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Maintaining Tempo without a drummer.


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I have been playing, mostly solo, for like 20 years now and just recently started playing with another guitarist and we are basically doing party covers. Lots of crowd interaction, drink with the crowd, etc.

 

We are kicking butt, except we tend to speed up too much and ruin the groove.

 

We cant use a drum machine--our following is a crowd who frowns on it.

We arent going to stop drinking. (Please no lectures)

 

When i play solo I tend to speed up but then can ease the tempo dow, but when we are together--not so easy.

 

Anything we can use that wont sound too fake or any ideas? We do practice with a drum beat at times and i am sure that contuing that will help too...

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I have not tried this but it is an idea.

 

Record a click tracks of all the tempos you need and put them into an iPod. Designate one of you as the time keeper. That person uses one earbud to listen to the click tracks and keeps time to it. The other stays in sync with the time keeper.

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Also, be aware of where it tends to happen. My uncle sings 3 chord country and can keep the tempo together when he's singing, but he gets excited during guitar solos, so the decelerando after to the chorus can be drastic if he's been "feeling" it.

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My old band teacher taught me that the main reason why people speed up is because they anticipate something difficult, and that anticipation translates into upper body tension and improper breathing.

 

Keep your upper body loose, and breathe regularly.

 

Foot tapping can help.

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Learn how to count using the off beat.

 

Can you give an example? This sounds intriguing....

 

I've been doing more foot tapping and head bobbing lately, and that works okay. But often on the straightahed stuff I'm just counting 8th notes - would be nice to have another way of looking at that....

 

I just tried counting in triplets - man that's too much work!

 

Sidetrack: Is it just me or is it a whole lot easier to FEEL swung 8ths than to try and count them as a long, short, short triplet?

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Speeding up is a mental and physical issue more than a musical one.

 

Two different music teachers with performance degrees told me this, and their corrective actions always had an immediate result.

 

Look: you've been playing for what, 20 years? You've done your listening. You start the tune at the right tempo. So that right there means you've got the fundamentals down.

 

But your technique is causing your heart rate to speed up. That's why it happens during difficult passages or if you have stage fright. Moving around can do this too.

 

Just sayin'.

 

I see this a lot with drummers, and I've made it a point to watch them closely when it happens. What I see is shoulders rising, upper body swelling, breath held, facial tension and visible tension in the neck.

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Can you give an example? This sounds intriguing....


I've been doing more foot tapping and head bobbing lately, and that works okay. But often on the straightahed stuff I'm just counting 8th notes - would be nice to have another way of looking at that....


I just tried counting in triplets - man that's too much work!


Sidetrack: Is it just me or is it a whole lot easier to FEEL swung 8ths than to try and count them as a long, short, short triplet?

 

I played in a blues band where the drummer tended to speed up, especially during his fills. His influences included punk and classic rock, and so there was a tendency to think in terms on long quarter notes. I've found that you can play sustained notes on the down beat while improving your timing if your long counts are on the "and". This forces your downbeat to pop . . . at least it works for me on a lot of songs.

 

Another thing that helps is to think in terms of longer rhythmic phrases. I often end up with a secondary backbeat - on three instead of two and four. This works especially well with shuffles. As you've noted, counting triplets is a bit nuts. But the same idea above works here, too. one and uh two . . .put the emphasis on "uh". Try playing with a metronome and put the click on "uh".

 

I should also mention that I recently played in an R&B band where the drummer tended to drag the time. He tended to think like me - with a strong backbeat - so he needed to be more pushy just to keep the tempo going.

 

I like your emphasis on the physical aspects of time. When I get tense, I wiggle my toes . . . hey it works for me.;)

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I like your emphasis on the physical aspects of time. When I get tense, I wiggle my toes . . . hey it works for me.
;)

I wish I could claim this to be "my" observation. But then again, "I" don't have the credibility to make those claims. :)

 

When I played trumpet, my instructor was very observant of upper body muscle tension - that really has to be dealt with in order to maintain consistent tone for the duration of the performance, often in sweltering heat, and always while marching.

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Your practice over those 20 years was missing a vital component: TIME.

 

All musicians should practice to a metronome, and do it properly. You should have been practicing having the metronome going, and not hearing the click. THAT is how you build good time into your playing.

 

It is EVERY musician's responsibility to co-create the time. No one should be relying on another, not even the drummer, to keep time.

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Your practice over those 20 years was missing a vital component: TIME.


All musicians should practice to a metronome, and do it properly. You should have been practicing having the metronome going, and
not hearing the click
. THAT is how you build good time into your playing.


It is EVERY musician's responsibility to
co-create the time
. No one should be relying on another, not even the drummer, to keep time.

