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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningPedagogy(Moderators: JP, Doug Elliott) Teaching/Learning rhythmic feel and time
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Draagyn

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« on: Aug 04, 2017, 12:36AM »

I've recently played a number of gigs that have made me wonder, what constitutes rhythmic feel in a person? Is it natural? Is it taught? The reason I ask is because one of the musicians in the group I'm in is always just the slightest bit behind. It doesn't help that I'm talking about a percussionist and it can have bad consequences for the group...

I've heard some musicians that have the opposite tendency, that tend to rush things... And so my most recent gigs have made me wonder, maybe I'm the problem - maybe I feel like they're behind when really my "natural" feel is quite possibly a tad ahead (though I like to think I'm pretty close Clever since we play with a conductor as well as a click track).

I guess my question then is is it possible for someone to naturally have an offset rhythmic feel? Or is it possible that they learned incorrectly? Something I didn't mention is this other musician is a dear friend, and I've played with other people that came from the same studio as her that struggle with the same problem. Maybe they learned to hear time differently?

Does anyone have any suggestions of how to correct this? The thing I would recommend my students would be listen, listen, listen. And give yourself some feedback of your own recordings - I hear inconsistencies in my playing that I never would have caught without a recording. I also realize certain instruments will have certain tendencies than others, too, and that will have a lot to do with learning feel... I've played with trombonists that struggle with time in the same way, which is why I can't help but question my own time. I'd hate to have been wrong all along...!!
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« Reply #1 on: Aug 04, 2017, 05:28AM »

I don't have an answer for you.

But here's a recent potentially relevant thread:
http://tromboneforum.org/index.php/topic,101424

And a less recent potentially relevant thread:
http://tromboneforum.org/index.php/topic,86371.0.html


I will say:
I play in an amateur big band where the lead trombone is consistently behind the beat, no matter what piece/style we're doing.
I'm the bass 'bone; I feel pretty solid at locking in with the rhythm section (or... I'm better than I used to be, at least), but I have zero talent for feeling the "back of the beat" for laid-back groovy pieces (and zero talent for identifying which laid-back groovy pieces I SHOULD lay back on the beat).
And so, sometimes I give up and try to follow the lead's lag, and sometimes I try to push him to play on the beat.
And so, between the two of us and our own rhythmic weaknesses, sometimes the trombones get yelled at for dragging, and sometimes the trombones get yelled at for playing in strict time.

Don't know
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« Reply #2 on: Aug 04, 2017, 09:11AM »

I've recently played a number of gigs that have made me wonder, what constitutes rhythmic feel in a person? Is it natural? Is it taught? The reason I ask is because one of the musicians in the group I'm in is always just the slightest bit behind. It doesn't help that I'm talking about a percussionist and it can have bad consequences for the group...

I've heard some musicians that have the opposite tendency, that tend to rush things... And so my most recent gigs have made me wonder, maybe I'm the problem - maybe I feel like they're behind when really my "natural" feel is quite possibly a tad ahead (though I like to think I'm pretty close Clever since we play with a conductor as well as a click track).

I guess my question then is is it possible for someone to naturally have an offset rhythmic feel? Or is it possible that they learned incorrectly? Something I didn't mention is this other musician is a dear friend, and I've played with other people that came from the same studio as her that struggle with the same problem. Maybe they learned to hear time differently?

Does anyone have any suggestions of how to correct this? The thing I would recommend my students would be listen, listen, listen. And give yourself some feedback of your own recordings - I hear inconsistencies in my playing that I never would have caught without a recording. I also realize certain instruments will have certain tendencies than others, too, and that will have a lot to do with learning feel... I've played with trombonists that struggle with time in the same way, which is why I can't help but question my own time. I'd hate to have been wrong all along...!!

I believe people can have a different view on timing. Im no expert on this and are not sure if I have any helpful answer. First of all, there is a difference between rhythm feel and timing even though they are connected. And there is also tempo that can crash a little if one trombone player want the song to go slower than the bass and drums. In big bands there is some songs that should be right on, little after or little before the beat. Personally I dont think much about it, but try to get the feel. To do that I often listen to the hi/hat or the other cymbals. Or I listen the bass. I also listen the lead trumpet and lead trombone to get style and rhythm feel.

Since I can only can speak for my self, I think I tend to be too much before the beat. I also tend to rush. When I put the metronom in a slow bordogni etude, I noticed I want to rush on the eight notes. And I'm often to late when I breath. That said bordogni etudes are better musically without the metronome and let the tempo go a little up and down to make space for a breath. I dont know English well, but I call it dephrasing or end the phrase.

I have one advice. One way to practice timing in your band, is to let the drummer play with the trombone section alone. Then its easier to listen what is going on and adjust to each other. You get the timing from the drums, and the feel from the 1st trombone. Adjust to each other so all have the same understanding.

