jan 1, 2013.


  1. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

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    I have what I always considered really good timing. I used to test myself by counting off the second hand on my watch, looking away, and seeing how on I was after keeping beat for a minute or longer. Usually pretty dead on.

    I just started playing with an app called ReadRhythem. It teaches note values, but also tells you if you're milleseconds early or late on each beat as you tap along on a drum. Dots come up with red being early, green being dead on, and blue being late. Needless to say, I was amused to find that my timing isn't as precise as I thought, and now this app has become an awesome game for me... like the real musicians guitar hero. Shooting for all the same color lights, depending on whether I want to play on the beat or not.

    Then I had a second thought. Do I want to get that precice in my playing? Is there a chance that this might actually be harmful as opposed to helpful? Could one's playing become mechanical if they're too trained, or will it simply be a skill that can be pulled out of the hat when necessary? I lean towards believing the latter, but I wonder what ya'll think about this. If you ever eveb thought about this? :)

    Might there be such a thing as having TOO good timing?

    edit: here's the app for anyone interested https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rhythm-sight-reading-trainer/id396302174?mt=8
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    Don't think about rhythm, think about harmony and melody. Would being able to hear chord construction and function and/or the interval relationships that make up a melodic line more accurately and faster make your playing "more mechanical"? If the answer is yes, then tell me why.
    If the answer is no, then why should being able to hold the same time stream that you started playing in be "mechanical"?

    The only downside that I see is that it makes it harder to take seriously cats who say "Yeah, I don't need a metronome, I already have great time."
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    Here's a fun game; taken your app and set up an exercise. Use an outside metronome to get the bpm that the exercise is set for, so you can get the tempo without using the app 'nome. Plug headphones into your device, but don't put them on and, if there is a visual representation of the 'nome, cover it somehow so you can't see it. Then play the exercise and see how you do without the click. Let us know...
  4. Tupac

    Tupac

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    I've been looking for an app like this! On a Synth app I have, there's an option to set BPM by tapping it. I try to keep it on the same BPM while continuously tapping. Makes me realize how bad my timing just is. If only there was a way to hook it up to a bass and pluck. I think it's mostly just your nervous system, because my timing sure isn't improving :/
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  6. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

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    Hi Joe, good points, but I have never meet anyone who has had their sense of timing ruined because they worked it to finite tolerances.
    Finite tolerances are syncopated rhythms, so until anyone starts listening to and figuring out such rhythms they will never truly know how good they have really developed it.
    The mistake many fall into is actually becoming familiar with a pattern, not learning to count, so they think they have learned something when they have not.
    Point in hand, I had a student who could play 7/4, or so he believed, but the reality is he could play Money by Pink Floyd ( which he knew was 7/4) because he learned to feel the pattern by repetition of playing it, not learning to count it, so another 7/4 song (or a 5/4) or exercise caught him wanting because he could not play the shapes he had learned in sequence when he played Money.

    This is half the problem when working on timing and learning to count, are we actually just remembering a pattern or are we learning to count? So variation is the test, apply our skills to new and more complex rhythms, if we have truly learned we will be able to apply it be because we can count and feel what we count.
    The same applies to reading if it is the same scores being read, are we actualy learning to read better and faster, or just remembering the order of the notes better? Again the remedy is to read various and more complex parts and test the skill.

    For anyone that can read well in 4/4, no matter how many different 4/4 scores they work on it is the same skill being applied, not new skills being developed. Now that is not a contradiction of what I said about variations, its about using a different skill level.
    Sure the variation in order is a skill learned, but once that skill has be learned it is just a re-application of a learned skill.
    Once a certain level has been reached it becomes more about maintaining the skill not learning or developing it further, this is a point many fail to grasp, so they are working of trying to develop something that has been already developed.....they are working on ideas they already know...so it is not learning as such, its application.

    But add dotted notes, eighth and sixteenth rests to it and the read or development becomes much much harder. Add in complex time sigs. or some polyrhythms, as found in Latin or African music, add the counting of them once you have it down and immeadiatly the feeling takes on a new meaning, as the test is more relevant to the skill level being developed..I did not learn to memorise a pattern, I learned to count and feel it as an internalisation feel.

    It is quite pointless developing a sense of timing to a higher degree if all that is going to be tested against is variations of 4/4 or 3/4 songs and music. It needs to be tested against un-familier ideas, ideas that we are not used to, and see if we can get through them.
    So in all I would say, practice and develop ideas way above what you actually use because it becomes about "what we have in the tank" so to speak.
    If two players play a piece of music 100% perfect how do we, of we had to, rate them?
    Well it is the un-seen part that comes into it, if one uses 95% of his abilities to play it perfect and the other only 10% then one has 5% in the tank where as the other 90%.
    So if both then have a drop in performance of say 20%, being tired, ill or whatever, then one of them is in trouble, where as the other one still can play it perfect because it does not demand his fully available skills to play it.
    So by all means develop away and improve skills because it will never be a minus point to anyone that already has the 'feel'.....it may be to a player that has not developed a sense of feel because working with a nome or similar device is not teaching them anything.....it's just moving around what they already know.:)
  7. Tupac

    Tupac

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    What's the name of the app? Can't find it. Is it Rhythm Sight Reading Trainer?
  8. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

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  9. ksandvik

    ksandvik

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    People get fixated on perfect timing. A lot of good music has a certain swing, like funk, which provides a human soul and touch to music.
  10. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

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    That's precicely the point of this thread.

