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Why do people have or not have natural rhythm?

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  • Why do people have or not have natural rhythm?

    As drummers here, I'm hoping you all have some natural rhythm...

    How many of you have played with other musicians that just can't find the one when playing by themselves? lol For example - a guitarist having to do an intro on his own with no backing just can't play bars of 4 (assuming it's in 4), or singers that lose or gain a whole beat here or there when they're singing?

    I've played with guys that can sing and play great with other guys, but as soon as they're alone, any sense of a time signature disappears. Just to be clear, this is about rhythm and naturally being able to find the one. This is not at all about meter.

    Also curious, is anyone aware of any web sites that may discuss this?

    Thanks!

  • #2
    I hate saying it, but ANY of the musicians I've played with who had this issue were also on some sort of substance, be it alcohol, drugs, or... well, it's just alcohol or drugs. If you have enough musical experience to play with other musicians and can't find the 1, then you're probably high or drunk.

    I know that's not always the case, but that's been my experience. Then again, I've had the good fortune to be involved with some great musicians over the years!
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    • #3
      I've been fortunate enough to have only played with one bass player who seemed to lack rhythm. Go figure that he played bass...

      Only complaint I hear from people I play with is that the rhythm guitarist doesn't always stick to the same rhythm. To me that makes absolutely no difference, but the lead guitarist doesn't like it. So I guess that's a little bit off-topic... guitarist can keep constant time, but can't keep a constant rhythm!
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      • #4
        Well, what do you do as a drummer to develop your natural rhythm? Practice with a metronome, of course. Some non-drummers don't do that, especially singers.

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        • Phil O'Keefe
          Phil O'Keefe commented
          Editing a comment

          jwideman wrote:
          Well, what do you do as a drummer to develop your natural rhythm? Practice with a metronome, of course. Some non-drummers don't do that, especially singers.

           


          In my studio experiences, I've run into as many drummers as anything else who couldn't find the 1. And a lot of drummers who have apparently never heard of a metronome... the kind who rush through their fills and end them a quarter note early, or who rush the tempo so much the BPM has increased 30% by the time they've finished the song, etc. There are tons of drummers who can't follow a director or play to a click. You don't see them all the time, but believe me, they're out there.


          The problem isn't limited to non-drummers, although I do agree with the wisdom of your suggested solution. Practice with a metronome... I'd also add practice along with recorded music, and spend a lot of time playing with a variety of other musicians.


          Then there are those who intentionally mess with time as part of their style or phrasing. The rhythm guitarist described earlier could possibly be one of those. Maybe he doesn't play the exact same part all the time, but can he groove? Does it work against what everyone else is doing? Another example is a drummer who pushes and relaxes the tempo throughout the song in a musical way that feels great. I've got no problems with that in the appropriate circumstances.


          My wife is a pro singer - had a deal with RCA, was on TV multiple times, did lots of session work, etc. She's got huge power and lots of soul, and actually has really good time, but she loves to play with phrasing, and she expects the band to follow her. I don't always agree with her on that... even after all these years, it's still kind of hard to read her mind.


           


      • #5
        People that get into the drugs or booze seem to lose they're meter, but it still takes a whole lot or abuse to lose their natural rhythm.

        I've also known of people turning a metronome on, even the kind that you can set a bell or accent on the one, and still completely lose the "one" of the bar. I sit there and listen and it boggles my mind how far away they get from the metronome! lol

        I'm not sure if someone can be taught rhythm or is just born with it. I'd love to see if anyone has written any articles on this. When I've searched Google, all that comes up is the whole black vs. white debate which I don't buy into. I know a lot of whites with great rhythm and blacks without any.

        Where does rhythm come from??? It seems you either have it or you don't.

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        • #6
          I used to know a guitarist who couldn't keep time by himself. He'd always push the beat. Whenever he was playing in the context of a group, though, no problem: he could keep time and groove no problem. Weird, expecially as he used to practice to a drum machine.

          I've also known a few drummers that couldn't dance, but kept time no problem. I find that strange, too.

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          • Phil O'Keefe
            Phil O'Keefe commented
            Editing a comment

            Longfuse wrote:

            I've also known a few drummers that couldn't dance, but kept time no problem. I find that strange, too.

             


            I'm a hack drummer at best, but a pretty decent guitarist and bass player, and all modesty aside, I have pretty darned good time. I also come from a family of people who loved to dance, and most of them are pretty good at it, although none of them were really musicians.


            I've never been able to dance to save my life. That, coupled with my musical ability, has always perplexed my family. 


        • #7
          Yep....just something that some people don't practice. It is taught skill. The people that have a great ability at it have just been able to focus and learn it better from an earlier age.

          And I suspect it's like nearly every other skill out there....the older you get the slower you pick it up.

