Internal Clock Issues

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by whitenoise, Dec 9, 2005.

  1. whitenoise


    Jan 11, 2003

    Recently one of my goals has been to improve my internal clock. Pretty much all my practice is done to a metronome or some form of backing already but when I take it away my timing gets pretty sloppy. One exercise I have been doing is to have one bar with a drum beat followed by nothing. This has improved my timing somewhat. I also have begun regularly recording myself, which is also helping. However, I still am still very bad in the following areas;

    - I'm not good at playing behind or ahead of the beat deliberately and I have a hard time telling if I'm doing either accidentally when playing.

    - I don't know what I should be counting (ie. 8ths, 16ths) when I'm trying to my timing.

    Are there any other exercises that will help me with these areas and improve my timing. Also, who should I check out to get a good idea of grooves that are behind/ahead of the beat. Any advice/suggestions are much appreciated.
  2. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    Are you playing jazz? If you're playing jazz, I wouldn't count when your not playing, I would just sing the melody in your head. As far as playing ahead of or behind the beat, don't worry about that when your alone, and when you're playing with a drummer, just try to find a groove that feels good (and that's not chronically speeding up or slowing down).

    One excircise that I used to do is to set the metronome at a really low tempo and have it play beat "1" of every bar. I tried to do this with an online metronome so it would hit beat "1" of every other bar but I found that that online metronome's timing was off, I know it's kinda hard to believe.
  3. lowerclef


    Nov 10, 2003
    For new music (stuff you don't have down cold), don't use a metronome at all. You need to get the notes under your fingers first, which means playing the phrases very SLOWLY and EVENLY, out of tempo. Once you start developing your muscle memory, you will be able to play the passage all the way through.

    Then, use a metronome (but NOT the kind you wind up - they stray pretty far sometimes - get an electric or battery-operated one) and set the click to play on 2 and 4, like a drummer's snare. If you can learn to groove to that with no extra accompaniment, you will be well on your way to developing good time.

    As for counting, try tapping your left foot on the quarter note (1-2-3-4).
  4. edfriedland


    Sep 14, 2003
    Tucson, AZ
    As far as what to count to help your timing... it depends on the feel of the groove you're playing. A shuffle, or swing groove is triplet based, so that's what you want to feel. An eighth note rock or R&B tune means 8ths, a 16th note funk means 16ths... However, counting should only be used for getting it together, to learn the parts. Once you know the line, you need to FEEL the pulse.

    One thing I suggest is listening to the rhythm of the line and come up with a rhythmic sentence that matches it. Use whatever syllables feel natural to you, you could even come up with lyrics. If you can SING the rhythmic content of the line in tempo, then you'll have better luck grooving it from the inside out. Don't forget to use sounds to fill in the rests, they are integral to the entire feel.

    I illustrate this and many other groove related concepts in my book Bass Grooves. (Didn't know I couldn't post without book spam?)
  5. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    There's a lot of good books out there. Ed's book is a very book because it addresses the needs you are talking about, AND it talks about a number of different styles, also very important.

    The idea of setting the metronome for beats 1 and 3 only is a good idea. Setting it for beats 2 and 4 is, I think, better. A jazz teacher I had once suggested this and it really helps build a good 'flow' kind of feel to the rhythm.

    Slow tempos are harder to keep time than fast. Start with the tempo that you normally walk and gradually work faster and slower from whatever that tempo is.

    Remember, this is all a process not an event. Practicing bass is easier than practicing patience.
  6. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    You can stabilise what you play by feeling the pulse at comfortable tempo... If it's fast, say 240bpm, feeling crochets as quavers at 120bpm is a lot easier. Whereas a really slow blues, say 60bpm or slower, you subdivide into triplets, i.e. feeling each quaver in 12/8 rather than 4/4. So essentially you feel everything at a nice moderate tempo :)

    All the methods mentioned above are great, especially using the click on beats 2 and 4, or just one beat 1, 2, 3, or 4, etc.

    Obviously no one has perfect time, but in my experience I've improved most a a musician when playing with people who place a great importance on solid tempo and time. I play with some people who arent so hot on time and it is a bit like bad medicine at times :rollno:
  7. blujax01


    Nov 16, 2005
    Wow, what an epiphany!

    As a drummer learning to play bass, the above comments have given me great insight as to why my bass player and I sometimes wrestle over "one".

    When we drummers talk about playing ahead or behind the beat, we're referring to where we play 2 & 4. But 1 & 3 have to be where they belong...for everyone.

    1 & 3 are the reference points upon which everything else is based. That's where the groove was, is, and forever shall be.

