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Lesson 2: Time/ Rhythm

Using a Metronome

Use a metronome when you're practicing. Experiment with using the metronome in different ways, setting it to click:

  • on beats 1, 2, 3, 4
  • on beats 2 and 4
  • on beat 1 of every bar
  • on beat 3 of every bar

Using Other Devices

You should also practice with

  • Band-in-a-Box
  • a drum machine
  • play-along records

Playing with Other People

The most important thing is playing with other people. The fine art of achieving and maintaining a good groove can only be learned by doing.

The Backbeat - 2 and 4

In rhythmic music in common time ( 4/4 time), the downbeat is not emphasized. This means that if you clap your hands or snap your fingers to this type of music, please do it on 2 and 4. There's nothing more groove killing than people clapping on 1 and 3. Jazz ( and pop/ rock, too) is backbeat music, it's for dancing and not for marching to. Bob Brozman wrote a great article on this matter ( and on rhythm in general) - read it here.

Locking into the Groove

Locking into the groove is based in confidence. Being able to play "in the pocket" is the dividing line between those who can play and those who can't. Either you're there or you're nothing. You just can't afford to have bad time.

A good jazz musician also has to master the art of playing behind the beat. Just the right amount of it to a solo gives the music a nice relaxed laid-back feel and there's no substitute for it. For a great example of playing behind the beat, listen to Miles Davis' So What solo from Kind of Blue. Check out my transcription of the solo, play along with the recording and you'll get the picture.

Recommended Reading

Read the pages on "Time Headquarters" ( p. 101-104) in The Advancing Guitarist by Mick Goodrick! What can I say - it can't be said more to the point and I really have nothing to add to that...

Listening to the Rhythms around You

Listen to the rhythms around you. There are rhythms everywhere, not only in music, but in:

  • waves on a shore
  • birds' song
  • people's talk
  • the sounds of engines and machines
Study these rhythms and try to relate to them. Try to let these rhythms give you ideas to use when you improvise and write music.

2004 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.