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I need help finding a starting place

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by brokenguitarist, Sep 25, 2020.

  1. brokenguitarist


    Sep 13, 2020
    I've been playing bass for a little over 3 months. I played guitar for a couple years, but my rhythm SUCKS! How should I learn rhythm? I can't subdivide for trash lol. I feel like when I think of the concept of counting I focus too much on counting and lose feeling the song...

    I've been using chord sheets for songs I like and playing the root notes when the chords happen, but I'm not counting at all. I'm having fun doing this, but I don't want to be trapped here. What should I do?
  2. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    If you can play on the one in a way that moves you, you're on the right path and everything will fall into place. Start simple and build from there. Forget subdivision for now. You are the bass player. You bring the funk.
  3. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I've played in about 100 bands, and performed in probably over 2000 shows (many of them being 3 set gigs). I can count on one hand the amount of times I'v actually had to COUNT in my head.

    Unless you're playing things with odd timings, the idea that we must count is in my experience a myth.

    Regarding timing in general, though some argue this, a metronome changed my life about 25 years ago. A guitarist I played with highly recommended my learning to practice along with one, and within a few weeks it changed me. My playing improved exponentially, and I felt when I got back into a band situation like I was on auto pilot. The practice seemed to have tuned my inner clock, as well as my listening. There are lots of exercises one can find here or by Googling. IMO, that's all you really need. And to stop listening to whoever is telling you that you need to count, unless you find you really do. I guess some might, but I'm more than certain most don't.
  4. brokenguitarist


    Sep 13, 2020
    Dude this is the simplest advice I've ever gotten about this! That makes everything I've been worrying about and complicating about timing so simple! Thanks man! I love funk! :bassist:
    Reedt2000, EddiePlaysBass and Gorn like this.
  5. brokenguitarist


    Sep 13, 2020
    Bruh y'all have helped me so much. This simplified everything. I feel freer now! I'll look up those exercises to improve my inner clock... I'm not that good at using a metronome, do I count while it's ticking or just play on the ticks without counting? Man I feel so free!
  6. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    For me, the counting was always intuitive. As I said in the last post, it might not be the same for everyone. If you can play along to tunes without counting and not trip up, then its not necessary.

    You might also want to break it up by playing along with drum beats you find all over you tube, or with drummer apps on your phone. If you DO struggle with the count, it'll make it easier for you feel the one. With simple 4/4 beats it'll always be the kick drum. Not something you'll have to think about either, you'll just feel and know it.

    Last note is that I'd practice at all different tempos, also. Start with something you can completely nail with no problem, and then work at speeding up and slowing down. Playing to super slow tempos you can find some really challenging exercises. Like, if you wanted to count, making each click count for 4 quarter notes and playing only on the 2nd beat of each click. But that's complicating things.

    My best advice... play and have fun. Thinking too much can be the enemy :) .
  7. Once you start playing with a metronome the timing will start to come. A good test to see how much work you need is to set the metronome at such a slow speed that it only clicks for every other beat of the tempo you're trying to play. This will show you right away how good your timing is and you'll be able to see it improve as you start to nail the second (third) click!
  8. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
  9. brokenguitarist


    Sep 13, 2020
    I'll try that with the metronome Joe linked! So am I trying to hit the space between clicks or hit the every other notes? Or am I playing as if it was ticking every beat and playing 4 beats when I only hear 2?

    Thanks again guys, this helps so much!

    Edited for clarification
  10. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Yeppers. Metronome is a good idea, really some kind of ticker is a must have. Fender app for your phone has a free tuner and metronome and a handful of decent beats and you can set the speed really slow, which I think is harder to learn that faster tempos. The Fender app metronome goes down to 10 BPM which is really at the way bottom of Larghissimo, the slowest indication.
    brokenguitarist likes this.
  11. Mark White

    Mark White

    Sep 10, 2019
    This may have some helpful advice for you:

  12. 4stringfarley

    4stringfarley Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2015
    Cajun Country
    Tap something while you listen to a song. Table top, thigh while driving. Find that One beat.
    brokenguitarist likes this.
  13. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    For playing with a metronome, start playing with one quarter note per click. Play something that you don't need to think about...open strings, a major scale, etc. The goal is to work on timing, not fingering. Start at a slow tempo, about 60 BPM until you are dead on the clicks for at least 5 minutes, then kick the tempo up, play for 5 minutes, repeat. Keep track every day of the highest tempo you can play at accurately. Over a period of weeks, you should see that number slowly rise. Remember: if you cannot accurately play a line slowly, you cannot play it fast. Do not rush through this!

