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Tips to Improve Timing (I'm asking - You're telling)

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by m0ranwad, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. m0ranwad


    Jan 29, 2013
    I have sifted through the exercise sticky, and found a few that relate to timing, but they are few and far between.

    As a beginner I have been focused on theory, scales, chord patterns, and such and for months I've completely neglected my major role as a member of the rhythm section - TIMING. It wasn't until I started recording my practice that I realized this was a major issue.

    Here is an example of my playing slightly (maybe more than slightly) out of the pocket.

    How did you tackle this in your own playing? Metronome? Playing along with tracks? Playing with a live drummer?

    Any advice or exercises would be greatly appreciated.

    (And for the record, I don't have a band or drummer to practice with. :bag:)

    Fantastic FREE exercise mentioned by Rimbaud in this thread
  2. Hey
    Firstly, great that you have picked up on this and didn't just focus on the other stuff, coz as you probably know, better to play one note with groove, than many with none.

    Timing I think can be worked on with a metronome, but for groove, a drum beat will be a bit easier. Some drummers are more relaxed and play slightly behind the beat, so to groove with a drummer like this, it will be different that just practicing with a metronome. Same applies if a drummer is slightly more rushed.

    I would firstly, turn down or put down your bass and just listen to the drum beat or other instrument and hear how a bass would groove with it. Keep hearing this and then play. For me, in my opinion, it is all about locking with the drums. Listen to the kick drum, the kick drum is your friend and partner in crime & groove.

    Try to stop thinking of what you are playing, but just listen to the bass drum & imagine/hear a groove. If you are playing dead on with the kick drum, you'll be in the pocket.

    You still need to practice with a metronome though, you still need to start & finish runs, phrases and basically stay in time.

    In knowing what you need to work on though, you are half way there. Good luck!
  3. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    New York, NY
    Playing with a drummer, or even better, a variety of drummers, does truly amazing things for one's abilities to interpret time and feel.

    Of course, there are great exercises that you can do yourself. One that I like a lot (and used a ton when I had the same realization that the OP just had, about 7 years ago or so) is programming a simple drum part into a drum machine (I used Reason), and make it a four-bar pattern. Play with that at a few different tempos. After that, take one bar out but continue to play over the silence in the loop. See if you come back in right on the downbeat. Keep taking measures out until you are down to just the single downbeat of the first measure. If you can keep your time and come back around at the same time the loop does, your time will improve tremendously.

    Really focus on that kick drum, too. It's the most important thing to listen for, rhythmically, as a bassist.
  4. svtb15

    svtb15 Commercial User

    Mar 22, 2004
    Austin,TX - McKinney,TX - NY,NY, - Nashville,TN
    I play it all. Whatever works for the gig
    Playing with a drummer yes.. But a great drummer that has good time is very important.. To this day i still wind up with drummers that think their time is great till you get them to a studio and play to a grid.. ughhhhh

    Here is something that i developed back in the 80s to get myself in time..Someone else may have come up with the idea too...I dont know... But i became aware when recording a ballad and there was no time at the beginning of a song and i needed to fill space.

    Here it is.... The thing that i do is set up a drum machine with a song pattern.. Have it go for 16 measures of beat.. then write an empty measure to place in the song so measure 17 is nothing, but then the beat returns to a drum beat for 3 more measures starting on bar 18 to 20.. then increase the blank measures to go for 4 empty measures then have the beat come back in... Those blank measures will give you NO time to play with while you are playing along with it.... SO it makes you work at internalizing the beat... go 100 or more measures.. and repeat.. each day!
    In theory , as you play along with the beat, and empty beats you should be dead on time when the beat starts again.. Depending on if you are ahead or behind once the beat returns will help you understand if you are rushing or dragging...And show you where to work on your time..

    Fast tempos are much easier to play along with than real slow ballad types. try them all.. It is a challenge... and i when i used to teach that was an exercise i gave all of my students...
  5. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth

    watch this...good place to start.
  6. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    I'm the weird guy here but ... I learned that way ... and yes I have a classical background.

    I learned rythm and "timing" away of the instrument. Just reading rythm exercises , like snare drum exercises. You have to say it out loud. like 1-e-a-e etc and with a metrono set only on the quarter note.

    once you are confortable doing that, take your base with one note and do it again.

    And then you can add string crossing to it.

    then move on on more difficult exercises.

    You shouldn't depend on a drummer to have good time nor you should depend on a metronome for it. And let's face it, a drummer is just a big oversized metronome.
  7. woofdoggy


    Apr 15, 2012
    Started doing this today, its pretty fun! those slow grooves kill me like 80-, but its something to shoot for now!
  8. m0ranwad


    Jan 29, 2013
    Also tried doing this today as well with Band-in-a-Box. Great tip svtb15!

