Reading rhythms! I need help

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by IdealWay, Jan 12, 2009.

  1. IdealWay


    Oct 18, 2006
    Asheville, NC
    Any advice you could give me for learning to read different rhythms would be appreciated. It throws me off every time!
  2. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Learning to read rhythms is all about training your eyes to look at measures and spot where the beats are. Then the rhythmic word on that beat like reading these words you don't read letter by letter you see words. Well sightreading is the same thing and learning the common rhythms when you see them and know how to play them. You do this by using a metronome and clapping all the rhythms till you have it down. Then pickup your bass and try sightreading adding the pitches. Just be patient you learning a new language and take time to build your vocabulary.

    There are books that focus on rhythms like the classis Bellison book and Simplified Sight-Reading for Bass by Josquin des Pres. This book I like because it start very simple and has a practice CD with a play along CD for 1st example of each page.
  3. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    As you are looking at a measure, try to find the middle of the measure and find where the beats are. Using a metronome to keep you on track at slower speeds is a reasonable idea. Getting things right at a slow tempo and speeding them up is great.

    A lot of sight reading books try to do too much too fast and go from simple to complex rhythms without a lot of drill and practice. Learning to sight read is a process, not an event.... it will take some time.

    When you get good at it you'll find that you read groups of notes as one idea, not a series of notes... just like you read words and phrases as one idea, not one letter at a time sounding out the word. As you get more and more comfortable reading groups of notes, you'll find that you can look ahead and actually be reading one or two measures ahead of where you are playing.

    Part of learning is knowing what it feels like to know something. Take your time, get it right, move on to the next thing. Good luck.
  4. needmoney

    needmoney Guest

    May 23, 2004
    Brisbane, Australia
    Where possible, practice clapping the rhythms first. Also if you're fairly new to rhythms and have trouble actually identifying what is what, check out for some simple rhythm exercises that will help you recognize different rhythms and their values.
  5. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    good exercises here.

    also, I would recommended slowly working your way up to finer subdivisions. that is, great confident at navigating whole, half and quarter notes -and rests! in various configurations before taking on the eighth notes/rests. Similarly get confident with eighths before 16ths, etc.

    Studying syncopated styles can also help, for example studying Cuban basslines really brought my eight note rhythms up to speed.

    Also also, try writing down rhythms you come up with. If you have notation software ( or a fellow musician) that does playback you can double check your work.

    You'll need to commit to some frustration as you often get it wrong for a time...realize that your ear's concept of rhythm is already more sophisticated than your eyes,and it will take practice to get them to sync up .
  6. I'm still a novice when it comes to sight reading, but I'm at a point right now where I'm really starting to "get it." I have found through sight reading practice that reading rhythm tends to be more difficult than reading pitch once you get to dotted notes and different time signatures. Try writing small phrase, maybe two bars long, using some of the more complicated rhythms, but keep it SIMPLE. That way you can just practice those elements (ties, dotted notes, etc.) that give you trouble. The book suggestions are also good.

    Having CDs to listen to helps, but I would be careful not to rely too much on hearing the piece since it can be a crutch. A lot of times when you're given sheet music you don't have the luxury of listening to a track beforehand.
  7. Robin UK

    Robin UK Guest

    Feb 1, 2007
    I find (and am always told by conductors and the like) that one of the main keys to rhythmic accuracy is subdivision. Try and subdivide the bar or phrase you're working on into the lowest note length used(or even further). This helps keep a constant pulse through all note lengths and helps you appreciate the ratios of note and rest lengths.
  8. play a rhythmic pattern then write it down. You will learn faster that way and learn the right way- how to recognize them in groups, not as single notes.
  9. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Back in my guitar days and working on my sightreading I discovered many of the hot studio cats had studied with a conductor of a local symphony. He had a book of rhythmic studies all about learn subdivisions. You really want to get your reading together find a conductor or good symphony player sightreading is there life so they can really nail you, especially if not hold notes to full value :help:
  10. IdealWay


    Oct 18, 2006
    Asheville, NC
    Thanks for all the input thus far. I'm going to incorporate all of these techniques into my practice routine! I start back into the jazz studies program at UNC-Asheville tomorrow, hopefully with better reading skills than when I left for winter break, thanks to you guys. Every time my teacher would have me sight read a piece with accidentals and varied rhythms I would completely get lost. I like the idea of clapping the rhythms and writing out my own rhythmic lines. Sometimes though I have trouble counting out dotted 16th notes and smaller increments like that. Ties are also pretty tricky for me. I know I won't get it immediately but with a lot of practice I'm sure I'll get it. Thanks so far everyone! Any more tips you have will be greatly appreciated.