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How to Improve Rhythm for a Fiddler Who Mostly Plays Alone

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Dec 23, 2018 - 6:34:11 AM
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boxbow

USA

2604 posts since 2/3/2011

A number of years ago I felt that my waltz time was wandering on a couple of tunes. Not having a metronome, I turned on an old Casio keyboard that I hadn't gotten around to disposing of. It has a drum machine in it which I set to establish a strong 1-2-3.  It helped a lot.  And I do tap both feet, usually alternating, and it looks ridiculous.  I do it anyway.  It sort of ties into the whole dancing thing and the bowing does, too.

Dec 27, 2018 - 8:46:14 AM
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17 posts since 7/23/2014

You might want to check out strum machine, it has helped me a lot.

Dec 27, 2018 - 1:07:30 PM
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2204 posts since 10/22/2007

Situate yourself so you can hear yourself and the beat mixed to your preference. I would say equally, but you may need to hear the beat louder when you start out.

I don't differentiate a metronome from BIB, recording, or real rythm section. But employ something/ anything.

Dec 27, 2018 - 4:25:10 PM
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kjb

USA

721 posts since 6/8/2013

I believe its a muscle memory thing like fingering, practice it a lot, I use a metronome, for a number of things scales and such, you end up subconsciously getting the timing in your head . often it takes slowing things down quite a bit . good luck

Dec 28, 2018 - 8:17:36 PM

2653 posts since 9/13/2009

Another exercise that technique I found from fun with Frippertronics, might be useful exercise; as it's all about synchronizing to steady time.

It's essentially using a DELAY; you play something and it repeats back. say one 1 to 2 seconds later; you play in sync with what you just played (and it repeats the process endlessly). It's repeat creates a steady sense of time, relies on the ability to become "in-sync" with that time. 

--------------

You can use for many timing/rhythm exercises.

Start with synchronizing a simple single pulse; (it helps to try to feel and breathe that in your body, get in sync);  then subdivide that be 2 or 3; (can further divide).  Unlike other playing along with methods.... it only works if you can synchronize; provides immediate feedback if you get off.

Exercise can use it to play arpeggios, or some scale exercises (like ascending thirds). Can use it to practice a measure over and over. (longer delay a whole phrase). Can use it to practice various rhythm patterns; just bowing chords or with arpeggios, scales or melodic phrases.    Can also set up call and response phrases.  

This also can be useful for intonation, hearing as notes blend;  and useful for some building some improvisation skills. 

Original was analog with tape machines; later digital units; now there are software plug-ins that can do this. 

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 12/28/2018 20:25:21

Dec 28, 2018 - 8:39:14 PM

172 posts since 1/31/2013

quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler

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. 

 


Totally agree.  Dancers don't pay a lot of attention to how the tune goes or how many notes you miss but they're experts at rhythm.  Lots of rhythm problems come from musicians not being able to get all the notes perfectly aligned so I'd say drop out all you need in order to keep the grove going with yourself (or a recording you're playing with).  Work your bow like its dancing and the missing notes will eventually find their way back in much better aligned.  Metronomes can drive you nuts if your rhythm isn't good to start with. 

Edited by - Skookum on 12/28/2018 20:42:14

Dec 29, 2018 - 12:36:45 PM
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Viper

USA

232 posts since 1/6/2011

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.


I have a feeling this is also part of my problem. I play banjo and don't feel like my rhythm is off then. When I started playing fiddle, I wasn't interested in learning the "basic" tunes I already knew on banjo. Maybe I jumped into the deep end too fast with some of the trickier bowing and funkier tunes instead of sawing away at "Arkansas Traveler." 

Dec 29, 2018 - 7:56:20 PM
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5016 posts since 9/26/2008

"Arkansas Traveler" is not a beginner tune in my book. "Old Joe Clark," "Spotted Pony" maybe.

Dec 31, 2018 - 11:40:06 AM
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1472 posts since 4/6/2014

i understood more about rhythm after watching   "This"

Jan 3, 2019 - 12:19:14 PM

49 posts since 11/18/2017

Something simple that helps me a lot. For whatever reason, I cannot seem to play with a metronome. What I use instead is an online free basic drum machine called "Drumbit". I set up a simple 4 to the bar rythm using just bass drum and closed hi hat, that goes Boom titty Boom titty Boom etc. You can vary the speed as required. Why not try it?

Jan 4, 2019 - 7:28:48 AM

Viper

USA

232 posts since 1/6/2011

quote:
Originally posted by neptune

Something simple that helps me a lot. For whatever reason, I cannot seem to play with a metronome. What I use instead is an online free basic drum machine called "Drumbit". I set up a simple 4 to the bar rythm using just bass drum and closed hi hat, that goes Boom titty Boom titty Boom etc. You can vary the speed as required. Why not try it?


Interesting idea. Thanks for the suggestion. I'll give it a try. I have trouble playing fiddle to a metronome too. 

Jan 5, 2019 - 8:29:49 PM

2 posts since 1/5/2019

this is some great info! thanks!

Jan 29, 2019 - 8:30:58 AM
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Viper

USA

232 posts since 1/6/2011

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

...
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
.


Just thought I'd follow up on this thread. I've been working on a lot of the suggestions in this post, and I feel I'm starting to improve. Last week, I finally sat down and recorded myself for the first time in almost two years, and it was a real eye-opener. I should have known this, but it's a good reminder how important listening to your own playing is for improvement. 

