How do you work on Timing?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Camarillo, Jul 31, 2021.

  1. Hello everybody,
    I did a quick search and didn't found other threads on this topic or maybe I'm not using the right word/definition.
    During the lockdown and social distancing periods my band didn't rehearsed at all, so my keyboard player and I went to record some covers.
    Talking about timing, to be on tempo so to speak, when I make mistakes is always because I'm slightly before beat. Not that much, but enough to be noticed on my ears.
    As far as I know it's fine to play a little off beat, but after. Off beat but before the transient of the drums sounds like an error to me.
    For sure I have to work on my technique, for sure the rush is connected with muscular memory and "anxiety" to the next not to play.
    So my question is: How do you work on timing?
    Is there specific exercises, tricks you use practicing with a metronome or a drums backing track?
    Peter Torning likes this.
  2. Gothic


    Apr 13, 2008
    Funny you should start this topic. I have the same thing myself. Thing is, the only time it shows up is when I do covers by myself. I seem to be rushing. When with a band, I was always spot on, both live and recording. Only way I manage it is to just relax and go with the flow, really. Just listen to the song, don't worry about what to play next. Sometimes I have to consciously think about it and step off the throttle but once I do relax it goes along fine.
  3. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    I would say reading and counting rhythms. This brings awareness of subdivision and the placement of notes within the measure. This book will cover everything you need in 4/4:
    4-4 Cover.jpg
    JRA, IamGroot, Marihino and 5 others like this.
  4. jallenbass

    jallenbass Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I like this and the subsequent videos on time and rhythm that Rich put out:

  5. That's exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!
    jallenbass likes this.
  6. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    I don't. It just comes natural for me. I don't count either.

    But, if I were going to work on timing, I'd get a beat buddy pedal. Because, I can't hear a metronome.
    equill likes this.
  7. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Guest

    Nov 22, 2017
    For me it's working with others and learning how to focus and listen deeply. Recording myself is very helpful. I have the same problem; I tend to rush a bit. When I record I have to focus intensely on keeping perfect time, and that means listening closely to the click and/or the other instrumentation. The more I do it, the better I get, but it all comes down to focus and something like a whole body awareness of exactly where I am in the music at all times.

    That's recording, which assumes a click and a need for precision. When I am playing along with others live I also have to stay focused because, in live situations, tempos fluctuate. This is also true when I'm playing along to recorded music that isn't tempo perfect.

    In these cases I have learned that I have to listen to everything in order to always know where the next "one" is going to be. Sometimes you get your best cues from the vocals and leads, believe it or not. I'm working with my drummer husband on this issue right now; he tends to go off when he's playing along to recorded music and I encourage him to listen to the singing in order to reorient himself back to one at every measure; often the vocal is the one thing that rises above the mix to be clearly audible.

    If you learn to reorient at every measure based on what's happening with the other musicians, you will find it easier to stay in time with them.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2021
  8. misterCRUSH

    misterCRUSH It's all's ALL jazz...

    Dec 27, 2015
    Fayetteville, Arkansas
    I use a metronome or a simple drum track and record myself playing. I listen back to make sure that I am on the beat. Then I focus on playing just behind the beat, and record and listen to that as well. Recording really allows me to hear clearly if I am doing what I am intending. I usually set the metronome to about 70-80 playing as if it were hitting the 2 and 4. This leaves me the responsibility of hitting the one on my own. It works for me :)
    cassanova and LBS-bass like this.
  9. Lowendchamp


    Jun 27, 2021
    Shelton WA
    Jam with a super badass drummer all the time and create your own pocket to his drums and in no time the timing of the drummer will wear off on you. That is what happened to me 25 years ago and I'm still a rock you could set a clock to.
  10. Real Soon

    Real Soon

    Aug 15, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    An exercise I saw somewhere, maybe actually in an offline book... playing quarter notes at super duper slow tempos, like 30 to 40 bpm, and nothing else, just timing maybe notes of a scale to it, or just one note... that is an infuriatingly tough thing to do at first. If you have a metronome that does 16th and 8th note pulses, start with those, then turn them off as you get more comfortable with subdividing internally.

    You can use that also practice hitting on, before, and after the beat. But that really comes after you get good at hitting right on the beat. Take your time, it'll be worth spending it on building the internal clock up.
    12BitSlab and DanAleks like this.
  11. David McIntire

    David McIntire

    Apr 5, 2020
    I take a walk. And count songs in my head against my Walk's "meter". Everyone walks in a tempo. And, everyone adjusts that tempo. So? Walk. Use cracks in a sidewalk as bar lines. Put a One after each "Bar Line". Then, count songs in your head as you walk.

    I walked a long way to school when I was a kid. Furra lotta years. That's how I entertained myself on the way. And still do today.
    tonym likes this.
  12. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    learn to play drums if you can or have the space to play. Then play with recordings, you dont need to play exactly everything, maybe just the hi-hat or the ride. Its a great way to internalize not only the tempo, but also the feel and groove of professional drummers. I feel its better that way because music is not exact like a metronome.
    WestyBassBob and LBS-bass like this.
  13. This may sound obvious but the reason that timing is important, is because you are playing with others. Therefore, it makes sense that the best way to improve your timing is to play with others.

    Many of us grew up in a school band environment, where playing with others was the daily norm. If you aren't playing in an ensemble, but working and studying on your own, the key is to start playing with others as soon as possible. Only time and experience doing this will solidify your timing.

    Timing is a contract, between all the players in the ensemble, and is subject to the ebb and flow of human ability to maintain tempo. Listening and adjusting is paramount.
    AGCurry, foal30, LBS-bass and 2 others like this.
  14. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    That reminds me of my younger days as a club cyclist. I used to run music in my head to maintain cadence. Different tunes for different terrain. Even a slow waltz (~90) can work well on a long climb.
    JRA and David McIntire like this.
  15. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Even when you aren't playing, to!low/count the beat, so in your head you are always in time.
  16. TreySonagras


    Aug 11, 2013
    When playing with another human I think timing is better because both people are adjusting. When playing with a track or click we are the only ones who can adjust.
    Gothic and SteveCS like this.
  17. I did a lot of recording with drum back tracks for fun. The drums were all perfectly in time so I had to learn how to play in perfect time.
    The best part of learning timing this way was that I could put the bass track next to the drum track and actually see where I was off time.
  18. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    Practice at speeds that are uncomfortably slow.

    Slow enough that you can't anticipate and automatically play the note.
    Slow enough that you can hear in real time if you were before, on, or after the beat.

    With enough slow practice, speed and timing takes care of itself.
    AGCurry, JRA, chris_b and 3 others like this.
  19. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Agree. Playing slowly is a very different kind of challenge to going flat out.
    foal30 likes this.
  20. DanAleks

    DanAleks Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult

    Mar 5, 2009
    Slow enough that you can go out & get a sandwich between clicks of the metronome.
    Play something you are VERY familiar with. Major scales, chromatic scales, single notes, or whatever.
    Then 3 or 4 days later, speed up the metronome by one click and play the same thing.
    Yellow Bang66 likes this.