    Once you have that together, cut the tempos in half (start at 30) and treat the clicks as 2 and 4 (one-click-three-click), namely a backbeat. Then do the same exercise of playing for 5 minutes, advancing the tempo, repeat.

    Once you have that together, move to one-click exercises...cut the tempo in half again (start at 15 or as low as the metronome allows) and treat each click as 1 (click-2-3-4). When you have that together, do it again but treat the click as 2 (1-click-3-4), then as 3, then as 4. This exercise will show you whether or not your internal clock is solid. At first, you may find yourself playing the 1 too early (rushing) or too late (dragging).

    It can easily take you months to work through this, don't rush it. Do some metronome work every day for at least a half hour, then practice something else for the rest of your session. Once you have mastered the single click exercise you can stop using the metronome except in cases where you need to measure a tempo or for breaking down a part with tricky syncopations.
    Trent in WA and brokenguitarist like this.
  14. BobDeRosa

    BobDeRosa Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 16, 2012
    Finger Lakes area of New York State
    Owner, Tritone Jazz Fantasy Camps
    You've gotten excellent advice from TBers here, but also remember a few big-picture things. First, 3 months is like a minute in your musical adventure. Lots of us have been working on this stuff for three decades. Second, the music preceded the codification and notation: The sound and feel came way before anyone thought about subdividing or anything else. And third, metronomes are great, but remember that your heart is a metronome of sorts, too. Feel first, then analyze.

    Check out these fabulous players. They might be thinking about subdivisions, but I doubt it. They're feeling the music, you can tell.
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2020
    brokenguitarist and Huw Phillips like this.
  15. Freddy T

    Freddy T

    Mar 15, 2014
    The most important thing in rhythm is the meter - the steady quality of the beat. Like others have said, you can develop this by tapping your fingers, your feet, bobbing your head, shaking your butt, etc., to the regular beat of any song. Working with a metronome is the best way to get your meter rock solid.

    Counting is like snapping a numerical grid to the music so you can keep track of where you are in the song - this matters mostly for when you want to talk about the music (as opposed to actually playing it). It can be helpful to talk about music before playing it, but most music is not that complicated.

    An intro count for a song is very important. That first beat of the song is the "One" everyone refers to. The "one" cycles over and over. In most songs it cycles after every 4 beats (4/4 time), and less frequently, in other songs, it cycles after every 3 beats (3/4 time). Simply put, most popular music can be counted in either of these two basic counting frameworks. There are other more complicated time signatures in certain sings, and in those cases just keep your focus on the steady meter and the chord changes and you will always be fine.

    For 4/4 time it's good to learn how to feel/hear the sixteenth note subdivision: One-ee-And-uh-Two-ee-And-uh-Three-ee-And-uh-Four-ee-And-uh (repeat from the One). Listen to the high hat, especially in r&b tunes, to see how drummers play all or parts of a sixteenth note pattern.

    For 3/4 time, it's just the three beats per measure: Tri-puh-let (repeat either slow or fast, double time or half time).

    Meter, or the steadiness of the beat is most important. Metronome work will get you solid. Then just pick the beats you like to play on.
  16. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    Lots of good insights here already. The only thing I have to add (and it has been mentioned previously) is that 3 months is the blink of an eye in terms of learning any instrument. As such, it would not be uncommon for your technique to be less than well developed at this point, and preventing the tight rhythmic execution you strive for.

    Obviously continuing to develop proper hand positioning and fluidity/economy of motion should be on your priority list. To debunk your "I suck at rhythm" beliefs, practice clapping or tapping out rhythms, something that won't require the specific and somewhat unnatural movements your hands have to make when playing a stringed instrument.

    Chances are your sense of rhythm is just fine. You're just tripping over your fingers the way we all do in the beginning :D
  17. TreySonagras


    Aug 11, 2013
    Practicing with a metronome is one of the best things for improving timing. To make it more fun, I use a drum track with different styles. Victor Wooten has a great video lesson on using a metronome.
  18. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I think the benefit of learning to count while playing is not so much the 1234 but the subdivisions. 1e+a, 2e+a etc. But that's only in the practice room and not while playing music with others although the great drummer Bernard Purdie says that he always subdivides when he plays.
    jchrisk1 and LBS-bass like this.
  19. foolforthecity

    foolforthecity Supporting Member

    Loosen up and feel the groove... MAKE the groove. Don’t get caught up at this point in the technical minutiae. You’ll be surprised as to how the bassist can steer the band’s sound.
    Kipp Harrington and Reedt2000 like this.
  20. I've never been a fan of metronomes! Way too sterile for me... besides, when you start playing with some other chaps, you won't be able to set a metronome to that. You're all playing off each other. That's where the real feel and groove come in.

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