 

I don't wanna go Jeff Berlin on you here, and I do agree in theory with what you're saying.

 

BUT

 

How in the world will this type of practice address the issues encountered in a performance - tension, running around, fear of a crowd or difficult aspect of the piece?

 

What if he has good time in a controlled environment, but just can't seem to get it together on the stage?

 

My piano teacher would only prescribe the metronome to those students that she felt needed it. I've always had good time - she only made me use the nome once in 6 years.

 

Good time can happen without a nome.

 

A real good test of time is this: play along with a tune, and then have your friend cut off the playback, while you keep playing. Start simple - cut the playback for 1 bar, then 2, then 4, then 8, then do a whole verse, etc.

 

I do well at that exercise: the problems I do have with time are all technique and mental at this point.

 

I'm not saying don't use a nome. I'm just saying that I kind of doubt that sitting in a room with a nome is going to magically cure onstage speedup issues.

 

I bet if you analyze the performance, you'll find that the speedups occur in very predictable places: solos and difficult portions of the piece.

 

I also bet that in a lot of cases, muscle tension is playing a more active role in this than any innate sense of time.

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If you've practiced technique, it will hold you up during difficult passages. Likewise, practicing time will keep you stable. But neither are components you can practice for a month and expect instant greatness; they are things you should have been practicing since you picked up an instrument. That's the way they become integral to your musicianship.

 

If runnning around throws you, then stay in one place! Fear of a crowd ought diminish after a few performances. If you never get past it, then live performance simply ain't your thing; go get a job as an accountant or something.

 

How in the world will this type of practice address the issues encountered in a performance - tension, running around, fear of a crowd or difficult aspect of the piece?


What if he has good time in a controlled environment, but just can't seem to get it together on the stage?



A real good test of time is this: play along with a tune, and then have your friend cut off the playback, while you keep playing. Start simple - cut the playback for 1 bar, then 2, then 4, then 8, then do a whole verse, etc.

 

I was thinking the exact same thing, but apply it to many things. Such as listening to the radio while driving. Sing along, and cut the volume along the way. keep singing. Pick the volume back up in 30 seconds; if your time is good, you'll come back in at exactly the right place.

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If you've practiced technique, it will hold you up during difficult passages. Likewise, practicing time will keep you stable. But neither are components you can practice for a month and expect instant greatness; they are things you should have been practicing since you picked up an instrument. That's the way they become integral to your musicianship.


If runnning around throws you, then stay in one place! Fear of a crowd ought diminish after a few performances. If you never get past it, then live performance simply ain't your thing; go get a job as an accountant or something.

 

Yeah, I agree really.

 

But do you really need a click?

 

You take the click away and it's right back to the same old {censored}.

 

At some point, you have to have your own clock.

 

FOr a lot of folks, it's really a question of they don't even bother to count.

 

So how can you freaking have good time if you can't COUNT time?

 

Ya know what I'm saying? How many cats have you played with that are "feel" players that don't even know where they are in the measure?

 

My teachers always made me count the measures out loud while I played.

 

In my opinion, doing that is much more important and foundational: to be taken care of before you even consider using a click.

 

Otherwise that click ain't any different than playing with a solid drummer: and these guys don't have a drummer. They need their own clock, and to have that ya gotta know where you are in the piece - ya gotta learn to count 8ths at the very least.

 

Have you seen Al DiMeola's take on this issue? He's all about doing things this way, but he emphasizes using a foot tap. But it's the same principle: you are creating your own clock, and you are increasing your awareness of where you are in the piece when you play along with that unwavering click, that YOU generate.

 

Check out Pino's head bob: it's in perfect time with the song. That's his clock.

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I was thinking the exact same thing, but apply it to many things. Such as listening to the radio while driving. Sing along, and cut the volume along the way. keep singing. Pick the volume back up in 30 seconds; if your time is good, you'll come back in at exactly the right place.

 

Exactly. This can be done at work, in the car....

 

I do it all the time.

 

A guitarist friend hipped me this years ago. We were jamming along with a tune at his house and he cut the music....he was testing me I think.

 

I've tried this with our drummer a couple of times and I always do better at it than he does; I wish he were more into the discipline but ya gotta work with people where they are.

 

We all have our strenghts and weaknesses and I'm not definitely not dismissing him in any way: he's got a lot of strengths in technical and groove areas that I have to work at to achieve.

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Yeah, I agree really.


But do you really need a click?


You take the click away and it's right back to the same old {censored}.

 

Not if done correctly. That is the key.

 

Say you're a guitarist. If you are practicing slow quarter notes and you hear the click as well as your pick, your time is off. You keep at it for months/years til you no longer hear the click, but ONLY your pick on the strings. Do that at many speeds, but especially at slow ones. Do it not only with your pick, but also with hand claps and with words/sung notes.