Leif
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« Reply #3 on: Aug 04, 2017, 09:30AM »

I suspect that, inside the brain, rhythm and time are not just an awareness of "now" but also an ability to predict future events based on memory of the past.

You might compare it to how a tennis player doesn't run to where a ball is NOW, he runs to where a ball will be when it gets closer.

It may be that some people are better at the remembering and predicting than others.


How to fix it?

I recall a bass player's story of being in a student orchestra and the bass section couldn't keep a passage together. The conductor made them play it without him conducting at all. This forced them to listen to each other instead of approximately following him and with a few tries they were able to sync themselves together.
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« Reply #4 on: Aug 04, 2017, 12:18PM »

This is an interesting topic. Since I have played some in amateur contexts and a lot in semiprofessional contexts and occasionally with the best professionals over here I can say that this sometimes is THE matter of conflict.

When you play with the best then timing is easy. Everybody has timing insude and there is no conflict. Just follow the flow. Ride with the drums. I listen for the ride cymbal and hi-hat , but in reality it becomes a feeling in the body. It swings! If you have difficulties to hear then listen for the drums, don't  listen for the base because it could fool you so you'll be behind. It is the tendency of the base, it kind of "swells" after the attack. In difficult environments you might not hear the attack and therefore you hear the base late. When doing the music listen for the lead player and pick up his attitude and dynamics. If you are on lead, YOU lead and the others follow. They will tell you how you are doing.

In all other contexts where there are people playing who can't play in time or in tune everything quickly turns to chaos. If the drummer is not in time with himself the rest can do what ever they want, because timing will never exist. If a lead player is rushing the section will be in chaos and the other sections disturbed. Everybody's timing will be off. If a lead player is dragging? Well, it depends. I think it could be an effect. Downbeats are downbeats and should be on the beat. A fortissimo "pow" from a big band right on the beat is perfect,  but there is also some tolerance. It could be "within the beat", with this I mean with a microscopic latency. That also works and it becomes another effect. Could be powerful. As long as it is done with power and confidence both works, but if such a "pow" comes early the effect is completely lost and it sounds "amateurish". The stress impuls will "tilt" the rest of the band.

Unfortunately ALL players must own good timing if the band is going to work as a whole. There can not be any weak players when it comes to timing because the problem is exponential. It is like a disease. The same for intonation problems. There can only be one player at a time who has an intonation problem, and he must correct that bad note in an instance. Bad intonation is also exponential.

In a bad band, the reeds and the brass can not play without the drums or the base. In such bands there is a misunderstanding that they "play on the rythm-section". This means they wait for the rythmsection before they decide where the beat is. This doesn't work. Every player must have the beat within themselves. If they have the drummer inside they can play without the rythm-section without dragging or rushing. A bad band needs the rythmsection to correct the time ALL the time. Terrible experience!

/Tom
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« Reply #5 on: Aug 04, 2017, 06:05PM »

This is an interesting topic. Since I have played some in amateur contexts and a lot in semiprofessional contexts and occasionally with the best professionals over here I can say that this sometimes is THE matter of conflict.

When you play with the best then timing is easy. Everybody has timing insude and there is no conflict. Just follow the flow. Ride with the drums. I listen for the ride cymbal and hi-hat , but in reality it becomes a feeling in the body. It swings! If you have difficulties to hear then listen for the drums, don't  listen for the base because it could fool you so you'll be behind. It is the tendency of the base, it kind of "swells" after the attack. In difficult environments you might not hear the attack and therefore you hear the base late. When doing the music listen for the lead player and pick up his attitude and dynamics. If you are on lead, YOU lead and the others follow. They will tell you how you are doing.

In all other contexts where there are people playing who can't play in time or in tune everything quickly turns to chaos. If the drummer is not in time with himself the rest can do what ever they want, because timing will never exist. If a lead player is rushing the section will be in chaos and the other sections disturbed. Everybody's timing will be off. If a lead player is dragging? Well, it depends. I think it could be an effect. Downbeats are downbeats and should be on the beat. A fortissimo "pow" from a big band right on the beat is perfect,  but there is also some tolerance. It could be "within the beat", with this I mean with a microscopic latency. That also works and it becomes another effect. Could be powerful. As long as it is done with power and confidence both works, but if such a "pow" comes early the effect is completely lost and it sounds "amateurish". The stress impuls will "tilt" the rest of the band.

Unfortunately ALL players must own good timing if the band is going to work as a whole. There can not be any weak players when it comes to timing because the problem is exponential. It is like a disease. The same for intonation problems. There can only be one player at a time who has an intonation problem, and he must correct that bad note in an instance. Bad intonation is also exponential.

