An area of music practice that cannot be overlooked is rhythm.
If you haven’t got a solid foundation in rhythm then, it’s time to start. Especially if you have aspirations of becoming a professional. If your rhythm isn’t better than the next guy, sorry you won’t get the job.
So how do we test our rhythm and timing?
It is important we know what out rhythmic strengths and weaknesses are as it helps us figure out what we need to work on. I’ve found a few good ways of doing this.
One way is to record yourself. Jump onto your computer and find a recording program. There are plenty to choose from and even some that come free with your computer. On windows I seem to remember a program called sound recorder hidden away somewhere. It is pretty crude but we aren’t trying to win any awards here. All you need hardware wise is a mic. Most computers have one built in. On mac you get a little luckier. You get a much prettier built in digital audio workstation (DAW) called Garageband. Although basic compared to many other DAWs it is perfect for our task. Don’t like either of these choices? Try audacity. Audacity is a free audio editor that will also fit the bill. So now that we have our recording software, lets get started.
Find a song you are pretty comfortable playing and record it. Afterwards, listen to it. Analyse it. What parts sounded in time and what parts didn’t. If you can’t tell, compare it to the original recording of the song. Once you have identified your week areas you can set about making a practice routine to fix it.
Another way of identifying your weakness’s is to use a METRONOME.
The good thing about this is that it doubles a practicing and improving our rhythm. Metronomes count for us. We can set them at whatever tempo we want to practice at. Tempo is measured in BPM (beats per minute) which literally tells us how many times the metronome will beep every minute. So how can we use this to identify our weakness and improve? First pick an exercise. It could be a warm up routines, a sequence, a scale or even a chord progression. Start off at a low tempo. Play along to the beeps. If you can play your exercise 3 times in a row without making a mistake then you can move the tempo up. If not, keep practicing. Repeat this until you find a tempo you get stuck at. You can rinse and repeat this with other exercises, scales and songs.
I like to practice different rhythmic subdivisions with metronomes. For example; I have been spending a lot of time practicing sequences as of late. Here is a run down of what I might do in a typical practice.
- Start at a low tempo such as 60 BPM and play quarter notes in time. I will do this a few times until my hands a familiar with the shape.
- Now I will switch to eighth notes. Once again playing through till I’m comfortable.
- Next triplets.
- Then, sixteenth notes.
and so on….
You want to be doing some work on your rhythm playing often. Do 10 minutes with a metronome as a warm up exercise. You will thank me for it later.