I set up my Zoom H2 and played through 10 tunes. The first thing I noticed was how fast I was playing and how that led to poor phrasing and uneven rhythm. After about four tunes, I seemed to relax and slow down. Suddenly, I didn't sound so bad. How about that? Needless to say, I'm going to try to record myself at least once a month to track my progress. Thanks again for all the suggestions here, but especially to ChickenMan for the reminder to record myself. 

Jan 29, 2019 - 2:17:57 PM
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8933 posts since 3/19/2009

But wait... There is more....."If you can't play it slow, you can't play it fast."

One might think that tapping the foot is a good solution.. It is not.. Yes, tapping your foot indicates that some sort of rhythm is being followed, but usually one of two thing will happen..One, you will GRADUALLY speed up playing, and so your foot tapping will increase up also ( without you even noticing), or, Two, you will eventually get to a place in the music where you STOP tapping. That is the place where you lost time...

Edited by - TuneWeaver on 01/29/2019 14:22:37

Jan 29, 2019 - 2:56:30 PM
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5016 posts since 9/26/2008

I posted this to your blog, but thought I'd add it here too.

Might I suggest recording more often? The more you do it, the less awkward it becomes. Heck, you don't even have to listen each time, just get used to it. Also maybe turn it on later in the session, when you're warmed up and done working something out. The tape/zeros and ones don't lie.

Jan 29, 2019 - 3:02:24 PM
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1863 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaverOne might think that tapping the foot is a good solution.. It is not..

People tap their feet and not even keep time with it. I've even seen professionals do that. Feet are not the best keeper of time, unless you're dancing.

Also, the slow/fast thing is not always so for me. If a tune needs some pep to be played right then playing slow isn't any good except just getting it down to begin with. Lots of those peppy tunes are actually hard to slow down, and if I do slow them way down to play I've never felt I was gaining anything. Some tunes need a little speed to feel the how they go. Not to mention how bowing might be treated differently for playing slow or fast.

Edited by - Brian Wood on 01/29/2019 15:03:09

Jan 30, 2019 - 6:18:47 AM

Viper

USA

232 posts since 1/6/2011

Lee, thanks for the suggestion. I definitely need to slow myself down. Also, I'm not tapping my foot to keep time so much as to get in the groove and move my body to the music.

Billy, thanks for the comment on my blog. As for starting the recording later, I actually did. I had been playing a good 15 minutes prior to starting to record myself, so it really is when the light goes on that gets me to clam up. I will try to record myself more often to get used to it.

Jan 30, 2019 - 10:19:37 AM
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172 posts since 1/31/2013

 
Originally posted by Viper
I play banjo and don't feel like my rhythm is off then. 

This suggests that on the fiddle you don't have good coordination between your right and left hands, which apparently you have on the banjo.  Working on exercises that improve it should help (simple up and down short stroke bowing exercises can be a good place to start and later build to more complex bowings).  Take the first five minutes of your practice time to do coordinating  exercises and your timing will improve.  And don't neglect your pinky finger.

The other thing that really resonated with me is what someone spoke about on a recent thread - always make sure that the note that the beat falls on is precisely on the beat regardless of the notes between the beats.  That's intuitive, but I've known fiddlers who don't have all the slurs perfect but their timing is impeccable.  

Jan 30, 2019 - 10:35:03 AM
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1863 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Skookum
 
Originally posted by Viper
I play banjo and don't feel like my rhythm is off then. 

This suggests that on the fiddle you don't have good coordination between your right and left hands,

That also suggests that you should give preference to your right arm for bowing. That's the side where timing comes from. If your left hand doesn't finger the notes fast enough you should slow the tune down enough that both sides sync. Or, just play through with your bow and keep good time, and let your left hand catch up over time. Usually you'll do some of both.

Jan 30, 2019 - 10:51:40 AM
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2537 posts since 10/6/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Viper

Also, I'm not tapping my foot to keep time so much as to get in the groove and move my body to the music.


And I think that works.

I'm a foot tapper--an a fan of foot tapping. I really like hearing it in recordings old and new. 

For me, it very definitely affects the groove. There's an audible difference in how my playing moves forward with foot and without. 

Jan 30, 2019 - 4:45:27 PM

2653 posts since 9/13/2009

Recording; only after the playing; while a good tool for evaluation, analysis and measurement;  but doesn't necessarily nor directly address the issue or what solution. 

To develop the ability to sense in the moment, as playing; might consider alternative more direct methods.

Jan 31, 2019 - 1:54:52 AM

2653 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by abinigia
quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaverOne might think that tapping the foot is a good solution.. It is not..

People tap their feet and not even keep time with it. I've even seen professionals do that. Feet are not the best keeper of time, unless you're dancing.


I wonder how this advice would work for drummers?laugh

----------

Some people, obviously does work, just fine. Without problems. But probably depends on how or what the person is using the foot for; perhaps different concept or goal. (seem to describe and discuss it differently). 
 

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 01/31/2019 01:57:09

Oct 2, 2019 - 2:03:04 PM

189 posts since 4/15/2019

I use Bluegrass Backing Tracks on youtube to play with

Jan 6, 2021 - 9:47:35 AM

102 posts since 11/12/2011

I would *highly* recommend Strummachine. It's FUN and super easy to use. It has helped me a lot.

If nothing else the 14-day free trial is worthwhile. strummachine.com

Edited by - christym on 01/06/2021 09:47:59

Jan 6, 2021 - 10:29:29 AM

1472 posts since 4/6/2014

Just got to realize that the rhythm is always there, even if a player dancer or listener "Hits It" or not.....Jump on and ride it for a while...then jump off .......hopefully with style.....wink

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