Questions on time keeping..

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Aaiieeee, Dec 17, 2007.

  1. Aaiieeee


    Dec 14, 2007
    As far as I know, I have no timing really. Im self taught (for two years now) and rely totally on the timing of any songs I play along to so I am aware of the need to improve my timing. I was reading a thread just now about using a metronome (even tried some of the things out in it) but what i want to know is:

    When playing are you conciously thinking (if says its 4/4) "1...2...3...4...1...2...3...4..." (that is to say, you are keeping track of each beat of the bar) or do you just like know from experiance where you are and what beat your on? Or do you just use the drummer to count to?
    I was told that the dummer keeps time and the bassest keeps rhythm? Ive never played with anyone before so its not an issue but nevertheless timing is important, I know that!

    When I play a song I have no idea how long any of the notes are, I just know from the song and memory when to stop playing that note and when to play the next one. By that i mean I dont count or anything when playing. Is this bad?

    I tried to tap my foot for each beat of a bar while playing on a few songs and found it really difficult and my foot tapping tended to speed up and competely go out of sync to the actual timing based on what I was playing (like Id do doubled tabs because it kinda felt like thats how it should go)? Is this a self control thing or just I have no timing?

    Any thoughs on what Ive said? Dont know if I made myself clear but any advice on time keeping tips etc would be good! I do have a metronome but thus far un-used really. What Im really after is the right attitude to timing which I dont think I have.
  2. Marcury

    Marcury High and Low

    Aug 19, 2007
    Mid Hudson Valley, NY
    At first when you are learning, counting is crucial. If you don't there really is no way to gain the experience to "feel" it later. Experience comes from doing it, there is no other way I know of. Eventually it becomes integrated in your body and you feel it, but sometimes it helps to go back to counting when you have to play a particularly complex rhythm. It also becomes necessary again when learning odd time signatures.

    Rhythm is a function of time, you don't get one without the other. That is why the combination of Drummer and Bassist is referred to as the Rhythm Section. Ideally every player keeps time for themselves. The bass player is the bridge between the rhythm and the harmony. BTW, I realize the above is a typo but dummer is an accurate description of a lot of drummers.

    You learn how long the note values (length) are by counting. And yes I would say it is a problem. Without knowing this it is harder to learn and harder to communicate.

    If your foot taps are speeding up, then I can only imagine your playing is too. As far as the double taps most rock is played with an eight-note pulse: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and, but the correct way to tap this out is still 1234. Tapping only on the downbeats makes it possible to feel the other beats much more effectively.

    A good exercise is to set the metronome to a relatively slow setting @ 60 bpm and clap along with it. The idea is to clap exactly on each click. If you do this correctly the claps will drown out the metronome clicks so you won't hear them. some people also suggest keeping the metronome on in the background when you are doing other things so that the click becomes ever present in your mind.
    Beff Juckley likes this.
  3. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    You need to develop an internal sense of good time, but there are times that you might want to count. Also many feel time in subdivisions it is easier especially on slow tunes. So instead of feeling or thing 1,2,3,4 you are thinking/feel 16th's 1-e-and-a. 2-e-and-a, 3-e-and-a. 4-e-and-a or in a 12/8 Blues feel the triplet bounce 1-2-3, 2-2-3 ,3-2-3..... As to counting any artist throw in different measures like Sting and Beatles have bars of 2/4. 3/4. etc mixed in a 4/4 tune. So sometime you might want to count to navigate thru those bars.

    As for your drummer a lot of drummer don't have good time and then in some situation there is no drummer so as bass player you are the time keeper. Since the ProTools era bands on recordings have better time, but not all.

    Tapping your foot isn't necessary, but good to move something to help feel the time. When I sit and play I tend to tap my foot and if my time starts to drift I notice my foot has stopped tapping. Standing lots of things to move or move my whole body most the time nothing drastic just something to feel the time with.

    Besides working with a metronome while playing get a book of rhythms and clap them with a metronome. Not only will if help you learn to read, but being your bass isn't in your hands you can really focus on feel of upbeats and downbeats, four measures, eight measures, glance at and feel your foot being up on the 'And's" of beats and down on the beats. All parts of internalizing time. The Louis Bellson book "Modern Reading Text in 4/4 For All Instruments" is a classic and great for clapping rhythms to, your drummer should have one since Bellson was a drummer.

    As a bass player having a good sense of time is critical. A simple solid bass player will good time will get far more work than a some shredder with bad time. Shredding gets old fast, but a solid groove appreciated by all.

    There are threads on metronomes with good suggestions on how to practice with them.
    Beff Juckley likes this.
  4. Deacon_Blues


    Feb 11, 2007
    IMO, timing comes at least partially from feeling a groove and the technical ability to play it flawlessly. Technical difficulties always affect the grove negatively.

    If you have a hard time tapping your foot in time, give the metronome a chance instead. It's way tighter than your foot anyway. You know you're on a good way when the metronome becomes your friend instead of being an enemy, i.e. you feel comfortable playing along to it in most tempos and you don't get irritated on that annoying piece of ****. ;) (I used to hate metronomes but as my timing improved, it turned the other way around).

    I never think "1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4.." or count the bars. It's a feel thing too, as the groove. The only exception is when the rhythm is hardly audible or there's a polyrhythmical or otherwise very strange rhythmical pattern making things confusing. (One example on this is Celine Dion's "I Don't Know" from the record "Falling Into You", from the time I still respected her as a truly great artist).