    If you're relying on my 2 & 4 to tell where the beat is, you'll be sorely disappointed. I'm very likely to play a flam a full 16th ahead or drag a buzz an 8th behind. Or skip it entirely, as the situation requires...


    One and three folks. That's where the action is. Listen to my right foot, it'll never lead you astray. Trust me.
  8. Zachass

    Zachass Peavey Partizan


    1 and 3 are traditionally the most important, most emphasized beats, keep your metronome set to 1 and 3 when practicing.
  9. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    I would argue that, while 1 and 3 are stronger reference points(in SOME musics) they are NOT where the groove is. The GROOVE is the space inbetween those notes. But, without those notes there is no groove. dig?

    As far as timing. I study the metronome away from my instrument. I usually begin with feeling a tempo in my head then guessing what it is and checking with the 'nome. In some tempo ranges I'm consistently accurate, in others I'm way off. So I pay attention to that, and strive to get accurate all over.

    It is very important to feel the space between notes as similar to notes themselves. I think, many people struggle with internal time because, they feel notes fine, but they don't feel space. Well, a space, a rest, is like a note that wasn't played. It doesn't have to be any harder to feel than notes that were played.

    Reducing the clicks that are guiding you will greatly improve your internal meter, but don't jump off the deep end so quickly. One great exercise you might want to try; Take a drum machine sequencer(if you have, if not, there are computer programs out there), sequence a 4/4 groove that, every 4 bars, removes a bar. Or, removes half a bar, or removes just one note. This gets you grooving.

    Playing off 1 and 3 is good, playing off 2 and 4 is good. The key is to feel them all simultaneously. Internal time is really all about sensitivity.

    When it comes to counting. There is something to be said about counting within the idiom you are playing. But also, don't be afraid to just count where you're feeling it. Me and my roommate often entertain the fact that he usually feels 1/8th note triplets and I usually feel 1/4 note triplets. We'll both be 'right' and fitting the meter, but approaching it completely different.

    The thing is, if your internal clock is good enough, it doesn't really matter where you count it, because you'll be sensitive to all the spaces and subdivisions going on.

    Of course, this is all ime, imo ymmv...etc. just offering some of my musings.

    My obligatory word of caution though. Be wary of diving too deep with feeling subdivisions, you might end up feeling only accents on every 3rd e or uh, and you think it's tremendously hip, but mere mortals will just blink, completely unable to feel it. :)
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I once heard a great explanation on the Monkees TV show about the difference between 2 and 4 and 1 and 3. 1 and 3 is rock, 2 and 4 is soul/R&B. That pretty much crystallized everything for me. And it also explains why white people clap along with the wrong beats.
  11. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002

    Yea, I opted to leave this part out of my post, because it's kinda racist. But the old saying goes "white people feel music on 1 and 3, black people feel it on 2 and 4".

    The anecdote that follows is of my friend from rural michigan who went to a country/western bar with a live band. The (100% white crowd) could NOT clap on 2 and 4 to save their lives. The band even tried to get them to clap on 2 and 4, and the crowd did it for a little while, but then as soon as the bandleader stopped, the crowd, like clockwork reverted to 1 and 3.

    I mean, neither is right or wrong, but it's fascinating how different people feel things differently(thus the inspiration of my thread in misc.)
  12. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I don't think it's racist if it's true. And it's always been my experience that it is. However, I'd say that the younger generation of white people are understanding how to clap on 2 and 4 a lot better these days. Probably a result of races interacting closer these days, which is a good thing.
  13. blujax01


    Nov 16, 2005
    Just a difference in how we perceive the same thing. IMO. 1&3 are the cake, 2&4 ( or the "and" of four, etc.) are the icing? Take "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith, fer instance. The groove is built on the 1&3 but the icing on the cake is the accented 8th following the fourth beat.

    Good thread.
  14. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    The ol' clap on 1+3 vs 2+4 thing... the reason clapping on 1+3 is wrong is because the sound of the clap signifies the upbeat of 2+4.
    Essentially, clapping on 1+3 doesnt mean you feel the time any less solidly... just means you're groove is all messed up! :D

    Clapping on 1+3 is very European so probably stems from marches (ONE two ONE two), so it does seem obvious that the down beat should be felt with a foot and the upbeat with a clap? I guess it's probably a history of poor musical education that is to blame?

    Obviously, more people 'get it' these days beacause soul, rnb, funk, etc, has been mainstream for decades.

    Just to add, electrionc house music (mmp tss, mmp tss, mmp tss, mmp tss) is the new music for people with no sense of groove :rollno: