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How to Improve Rhythm for a Fiddler Who Mostly Plays Alone

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Dec 20, 2018 - 12:17:48 PM

Viper

USA

232 posts since 1/6/2011

Due to a variety of scheduling conflicts, I don't get out to play with others very often. Most of my fiddling is done in solitary. However, I recently DID play with a couple folks and learned that my rhythm is ... not good.

So, dear Fiddle Hangout-ers, what are some good ways to improve that aspect of my playing?

Just to get this out of the way:
1. Play with a metronome.
2. Play with recordings.
3. Tap my foot.

OK, now, what else?

Dec 20, 2018 - 12:36:52 PM

259 posts since 12/2/2013

Dec 20, 2018 - 1:01:54 PM
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4289 posts since 6/23/2007

"Band in a Box" can be used to create rhythm files. On Youtube a banjo player has a lot of clawhammer banjo versions of fiddle tunes. Playing along with those clawhammer versions can help improve a persons rhythm. In some cases the clawhammer versions are better than BIAB because it lacks RealTracks for some styles of fiddling. You can download the clawhammer tunes.

For Irish tunes, I like using Mark Stone's bodhran rhythm CD. It has a rhythm track for each type of Irish tune. I use "The Amazing Slow Downer" software to control speed, key, looping etc.. I bought the Mark Stone CD on the CDBaby website.

Dec 20, 2018 - 1:20:29 PM

1304 posts since 7/26/2015

Who is the YouTube user? Can you add a link?
quote:
Originally posted by Dick Hauser

"Band in a Box" can be used to create rhythm files. On Youtube a banjo player has a lot of clawhammer banjo versions of fiddle tunes. Playing along with those clawhammer versions can help improve a persons rhythm. In some cases the clawhammer versions are better than BIAB because it lacks RealTracks for some styles of fiddling. You can download the clawhammer tunes.

For Irish tunes, I like using Mark Stone's bodhran rhythm CD. It has a rhythm track for each type of Irish tune. I use "The Amazing Slow Downer" software to control speed, key, looping etc.. I bought the Mark Stone CD on the CDBaby website.


Dec 20, 2018 - 1:46:09 PM
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8933 posts since 3/19/2009

Play MORE.. (and More MORE)
play a tune until you OWN it..(can play it anyway you want)
Listen to recordings of yourself playing (you'll be your best critic)

Dec 20, 2018 - 1:51:31 PM
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974 posts since 6/26/2007

4. Learn to listen to the rhythm instruments (assuming they are good) while you are playing and stay with them. I know it's not always easy, but I have done that naturally as long as I've played.

Dec 20, 2018 - 3:27:12 PM
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5016 posts since 9/26/2008

I used to only play fiddle by myself and have a couple of approaches for this (to add to what has already been already said) that might seem odd, but have worked well for me.
1. Metronome: set it for whatever tempo you want (if it can break the beat up and emphasize the One, all the better I use an app called Pro Metronome by EUMLabs on both android and iOS). Then just let it play by itself in the background for as long as you can stand while you go about business that doesn’t require a fiddle in your hand - dishes foe example. Let it settle into your being, doesn’t have to be loud, just so you can hear it. When you are tired of it, turn on your recorder and turn off the ‘nome. See how you do playing a tune you have mentally solid or don’t have to think about. Do this regularly, and particularly before bed. Record again in the morning. If it turns out you don’t have a solid tune (you’ll know soon enough) then get a tune that you have at least memorized the sound of the melody in your head and see if you can scat or lilt or whistle in time. Recorder is your best friend, the kind of friend who will tell you that you have a booger hanging; brutally honest but there to help you out.

2. Put on a recording or YouTube and play along. Wander out of earshot and back. Are you playing the same as the recording? Stretch the time away as you improve. You can also do this while listening to the !nome as you go about your business.

If you aren’t recording you’ll never know if your perception is off, which it must be since you just learned of this problem. I play solo barn dance gigs (have one on Saturday) and have never had a complaint, only compliments. Lee knows how I do.wink
.

Dec 20, 2018 - 3:51:25 PM
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lapsteel

Canada

70 posts since 11/26/2016

I think that rhythm is internal so I do not tap my foot.
I find that foot tapping is distracting.

Dec 20, 2018 - 4:04:14 PM
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Swing

USA

1990 posts since 6/26/2007

I think that you need to do all on your list, not at once though. Timing is a tough love project... if you can play a piano or guitar and back up other fiddlers you will be pleasantly surprised how it will help your playing

Play Happy

Swing

Dec 20, 2018 - 5:06:55 PM
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2537 posts since 10/6/2008

Try walking while playing. It took me a few days to get the hang of it, but it's kind of a fun exercise -- in more ways than one. :) I don't do it often, but it's kind of a cool way to play to a beat.

Dec 20, 2018 - 6:27:03 PM
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639 posts since 8/10/2017

The foot tapping thing does not work. If you have bad rhythm, the bad rhythm is inside of you and the foot is a part of you so it's going to have bad rhythm, too. Play to recordings.

Dec 20, 2018 - 7:45:29 PM

2314 posts since 10/1/2008

http://www.grasstrax.com/

Relatively inexpensive tunes and songs played at several different speeds. 

http://www.oldtimejam.com/

And if you prefer OT to grass this site is free ..... R/ 

Dec 21, 2018 - 2:47:06 AM
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Peghead

USA

1590 posts since 1/21/2009

Isolate the notes that land on the down beats in the tune (notice I didn't say the down bows) and give them some extra emphasis. With the metronome, experiment with accenting every 2nd, 4th then every 8th down beat. When that's good the other notes will fall into place.

Dec 21, 2018 - 7:16:55 AM
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Jimbeaux

Germany

374 posts since 5/24/2016

quote:
Originally posted by UsuallyPickin

http://www.grasstrax.com/

Relatively inexpensive tunes and songs played at several different speeds. 

http://www.oldtimejam.com/

And if you prefer OT to grass this site is free ..... R/ 


www.strummachine.com is excellent, too. The best imo. It's a  paid service but cheap

Edited by - Jimbeaux on 12/21/2018 07:17:50

Dec 21, 2018 - 7:24:30 AM
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Viper

USA

232 posts since 1/6/2011

Thank you all for the great ideas. I definitely don't record myself enough. I think part of my problem was jumping into some of the syncopated bowing that Brad Leftwich teaches in his videos without having a solid foundation. I'm finding that I'm rushing slurs and holding longer bows too long and missing the beat.

Dec 21, 2018 - 8:38:40 AM
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1863 posts since 8/27/2008

Timing is an interior thing. If BIAB or a metronome help, that's good, but you should cultivate a sense of beat that comes from within. Hum to yourself tunes you know all day long. A sense of time is physical as well as mental. You'll feel it in your body. Maybe you'll start to feel it when your head bobs a little, or feel in in your shoulders. Your hip. Clacking your teeth or flicking your fingers. Your shoulders is good, because from there it will work down to your bowing hand.

Don't rely on tapping your foot if you have no reason to trust your foot. Find where you feel the beat and hum to yourself constantly.

Dec 21, 2018 - 3:24:05 PM

639 posts since 8/10/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Peghead

Isolate the notes that land on the down beats in the tune (notice I didn't say the down bows) and give them some extra emphasis. With the metronome, experiment with accenting every 2nd, 4th then every 8th down beat. When that's good the other notes will fall into place.


Wait, how does that work? Extra emphasis on the downbeats, accent on the up beats? Wouldn't that be just emphasis on everything?

Dec 21, 2018 - 5:30:39 PM

Peghead

USA

1590 posts since 1/21/2009

quote:
Originally posted by sbhikes2
quote:
Originally posted by Peghead

Isolate the notes that land on the down beats in the tune (notice I didn't say the down bows) and give them some extra emphasis. With the metronome, experiment with accenting every 2nd, 4th then every 8th down beat. When that's good the other notes will fall into place.


Wait, how does that work? Extra emphasis on the downbeats, accent on the up beats? Wouldn't that be just emphasis on everything?


Accent Just the down beats, the up beats will take care of themselves when the down beats are evenly spaced. For instance, set the metronome to land on the 1's and 5's, and play them a bit louder so that they create  a rhythm of their own.  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8  or  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 . The notes in between will equalize themselves.  Best if practiced not too fast. Has anyone mentioned the "S" word yet?  scales

Edited by - Peghead on 12/21/2018 17:36:54

Dec 22, 2018 - 4:35:22 AM

177 posts since 11/28/2018

Find the simplest version of a tune you can find, then hum or whistle it over and over with and without a metronome before trying to play it the first time. Start with very simple saw strokes first time you play it. You can add more notes / ornamentation / complex bow patterns gradually.

Dec 22, 2018 - 4:39:16 AM
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2653 posts since 9/13/2009

DANCE

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 12/22/2018 04:41:18

Dec 22, 2018 - 7:59:21 AM
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2537 posts since 10/6/2008

For whatever it's worth, sometimes, with my playing, I notice that the rhythm is off, not because my internal sense of pulse isn't working (although, I'm not perfect with rhythm by any means), but because I don't quite have my right hand and/or left hand muscles trained to do what I want them to do in perfect time.

Dec 22, 2018 - 8:57:13 AM
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2653 posts since 9/13/2009

I realize folks have heard the advice about dance, dance, dance... and wonder why all the hub bub, or protest, or just nod along (though they don't dance). So one observation I mention dance, because never hear social dancers, contra dance, waltz, cajun two-step, talk of struggle with timing, and needing to practice it timing, use a metronome... so maybe there is something. And it often turns out many good solid rhythmic players have, and do dance; quite well. I notice students who dance seem to struggle less. Students and more advanced who struggle often don't dance.

IMO - It's all about starting with rhythmic "feel". Understanding it in a concrete way vs abstract way - via experiencing it, engaging in it as sensory feel. DANCE, is perfect paradigm about experiencing feeling the rhythm... and then learning to coordinate moving part(s) of your body in a rhythmic way that synchronizes with the rhythm. FWIW, here's my ideas:

1. Really dance, core involves feel more than think; (not about fancy steps or following some step instruction). Top-down, starts with sense of steady main beat, the weight of that... more than TAP the toe or foot, and feel weight of foot on steady beat. Then feel the sense of patten, meter grouping (don't count, just feel)  and move body in way to match, like alternating Left Right, (or front back, up down). Feel the sense shifting weight of alternating left right in whole body.  Then detail further feel dance, feel the division and how not just foot, but sense the accent and flow and how to engage rest so the of leg, knee, thigh, hip... that it fits the division, and flow of rhythm. Such as bending the knees with a spring; or balance forward rock on toe.  Then feel the weight, accent, balance and flow, the push and pull, bounce, sway, march, drive, springy, groove, glide, the forward propelling... fits in the rhythmic pattern as a flowing action (not just individual steps, one flows into the other); how ever it feels let that guide the movement in the body, subtle and not so subtle. Don't think, engage really "feel" the rhythm, whole body.  This is what humans naturally want to gravitate to, surrender to it.

2. Take that experience and create the rhythm in your mind... imagine the rhythm (some call audiate it). Might also help to diddle the rhythm to  get it in the imagination. 

3. Take the audiated rhythm of the mind and learn how to coordinate body parts movement to create the feel in the body if not sound of rhythm. Might be easiest to start with foot (like dancing) for feel of weight on steady main beat as anchor, felt better if on the heel than toe; then using hands, or diddling; air guitar, air fiddling or dancing with the rhythm in mind. Like above, start with steady main beat, then down to group, then division, flow. Again feel the rhythmic weight and flow in your body.

4. Playing an instrument then involves the same, start with the imagined rhythm and flow, DANCE but coordinating different body part and action, like left hand moving a bow across strings; so it matches. Don't think... Feel the rhythm and flow, engage with it, let it naturally guide your hand to conform. Might start with just playing rhythm, playing single string or like seconding, playing chords. Like above, start with steady main beat, then down to group, then division, flow. Using the foot, as the feel of weight on steady main beat is perfectly fine. 

When it comes to then playing tunes, melody... engage your whole body, and DANCE as you play (even if in place or sitting down)...  the melody will fit within that rhythmic context... that feel of rhythm should come from within, emerge out and should be so engrained that won't think much about it, the melody just wants to  gravitate toward and conform. Submit. BTW, it's perfectly fine to use the foot as part of this dancing, as steady anchor, or just natural feel.

Other observation... watch really good rhythmic players, not unusual to notice their movement and rhythm isn't just the elbow, but how the much more of body, if not whole body is engaged and flowing to that rhythm; they are DANCING while they play.

IMO, start with deeply understanding the feel of rhythm and it helps the rest fall into place.

(note about "timing"  -  by default dance rhythm has a sensory steady beat; you should be able to naturally sense and easily conform to without about thinking it).

There are other ways...this just always seemed the most natural, obvious and efficient. I believe all humans are naturally wired to concretely feel rhythm and dance (more than abstractly think); IOW it's naturally part of being human... tap into it. 

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 12/22/2018 09:10:49

Dec 22, 2018 - 11:27:39 AM

1472 posts since 4/6/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Cyndy

For whatever it's worth, sometimes, with my playing, I notice that the rhythm is off, not because my internal sense of pulse isn't working (although, I'm not perfect with rhythm by any means), but because I don't quite have my right hand and/or left hand muscles trained to do what I want them to do in perfect time.


Similar.... i think i've got to "Think ahead"..(and feel ahead),.. like classical players and folk who are good at sight reading who "Read ahead"....probably a couple of bars or so...then hit that beat/phrase/ornament or whatever, on the right bow stroke to keep the rhythm rolling, like knowing which foot, (right or left) you are going to be on when yo reach that tree up ahead

Edited by - pete_fiddle on 12/22/2018 11:36:52

Dec 22, 2018 - 2:35:18 PM
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974 posts since 6/26/2007

I don't dance, but frequently play for dancers. Just watching them keeps me on the beat. In contrast, I have seen a banjo player get off and mess up the dancers when he didn't have a bass behind him. Of course, he thinks his timing is perfect.

Dec 22, 2018 - 3:48:16 PM

5016 posts since 9/26/2008

quote:
Originally posted by captainhook

I don't dance, but frequently play for dancers. Just watching them keeps me on the beat. In contrast, I have seen a banjo player get off and mess up the dancers when he didn't have a bass behind him. Of course, he thinks his timing is perfect.


laugh

Dec 22, 2018 - 4:52:22 PM

1304 posts since 7/26/2015

If I remember correctly, I recorded this with Strum Machine backing me. fiddlehangout.com/myhangout/me...archived=

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