This is the second and final part of our article inspired by a reader asking about practical tips and ideas to master rhythm in order to become a better musician. A link to part one is provided at the end of this installment.
More Tips and Advice To Master Rhythm
Continuing on with some more ideas and techniques aimed at learning to master rhythm, I would recommend a couple of related ideas to try that may seem fairly unorthodox at first glance but I believe can be quite useful. One is to work with a mirror, and the other is to record or videotape yourself during your practice sessions. It may seem a little weird to stare at yourself in a mirror, but you need to make sure that what you’re doing physically is not interfering with your precision in any way, so use your instrument or sticks or sing, whatever you like, and watch yourself while you’re doing it. Are you making any unnecessary body movements that are slowing down the beat somehow? Is your breath timing precise? If you’re listening to music and tapping, is your foot coming up too far or awkwardly making it physically difficult to come down precisely on the beat? Check out your entire body and pay close attention to all those physical movements, the smaller the better in general terms, you want to focus all your efforts on precision and not allow any big sweeping movements to interfere with landing the groove as precisely as you can.
Similarly, when listening to yourself on audio or watching yourself on video, try and identify what small, subtle actions you’re doing physically might be getting in the way of your ability to be precise enough to really master rhythm completely. Notice not only whether or not the rhythm is right or not, but what’s wrong with it exactly. Are you behind the beat? Ahead of it? Are you all over the place, fast in some places slow in others? Try to identify exactly where you seem to be going astray and zero in on that problem and work to fix it, one small section at a time (try the video taping method when you’re practicing your downbeats and other isolated attack exercises).
Don’t Get Discouraged
One thing to keep in mind is that not every technique is going to work for every person. Some people need to try many different methods, other people find one method or one particular teacher or a certain comment that just seems to click for them. We all struggle with some areas in music that frustrate us because we don’t feel as though we’re able to improve quickly enough, while other things come much more naturally to us without such an intensive amount of work. Aside from the extremes, virtuosos who can simply pick up their craft seemingly effortlessly and, on the flip side, folks who simply have no natural aptitude for music and are really probably better off simply finding some other creative pursuit because music is just not their thing, the rest of us are pretty much somewhere in between where we have a certain amount of natural aptitude for some aspects of music making (rhythm, pitch, timing, improvisation, creating a great sound, excellent phrasing, and so on), while in other areas we need to spend a lot more time shedding before it comes to us, and even then it is always a sticking point you need to go back to and improve again and again.
In more general terms, here on Upbeat Rhythms we intend to continue presenting our comprehensive series of videos which will, over time, address many of the specific tricky rhythms that can be difficult to master, so please do continue checking back frequently because if you’re looking for specifics we aim to deliver.
Hopefully this article can be the start of a real dialogue for everyone who has tried or is trying to master rhythm in order to improve as musicians, it would be great if some people with experience in this area could chime in with a comment, an idea, or some additional advice, as this is a very important topic and, in practical terms, there are many ways to skin a cat when it comes to practicing and useful techniques and it would be great to hear as many as possible from as many people as possible. So look forward to that, and thanks to all for reading and for checking out UpbeatRhythms.com!