    It's great that you have noticed the importance of timing and wants to improve it. It's the first step of getting better at it.

    Good luck!
  5. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I would encourage you to get handy with reading and writing rhythms as quickly as possible. I held back for years , but as I began to practice and study notated rhythms, my awareness and sense of timing has improved dramatically.

    I'm still no fluent sight reader by any means, but the ability to write down what i am hearing or playing, while it takes some effort, Is invaluable to nailing the feel of part.
  6. Teacher needed... We can explain 1e&a2e&a... until the cows come home, but unless you have someone there to guide you, this is going to be an exercise in futility.

    Seeing printed music and having someone explain the relationship between what you are seeing on the page (the time signature, the notes in the bars, the rests, etc...) and how you play it will go a long way toward you understanding "time" as it applies to music. Otherwise, you are just learning "Feel" - knowing where "the one" is and whether or not you are anticipating a beat or laying back.
  7. A teacher will help greatly, so will a metronome, I also think reading will help. It will force you to count and to know where 1 is, you'll also have to deal with rhythmic figures that will force you to count.
  8. Just J

    Just J Guest

    Jul 27, 2007
    I've had problems with both the backup singer and my rhythm guitarist in this aspect. They have absolutely zero feel for time, so they constantly come in off beat and can't "feel" the beat at all. It's really annoying having to tell someone "you're late" 16 times before they realize they're playing on the "and" and not the 1.

    After a while you'll begin (hopefully) to develop a feel for where you are in the beat.
  9. MKgroove


    Jan 2, 2008

    I started about two months ago, and have been teaching myself through the Hal Leonard Bass Method books (plan on getting a teacher this summer, but working on my own until then).

    Anyway, I have a question about counting. I've been counting and using a metronome from the beginning, but I was wondering: does there come a time when you stop counting and just keep time naturally with the music, or will you always be counting do matter how experienced you are?

    I ask because I always assumed counting was just part of playing music, but my brother (who has been playing guitar casually for about 10 years now) says he doesn't bother counting and just learns new songs by playing along with them.

    So is it just one or the other, or does it vary from person to person?

  10. jschwalls


    Sep 4, 2007
    Savannah GA
    I had a student 2 weeks ago who had horrible timing and couldn't even hear when he was off beat.. I showed him some very simple exercises and had him buy a metronome. I showed him how to use the exercises with the metronome. In 1 week he improved dramatically. He focused so hard on playing each note of the exercise on the click, that his brain basically became obsesed with it. Now he has really nice tempo.
    All the exercises I gave him were based on groups of 4 .. He totally now understands how 4/4 works., where as before he had no clue.

    If you can find a teacher or more experinced musician, do so. it will help.
  11. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    I think it varies from person to person. I've been a trained musician for the last 26 years and I can say that for the most part I don't count "1 2 3 4" to myself unless I am sightreading some tricky rhythms and even then I'm not thinking "1 2 3 4".

    I feel music as a "grid" and I can zoom in on individual beats or 16 bar sections depending on what I'm trying to do. However there is always a subdivision of the pulse going on in my head "TIC tic TIC tic TIC tic TIC tic" which helps my tempo.

    I think all of that just comes with experience. While you were reading this post did you have to look at every letter of every word to make up each sentence? No, you just read it because you have experience. But if I said "Je t'aime les aubergines" you would have to stop and read it closely.

    I guess the big answer to your question is after a period of time you can push counting to the back of your mind and do it subconsciously while you think about other parts of your playing. But don't stop counting :)
  12. After you've got the whole beat/rhythmn counting thing down, it's really helpful to keep 8 bar groupings in mind. Having a strong grasp of 2/4/8 measure phrases can help out a lot if your drummer isn't good enough to set up new sections with appropriate fills.

    You may be crazy lost during a 16 bar B section, but if you can hear those 8 bar phrases then getting back on track when the next section comes back around will be much easier, and who knows...people might just think you were taking it "out" to be hip. When you know, you were lost and fumbling! :)
  13. nsmar4211

    nsmar4211 Guest

    Nov 11, 2007
    I only count consciously if I think I'm going to get lost......but somewhere way back in my reptilian brain there's a constant count and click going. My marching band always had a Dr. Beat hooked up to a megaphone.... TIC tic tic tic TIC tic tic tic.... ONE two three four ONE two three four.... I still hear that thing to this day! You have to just play with a metronome over and over and over. And set it so it emphasizes the first beat of whichever time signature you are listening to.

    Sometimes when playing along with songs, the songs you are playing along with may not have steady time either-gotta use a click.

    After doing it long enough, you'll instinctively "feel" things in groups of four measures if you're playing mainstream music. Matter of'll be so used to it that if the singer comes in on the wrong beat and you've gotta jump beats to sync up, it'll drive you nuts cause that click is still in your brain. :bawl::bawl:

    One day, just for fun, take your metronome out and go for a walk. Set it to something you can walk to... and then walk in time to that. You'll find your natural tempo tendency (many people slow down) and you'll know where your weakness is. If halfway through the song I start feeling comfy I know I'm slowing up because thats my tendency....I know I have to push it to keep it even. Try it :) Good workout too!
  14. BillyRay


    Jan 20, 2008
    It is "J'aime les aubergines" the (t') is a pronoun to indicate you are speaking to someone (you) ;)

    Just thought I'd point that out and be a smart@ss ;)
  15. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    "Je t'aime, Les Aubergines."