    Not that long ago I did some funk recordings with a band, and a young producer who was having a love affair with protools. We got into a heated argument when he started taking my bass tracks and lining them up with the kick drum. I lost the argument (wasn't my project) and the outcome of those recordings was absolutely horrible. I don't know anyone who can listen to them without getting uncomfortable, and nobody is quite sure why they're uncomfortable - they just are. I'm an old school dude that's recorded pretty much everything of mine with a live band, then overdubs. Not counting stuff w/ programmed drums as in the vid below. But I'd never line my playing up with the drums. It either feels right or it doesn't.

    When I stated playing bass a couple of decades ago, my timing wasn't the greatest. Wasn't bad, but I spent a lot of years playing with a metronome and I feel it really tuned up my inner clock. I can easily tell when a drummer is speeding up or slowing down, and when I'm playing with a solid drummer I feel like I'm on automatic pilot. Notes sort of just fly out of me and sound awesome. With a crappy drummer, it takes work and never really sounds awesome (regardless of how much anyone wants to argue that).

    So the thought and concern here was/is, if playing with this new toy has the same effect as working with a metronome did, is there the possibility that my internal clock will become tweaked enough to start sounding sterile. I really don't think so, but I entertained the thought and wonder what others have to say regarding that.
  11. blixild

    blixild Supporting Member

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    I agree with this. I have played with drummers whose timing was TOO perfect, and it didn't jive in certain genres. My high school jazz ensemble director used to say "if you're on the beat, you're early" when playing old swing tunes.

    Later on in life I went through a period where I focused on playing as precisely on the beat as I could. After a while of being frustrated that the band didn't sound tight, I let go of the notion completely and let my ears tell me where to put the notes... and suddenly the groove improved tenfold.

    The flip side of this is that if you practice precise timing, you can better control where the notes are being placed in time. But I still believe that your ears should have the final say, as is usually the case in anything music-related.
  12. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

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    Precise technique has to do with being able to put the note any place it needs to be. Musicianship is knowing where that place is. They are both necessary goals, but are reached from different directions. Apps like Joe is talking about and general metronome work are very good tools to build technique. Listening and playing with others is the way to build musicianship.
  13. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

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    There ya go!

    And there ya go, again. And I agree. Was going to write in my last post that I wish they had an app with a crappy drummer and score card for being on, and in the pocket with that. :) Fortunately or unfortunately, I play with enough of them to not really need it.
  14. Russell L

    Russell L

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    Ultimately, it boils down to being able to fit in with real musicians at real gigs, a thing that will never be precise. Nonetheless, everyone should "aspire" to perfect timing in order to be the best they can. Hopefully, each player has done his homework in some way or another, just like the OP is doing.

    (Sometimes I try to match the numbers on the microwave without looking when heating my coffee. Just checkin', ya know, lol).
  15. Tupac

    Tupac

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    That's why I was going to say :) If you can nail it right on the beat every time, you have enough control to put the beat wherever you want. If you hit a bullseye every time, you hit the outside ring of a target every time if you wanted to, know what I mean?
  16. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Supporting Member

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    Joe, what might be an interesting idea with this app is, since it already shows you if you're late or early on hitting the beat, is using that to your advantage. For someone that is not that comfortable with playing behind the beat, an app that you could use to INTENTIONALLY get the blue dots consistently, every time, might make this more interesting. The same with someone wanting to learn how to stay on top of the beat.
  17. Joebone

    Joebone Supporting Member

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    What could possibly be the problem with developing a finer sense of time and the conscious ability to control and implement it, or to simply have it in your mental tool kit without consciously thinking about it?

    This sounds like a marvelous app.
  18. blixild

    blixild Supporting Member

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    Does anyone know of any comparable apps for Android?
  19. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

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    Downloaded it this morning, and had great fun checking it out.
    I can see how some people may obsess on getting all greens, but I found that my reds and blues had a certain pattern in relation to the greens. Depending on the phrasing/grouping I had a quite consistent groupings to my "mistakes", especially after rests or dotted notes I would play blues notes before settling on to green notes
    I was usually behind the beat when hitting the first note after a rest or dotted note so I would play blues then greens.
    In groups using eighth and sixteenth notes I would find a few red notes in there, so I would start the group on a green, have a few reds mixed in, but more often or not I would usually start each group with a green.

    Variations would occur depending on time sig., the rests and of course those dotted notes, but those variations are me as I missed very few notes to register a x as a miss.

    Where I found a revelation was using the fingers I pluck with to tap with, rather than a single finger, and switching to my left hand (my fretting hand) and using all four fingers.
    This showed a remarked difference in results with lots of misses, which I can only put down to my injuries (I suffered a broken neck four years ago, and as a result has permanent nerve damage that affects my hands) which creates a 'mis-fire' between what I think and the time I react to it.

    So I will use this app. for the next year and see if it can help repair some of that mis-fire by giving me a visual and audible reference to react to, and see if it can sync my brain and fingers to use this app, then apply it to then sync my fingers to bass.
    As it is music based this could help me discover more about my type of injury and its relationship to the peripheral nervous system. If the data shows results I can compare, substantiate and verify, this could be very useful to others with similar problems.
    Thanks for the link, cool app.

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