Posts Tagged ‘rhythm’

Quote, Unquote.

Posted by Brian on 22nd July 2012 in General Music, Musicianship, Practice, Quote Unquote, Technique

Quote, UnquoteThis quote was referred to in a discussion of great rhythm guitarists at GuitarsCanada.com:

“A lot of cats don’t work on their rhythm enough, and if you don’t have rhythm, you might as well take up needleoint, or something.”

– Prince in an interview with Guitar Player Magazine


Practicing Without Your Guitar – Part III: Rhythm & Tempo

Posted by Brian on 28th June 2012 in General Music, How to:..., Musicianship, Practice

Early in May, I led a workshop on “Practicing Without Your Guitar” at the York Region Fingerstyle Guitar Association’s monthly Open Mic. I am now working on getting some of the insights from that workshop written down and posted. In this, the third of four installments, I am going to talk about working on Rhythm and Tempo without your guitar.

Rhythm

A while ago I wrote about attending a guitar workshop led by David Ross MacDonald at the Eaglewood Folk Festival. In that workshop he talked about how he used a sort of two step to embed various rhythms (i.e eighths, triplets, sixteenths, etc.) into his brain. You can also tap out rhythms in time with your metronome, or even use your left hand to tap out a steady beat while tapping out more complex rhythms with the right (or vice versa, if that’s how you’re wired).

Tempo

One of the biggest challenges for many musicians is starting at the right tempo. As it turns out, our brains have a remarkable capacity for reproducing the tempo of well known songs. For example, according to Daniel Levitin, in his book, “This Is Your Brain On Music”, we can use the following songs to find the following tempos:

“Hotel California”, by The Eagles – 75 beats per minute
“Back in Black”, by AC/DC – 96 bpm
“Walk This Way” by Aerosmith – 112 bpm
“Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson – 116 bpm

This is a technique that I have found to be very helpful.

Hopefully, you can use some of these ideas to improve your musicianship without building callouses.

Stay tuned for Part IV: Listening and Ear Training

Part I: Why?

Part II: Visualizing

Quote, Unquote

Posted by Brian on 7th November 2011 in Musicianship, Picking Hand, Practice, Technique, Uncategorized

“To be a virtuoso, one of the most important things you must have is as close to a perfect sense of rhythm as you can.”

Pepe Romero

 

“It is very important to work on the tone you have with your right hand [picking hand], to give emotion to a tune… Many guitar players don’t really take care of the right hand, but for me the right hand is producing the music”

Jacques Stotzem

Advice from David Ross MacDonald

Posted by Brian on 13th September 2011 in General Music, Guitar, Performing, Practice

In my last post I talked about attending a guitar workshop with David Ross MacDonald and shared his thoughts on making mistakes when we are performing. This time I’m going to share some of his thoughts on practicing.

Use Your Feet

One of the things that he talked about was practicing without the guitar. He suggested that to build our internal sense of rhythm, we should use our feet. Apparently, David spends a lot of time doing a sort of two-step which I’ve tried to illustrate on the left.

As he “two-steps”, he counts out various rhythms in time with his feet. For example:

Eighths: ONE-and-TWO-and-THREE-and-FOUR-and…

or

Triplets: ONE-an-a-TWO-an-a-THREE-an-a-FOUR-an-a…

or

16ths: ONE-e-an-a-TWO-e-an-a-THREE-e-an-a-FOUR-e-an-a…

Clear as mud??? Hopefully you get what I’m trying to explain here.

You could also clap out these rhythms while two-stepping to help embed them in your brain.

Now play your guitar while doing this two-step. The idea is that as you practice you will “trust your feet” to keep the rhythm of the tune intact, making us more aware of our hesitations and those times when we speed up through difficult passages.

Egg timer

Another suggestion he had was to find a 3-minute egg timer – one of the old-school hourglass-type ones with the sand that flows through it. (Good luck with this – if you know where to get one, let me know!) Using the timer when working on scales, exercises, etc keeps us from spending too little time on the difficult things and too much time on the easy ones. It also gives us a demonstration of the relative nature of time – passing quickly on the easy bits and creeping along on the hard ones!