    Also, Victor Wooten's Time Keeping exercises are insanely challenging. Great share!
  9. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Best method I know is to record yourself (with metronome or drum machine) and then listen back. You will hear mistakes you didn't hear during live playing. Now that we have computer recording (and you don't need to shell out $$$ for Pro Tools for this purpose, you can use a free app such as Audcacity) you can actually zoom in on the wave form and visually see whether or not the peaks of your bass notes line up with the peaks of the metronome, or if you're a little early or a little late---it's pretty cool. :D

    Also good to play with lots of musicians and to realize that some of the most popular and beloved musicians don't actually keep metronomic time at all; it is not a necessary component of enjoyable music (but a good skill to have).
  10. svtb15

    svtb15 Commercial User

    Mar 22, 2004
    Austin,TX - McKinney,TX - NY,NY, - Nashville,TN
    I play it all. Whatever works for the gig
    +1.. wait till yo get to 70... or lower. It is real hard!!!! I need to start doing it again.. I sort of got the idea when i was living in NYC i would drive into the tunnel and loose radio reception and tried to keep in time with the song till i got out of the tunnel and radio came back in ... didnt do to well. but then the songs were not on grid tempo back then... lol

  11. svtb15

    svtb15 Commercial User

    Mar 22, 2004
    Austin,TX - McKinney,TX - NY,NY, - Nashville,TN
    I play it all. Whatever works for the gig
    +1 to recording yourself too...
    I am constantly finding little things in my playing that needs work... Somehow i got lazy and started to slide a little between notes the past year... Dont think it is intentional.. Sounds good though. real smooth.. but to me its annoying...

  12. svtb15

    svtb15 Commercial User

    Mar 22, 2004
    Austin,TX - McKinney,TX - NY,NY, - Nashville,TN
    I play it all. Whatever works for the gig
    I would work on that day after day... i tried to do it 10 times perfectly. If i screwed up at the ninth time i would start from 1 again and do it ten times..
    till i nailed it... patience... but i think i can honestly say that my time is better than most drummers that i know except for this one drummer i am doing a record with right now.. he plays with feel but his time is rock solid.. and he can play to a click without it sounding stale.... and you always know where ONE is going to be, so that frees me up to do what i feel without worry of a train wreck. Time is great...
    As i told one fellow once that had no clue.. TIME is not just a Magazine!

  13. rimbaud

    rimbaud Banned

    Nov 17, 2011
    This is exactly what I've done there some months ago, really helpfull ;) : https://soundcloud.com/joachim-mahoudeaux/sets/internal-tempo-exercises
    Starts @ 120 BPM and drecreases to 50, from easy to difficult
    Feel free to download cos'... yeah it's free ! :D
  14. Geroi Asfalta

    Geroi Asfalta

    Aug 23, 2011
    Can I sig this?

    I kinda learned my timing from a family roadtrip a few years ago. I would try to play along to songs or use the turn signal clicking as a metrognome.
  15. Matthijs


    Jul 3, 2006
    I also learned a lot from practising timing away from the bass: tapping and singing, somtimes while walking or cycling. There is also a funny excercise I learned from a music techer for my kids. He made the drummer and bass player clap while facing each other. With one of them clapping horizontally and the other vertically. One would do the one's and three's the other the two and four. They will instantly feel when their sense of time is off.
  16. craig.p


    Sep 28, 2008
    New Hampshire
    Practice to EDM (Gaga, Perry, Jessie J, Rihanna, Gwen, etc.). Do not practice to synth music where there are humans on other instruments, because more often than not they, too, rush the beat in the mix, and your tendency will be to follow them, so you'll just make things worse. Try to lock into the sequenced drums and synths, and try to ignore the vocals, which are often also rushed. Sequencers are absolutely unforgiving when it comes to timing. Record yourself and then listen to what you just did. At first you'll find yourself rushing, just like most other bass players out there. After a few weeks you'll get it, though, and you'll find yourself locking in. You want to feel the synths leading you, playing you, "triggering" you. You'll know it when it happens because you'll get this sudden sense of "rightness," like you're arc-welded to the beat. I know of no better exercise to start with -- even metronome work.

    A side benefit of doing it this way is you're practicing in a band context, working in a mix. That makes the practice-to-real-work distance much less than it would be if you were working with a metronome or in a similarly artificial situation.

    As you get better at it, THEN you can start practicing to music where you can hear various musicians in the song "going off the click," which will help you learn to lock in with the drummer and ignore what everyone else is doing. The ability to shut out everyone but the drummer, timing-wise, can be a bass player's biggest asset. It can totally change the feel of a band, and produce comments like, "Wow, the band sounds really good, but we're not really sure why."
  17. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    I started out with horrendous natural timing. I've been using the gnome daily for a month and haven't seen any improvements :(. I drone along to quarter notes at about 60 BPM, then move to eigth, then sixteenth, all while it's still playing quarters.
  18. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Years ago I was told to play along with the records, yes, vinyl.
    Nowadays, pick up a simple looper pedal with rhythm tracks.
    Works for me.
  19. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    No prob !
  20. robertinventor


    Aug 17, 2010
    Isle of Mull
    Software Developer: Robert Inventor (Bounce Metronome & Tune Smithy)