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          • cewill
            cewill commented
            Editing a comment

            Thanx for addressing this issue. I quit playing my instruments for over 20 years because I could not figure out what was missing from my performance and development. I have decided to get back into playing an instrument again because I miss being a musician. Here is an article that neurophysiologists have termed 'beat deafness'. Enjoy

            http://www.nbcnews.com/health/cant-feel-rhythm-you-may-be-beat-deaf-1C6437334


        • #8
          Some people also have natural feels for different kinds of rhythm.
          You either have the funk or ya don't. Don't think it can really be taught no matter how much you work on it.
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          • #9
            You develop your skills where you focus your efforts.
            Singers and guitarists often don't tend to focus on rhythm. I haven't met many drummers who could sing very well.

            I'll say this, singers are probably the most sensitive to tempo. If a drummer is rushing or dragging the tempo, the singer will be the first to pick up on it.
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            • #10
              I have no "solid" answer, but it's a good question. Here's one person's answer:

              Reverend Wright explains black and white hand clapping difference.
              In the late eighties, I'd sometimes accompany my black girlfriend to her church on Sundays (I never heard anything negative towards whites and they never failed to make me feel welcome, by the way.).

              During the music, I always noticed that I was the only one "on-beat." Well, thanks to Reverend Wright, I now see that my black brothers and sisters at the church weren't rhythmically "deficient;" they were just acting on their genetic inheritance- "different.


              I also agree it can't be taught. Following a metronome or click will work once one gets used to using it, but it also can sound mechanical at times. Drugs and Booze do effect musician's rhythm. Our lead player sometimes takes off and I struggle to stay in the pocket with the band, and compensate for him. I talked to him just last Saturday night at a show about it. I asked if he could hear me and he said yes. I can then only attribute it to smoking weed, or he's just a white redneck. I like him don't get me wrong. But it can be frustrating at times.
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              • #11
                Not true. I'm a case in point.

                When I first started taking lessons I had no concept of rhythm. 39 years later: I can funk, I can swing, I can do latin grooves, I can lay down the odd meters of prog, I can get heavy.... and do all that without speeding or dragging. It is definitely a learnable skill IF you want to learn it.
                Some people also have natural feels for different kinds of rhythm.
                You either have the funk or ya don't. Don't think it can really be taught no matter how much you work on it.

                BTW, I got it at about age 17. After playing with a couple bands for a little while, suddenly I started listening and stopped struggling. So I contend that those who "lack rhythm" actually lack a willingness to listen.
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                • cewill
                  cewill commented
                  Editing a comment

                  Thanks for the inspiration. What exactly does one who lacks rhythm learn to listen for or pay closer attention to even when playing unaccompanied?


                • guitarville
                  guitarville commented
                  Editing a comment

                  coyote-1 wrote:
                  Not true. I'm a case in point.

                  When I first started taking lessons I had no concept of rhythm. 39 years later: I can funk, I can swing, I can do latin grooves, I can lay down the odd meters of prog, I can get heavy.... and do all that without speeding or dragging. It is definitely a learnable skill IF you want to learn it.
                  Some people also have natural feels for different kinds of rhythm.
                  You either have the funk or ya don't. Don't think it can really be taught no matter how much you work on it.

                  BTW, I got it at about age 17. After playing with a couple bands for a little while, suddenly I started listening and stopped struggling. So I contend that those who "lack rhythm" actually lack a willingness to listen.

                  I agree about the willingness to listen with all awareness will help those that maybe challenged in one way and with the willingness to stick with, one will grow in rhythm and timing. But natural rhythm does exist in some people. I think that comes apparent when you watch your children grow musically or see them dance.


              • #12
                Following a metronome or click will work once one gets used to using it, but it also can sound mechanical at times.


                The way to make metronomes groove is to run them at half the desired tempo then make the clicks 2 & 4 (assuming 4/4 time sig.) Takes a little while getting used to (and it's easy to let things slip so that clicks sync with 1), but it feels a lot more natural once you get the hang of it.

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                • #13
                  It could also be a symptom of MS: http://www.mult-sclerosis.org/mssymptoms.html - scroll down to "Dysdiadochokinesia" under the symptom list.

                  A lady in a band that I occasionally play with has terrible time. Over the span of 12 years, it hasn't improved, and I know that it's not from lack of practice. She's very determined, and she has taken lessons. None of us could figure it out, so she researched and found this out about MS. It also answered some other concerns she had had about her well-being.
                  I used to have a handle on life, but I gotta jiggle it every now and then.

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                  • #14
                    It's funny...at first glance that thread title kind of elicits a "dude, why waste the time typing?" And then you think about it for a second and that's a seriously deep question...where the hell DOES it come from? Crazy.

                    And no, I'm not stoned right now.
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                    • #15
                      I do think there's an element of natural rhythm, but it can be learned with
                      time, practice and patience. I mean, HAVEN'T YOU PEOPLE SEEN FOOTLOOSE!??!?!


                      That being said, IMO, good rhythm is all about NOT thinking, so if you have to think about it, it's still probably not gonna be "quite" there.
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