Perform!

As part of his discussion of performance mistakes that I covered in my last post, he also talked about the learning opportunity that those mistakes give us. Making mistakes in public performance is different from making them privately. Apparently, when we make a mistake while performing, our brain triggers a shot of adrenaline which helps us to remember to not make that mistake in the future. This is certainly consistent with my experience – the tunes that I have performed most often are the ones that I play best, even though they are not necessarily the ones that I have practiced most.

He also talked of other things – knowing the fundamentals of music theory, singing intervals, and that sort of thing – all good advice, but these were three practical suggestions that I hadn’t heard before. What things have you added to your practice routines that have made a big difference?

 

David Ross MacDonald’s website: www.DavidRossMacDonald.com

Rant: The Most Dangerous Instrument…

Posted by Brian on 17th June 2011 in General Music, Jamming, Mildly Off-Topic, Playing well with others, Rant

Today I’m going to let off a little steam. I’m going to talk about what a friend calls “the most dangerous musical instrument ever devised”. And no, I’m not referring to Woody Guthrie labeling his guitar with “This Machine Kills Fascists”. I’m talking about the dreaded tambourine.

It’s a simple instrument, so it must be simple to play, right?

It seems that at every open jam, song circle, or folk festival, someone brings one along thinking that “it will be fun”. And it may well be – for the one playing it. But, for everyone else within earshot, it can be a song killer. The tambourine, by its very nature is a powerful rhythm instrument – and in the right hands can really fill out a song, but sadly it is rarely found in the right hands. It is a rare player that can maintain a steady tempo with a tambourine, and it is a rare musician who can ignore it when it is being played off the beat. At best, it is played a fraction of a second behind the beat, slowly turning every tune into a dirge. At worst, it is rhythmically “all-over-the-map” leaving everyone wondering where the next downbeat will fall.

I should clarify, tambourines don’t kill songs, people with tambourines kill songs. In fact, one of my greatest “festival moments” involved a tambourine solo. We were at The Lunenburg Folk Festival at a percussion workshop given by a professor of percussion from Acadia University. He came out on stage and sat down, pulling out a tiny tambourine with one lonely jingle on it. I’ll admit it, I rather sarcastically thought, “Here we go… forty-five minutes of this???” He then proceeded to bring down the house with an amazing tambourine solo and went on to enthrall us for the rest of the workshop.

So, in the hands of a trained percussionist the tambourine can be a wonderful instrument, but for the rest of us, we need to do everyone a favour and leave it in the store. And if it’s too late for that (as it is for me), then at least leave it at home.

This is Cool: Rhythm and the Brain

Posted by Brian on 8th June 2011 in Book Review, General Music, Music Theory

As the result of a recommendation from an internet acquaintance, I’ve been reading and enjoying “Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy – How Music Captures Our Imaginations” by Robert Jourdain. It has been a wonderful read so far. (It’s out of print, but I was able to get it through AbeBooks.com)

I’ve just finished reading the chapter on rhythm and it discusses how our sense of rhythm is predominantly seated in the left half of our brains and provides a neat experiment that you can try: With your left hand, tap out a continuous 1-2-3-4 beat. Now with your right hand tap out a more complex beat. It doesn’t have to be wildly more complex, a relatively simple 1-2&3-4 will do just fine. Most people can do this with very little difficulty. Now, switch hands. Tap out the steady beat with the right hand and the complex rhythm with the left. Much harder, isn’t it? Now, I knew from experience that this would be the case, but I had always assumed that this was because I am right-handed (i.e. left-brain dominant), but apparently, this is the case whether your are left- or right-handed. (Assuming that you have typical brain lateralization – left-brain dominance resulting in right-handedness and vice-versa – which, apparently, not everyone does.) This would explain why so many left-handed people play guitar right handed, the right hand (picking hand) being naturally better at producing complex rhythms.

Try it out and let me know the results – especially you southpaws out there! (And if you’re a left-handed guitarist, let me know if you play right- or left-handed, too!)