In a bad band, the reeds and the brass can not play without the drums or the base. In such bands there is a misunderstanding that they "play on the rythm-section". This means they wait for the rythmsection before they decide where the beat is. This doesn't work. Every player must have the beat within themselves. If they have the drummer inside they can play without the rythm-section without dragging or rushing. A bad band needs the rythmsection to correct the time ALL the time. Terrible experience!

/Tom

These are some great observations, Tim. I'm right here with you on these.

I'd also like to point out that a lot of people don't quite understand that rushing and being ahead of the beat (or the inverse) are not the same thing. One can be ahead of the beat and not rush - that's just when you play the same amount of "aheadness" for each beat but the pulse itself does not change. They are related to each other, of course, but one does not necessarily guarantee the other. However, playing with good time, in general, requires both good tempo and good beat alignment from everyone. It take a whole lot of practice and attention to get good at.

I've recently played a number of gigs that have made me wonder, what constitutes rhythmic feel in a person? Is it natural? Is it taught?

It's practiced. Playing with others who have really good time really helps, so in that sense it can be taught, but IMHO it's mainly taught via exposure.
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« Reply #6 on: Aug 04, 2017, 09:51PM »

I wonder if this is an issue that occurs in Africa, South America, or other areas of the world where music is more woven into the culture.
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« Reply #7 on: Aug 10, 2017, 11:42AM »

I think teaching rhythm has to be both time and feel. Time is the "math" side but it needs more than just counting. Note grouping of different rhythmic patterns have to be taught. The note grouping idea employs the use of kinesilogy or one could saymotor skills. Getting children to walk in a steady tempo is a good beginning. Then they walk the steady tempo while clapping either rhythm patterns or divivons of the beat.

Feel is the inner division of the beat. I acuatlly believe this is where most rhythm teaching falls down. Getting the division of the beat will do wonders for holding a tempo. Feel also,at least in my thinking has much to do whith the musicality of rhythm. One could play accurately and musically be as dry as dust. An excellent ook that covers many areas of instrumental music is A Sound Approach to Teaching Instrumentalists.
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« Reply #8 on: Aug 10, 2017, 01:34PM »

There seem to be some people who just have problems with rhythm.

I know a guy who's a really good trumpet player.  Good range, etc.  But give him a dotted eighth - sixteenth - eighth (think "Ride of the Valdyries") and he's lost.  Always plays it as an eighth and two sixteenths.  No matter how much coaching you give him.

I agree that playing with others with good time helps, though.  Playing in bands and orchestras where I was not the best player helped me to learn.
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« Reply #9 on: Aug 10, 2017, 04:07PM »

My problem is playing straight eighths. I automatically play two eights approximately as a dotted eighth or as a sixteenth, depending if they are on the beat or off-beat. Of course, I never had a basic training in 'straight' music and have mainly played jazz and swing all my life. Yeah, RIGHT.

In recent years, I have played quite a lot in Concert bands but I still have to really concentrate on a non-swing interpretation.

I should also mention that different jazz bands and individual jazz musicians, even tunes, often have a more subtle interpretation of Swing rhythm to the basic 2/3-1/3-over-a-beat rhythm. Some software programs even allow you to adjust that split. But for the musician, it requires that you listen very carefully when you first start playing with a particular combo. Teaching/Learning that degree of subtlety might be a problem because it is not pure mathmatics.
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« Reply #10 on: Aug 12, 2017, 04:31PM »

My problem is playing straight eighths. I automatically play two eights approximately as a dotted eighth or as a sixteenth, depending if they are on the beat or off-beat. Of course, I never had a basic training in 'straight' music and have mainly played jazz and swing all my life. Yeah, RIGHT.

In recent years, I have played quite a lot in Concert bands but I still have to really concentrate on a non-swing interpretation.

I should also mention that different jazz bands and individual jazz musicians, even tunes, often have a more subtle interpretation of Swing rhythm to the basic 2/3-1/3-over-a-beat rhythm. Some software programs even allow you to adjust that split. But for the musician, it requires that you listen very carefully when you first start playing with a particular combo. Teaching/Learning that degree of subtlety might be a problem because it is not pure mathmatics.

Funny. Makes me think of one of my (full, 60-piece) concert bands.
Last year, we start rehearsing a "rag" in strict time.
After a few weeks, the conductor says, "nah, swing it."
So you've got the flutes and clarinets who can't swing for sh!t,
and you've got the saxes who are nailing it,
and you've got the trumpets and trombones who are "fighting" between inappropriately hard swings (confession: I was 100% in this camp),
versus the classically-trained players who swing like flutes,
versus the all-around good musicians who are listening and adjusting to what's going on around them and trying to bridge to gap.
As the melody shifts from section to section, the piece feels like a raging ocean of unsteady interpretations of swing.
But the conductor liked it that way, so that's how we played it.  Don't know
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