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Not if done correctly. That is the key.


Say you're a guitarist. If you are practicing slow quarter notes and you hear the click as well as your pick, your time is off. You keep at it for months/years til you no longer hear the click, but ONLY your pick on the strings. Do that at many speeds, but especially at slow ones. Do it not only with your pick, but also with hand claps and with words/sung notes.

 

Yeah, I can see that. I've done that kind of practice with drum tracks on my Korg, and gotten much tighter as a result.

 

But I'm still not sure how much of that really carries over to the stage. I'll grant that it might. Because what you say is true: all of the improvements I've ever made musically have come with time - I don't even see them happening...

 

So maybe you're right too. But then again, I didn't and have never had problems with speedups/slowdowns during a tune. If anything, I'll play the wrong tempo or freel consistently throughout the piece, LOL.

 

I have noticed that over the last few years, my tempo instincts have gotten better: I tend to be much better at starting a song from thin air and having the right tempo from the start.

 

But thinking about it, my fault in that area was performance: I noticed that on intro's I would sometimes have some worry beforehand, feel under pressure, and then inevitably screw some aspect of the intro up - notes, time, feel, etc. I'm MUCH more confident on intros now....

 

So on stage, bad or inconsistent time can happen for a lot of reasons that may not necessarily be fixed in the bedroom with JUST a metronome. It can help, but I don't think that it ends there, by a long shot.

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I played in a blues band where the drummer tended to speed up, especially during his fills. His influences included punk and classic rock, and so
there was a tendency to think in terms on long quarter notes.

This is gold right here.

 

At least it is for me; more advanced players may scoff and rightly so.

 

But this is EXACTLY why I count everything in eights when staying on the grid is important. It just gives me more opportunity to correct myself if a note duration goes a little long or short - hell, you do that and it winds up swingin', right? Sometimes by accident.

 

Doesn't matter if the first note rings a little long, you've that intermediate count in there to time the next note....I'd better get back to practicing now. ;)

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Guys----Thanks for the ideas, theres alot of good ones!! Im actually going to go back through this post and make some notes.

 

A little background--Yes I have used a metronome forever! It really does have to do with the live performance I think and we are speeding up when its a solo, etc....Doesnt happen at the house practicing even when we dont use a drum beat/click.

Oh and I tap my foot too. (i use a homemade stompbox) We dont lose time, we just slowly speed up.

 

 

Again really thanks for the ideas, if you have any more I will be checking this again.

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I play in an acoustic dou and we were having the same problem. I read an article somewhere that helped. The jist of if is that nerves take over and turn things into a race. But keeping the thought that there is PLENTY OF TIME has helpd a lot. An example: thinking of a difficult passage in terms of being hard, leads to rushing (and blowing it). Approaching the same riff etc. as though there is plenty of time to play it gives a more relaxed (and more sussesful) approach. Giving yourself the mental permission to take the time to play relaxed will keep you from rushing and allow you to enjoy what you are doing more. At least in my experiance this had worked.

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I play in an acoustic dou and we were having the same problem. I read an article somewhere that helped. The jist of if is that nerves take over and turn things into a race. But keeping the thought that there is PLENTY OF TIME has helpd a lot. An example: thinking of a difficult passage in terms of being hard, leads to rushing (and blowing it). Approaching the same riff etc. as though there is plenty of time to play it gives a more relaxed (and more sussesful) approach. Giving yourself the mental permission to take the time to play relaxed will keep you from rushing and allow you to enjoy what you are doing more. At least in my experiance this had worked.

That's exactly it.

 

Any good music instructor with a degree in performance will emphasize this while working with the student.

 

I feel fortunate to have had two degreed instructors as a child, and I'm forever amazed that the majority of self-taught musicians don't know or apply these principles, or will even scoff at them.

 

Kinda comes back to the musical meritocracy: people don't want to accept that and they go their own way with things. That would be like signing up for a martial arts instruction and then ignoring the sensei's advice that you don't agree with. :facepalm:

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I haven't played with a drummer other than occasionally sitting in with bands for at least 5 years now. I am the rhythm guitarist. I personally practice at home to the click always. Although it sounds strange, often times I imagine the drummer is there playing the show, --especially on something with a less straightforward beat. Somehow, it really does help me keep time. :idk:

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I would say you should also practice "listening to yourselves" play, i.e., don't just get lost in the groove but step outside the performance to a degree and assess what's going on.

 

(I don't mean recording but actually separating the playing part of your brain from the listening part and say "what am I hearing - is this getting faster...")

 

Many musicians don't know how to listen - only how to play.

 

Metronomes and clicks work - but only if you listen to see if you're following along to it live...

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