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How to Improve Rhythm for a Fiddler Who Mostly Plays Alone

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Jan 6, 2021 - 10:54:15 AM
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1863 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by christym

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


I second that. There was recently an update to the program that makes it even better than it was. I dumped BIAB and use Strum Machine instead. Very easy to use. For me playing with backing tracks makes all the difference when practicing. Sawing away by myself it's easy for my attention to drift, not to mention my timing.

Edited by - Brian Wood on 01/06/2021 10:54:48

Jan 6, 2021 - 11:23:55 AM
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311 posts since 3/1/2020

If you want to really focus on accuracy, the best thing you can do is use a metronome and be very strict about following it while you use it. If you do, you can really build up a good internal sense of rhythm.

Playing with recordings is a more enjoyable way of working on your rhythm, but you do lose some accuracy. Players often push and pull the beat. The benefit is that you get a more realistic picture of playing in a group if you’re using a recording.

The beat is more fluid in classical music and you have to be able to sense the other players’ timing to be a good ensemble player. In Old Time the beat is somewhat more solid, as the music is dance music and must be more regulated to avoid confusion.

Jan 6, 2021 - 3:22:27 PM
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1863 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

If you want to really focus on accuracy, the best thing you can do is use a metronome and be very strict about following it while you use it.


If that works for you, fine. Personally I highly recommend playing your fiddle along with something musical. Metronomes are cold and don't inspire anything other than rigid mechanical beats. Playing with Strum Machine or something similar gives you the strict timing of a metronome with a little bit of soul. Playing with recordings is also good because the extent of variation that might occur in the beat is minor, and playing with others (with possibly their minor variations) is the point of playing, isn't it? If you insist in using a metronome to practice try using the click as a backbeat. It takes a minute to get the hang of it but it allows a sense of swing that's just not there in playing with the downbeat. More musical in other words.

Jan 6, 2021 - 3:49:07 PM

2546 posts since 7/12/2013

Another suggestion when playing with a metronome is using it on the off beats. It actually gives the metronome a better feel. Though it is hard to get your head around it at first.

Jan 6, 2021 - 3:55:21 PM

2546 posts since 7/12/2013

Was looking for an example of playing with the metronome on the off beats and ran into this video, seems good like good practice: youtube.com/watch?v=WIzLXr7xecY

Jan 6, 2021 - 3:55:57 PM

8933 posts since 3/19/2009

Yeah, what Mark said.. Mark is a smart guy.. really!!laugh

Jan 6, 2021 - 4:10:19 PM
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WyoBob

USA

201 posts since 5/16/2019

I noticed fairly quickly when I got to where I could play my banjo up to speed with 20-30 tunes and started going to jams 6 years or so ago, that some folks foot tapped and others didn't.  I also noticed, most of the time, the feet weren't together so I made up my mind that I wasn't going tap (or look at other players feet).

Initially, with the banjo, I tried using a metronome.   Just another thing to keep track of and they can be annoying to a hearing aid wearer so I gave up on it.

I decided it made the most sense for me to just learn to play along with recordings of other players even though they weren't "dead on" with their timing.   I use the tunes from Josh Turknett's site (around 120 tunes I think) to play along with on my banjo and now fiddle.  He has all of the tunes played with fiddle/banjo, fiddle/guitar and I can slow them down, loop, etc.   The timing seems pretty good on those recordings but, even if they're not, I try to fit in.

I've also recorded many of the jams I've been to, great, good and not so good and play along with them.  Being able to play along with jams even when the timing might get off sometimes or the tunes speed up is the skill that makes sense to me.  If a jam takes an excursion in timing, I think it makes sense to play along instead of playing in "metronome" timing if the rest of the group isn't.  Otherwise, I'd stick out like a sore thumbsurprise  In fact, the main reason I started recording was to make sure that my banjo playing fit in with the group so I wasn't causing problems for the other players.

Jan 6, 2021 - 4:22:05 PM
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1863 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver

Yeah, what Mark said.. Mark is a smart guy.. really!!laugh


Agreed, he is. I made the point about backbeat too. and join him in saying how much difference it makes if you're going to use a metronome.

Jan 6, 2021 - 4:28:21 PM
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DougD

USA

9976 posts since 12/2/2007

Yeah, Brian said it first - Mark was just coypcatting.
Lee, we really need you to KEEP ORDER AROUND HERE (yelling quietly), but please pay attention!

Jan 6, 2021 - 7:39:46 PM

311 posts since 3/1/2020

I agree that you need to play in time with the other players in an ensemble. But if you realt want to develop a sense of rhythm and find that just playing doesn’t allow you to do so, the metronome is a wonderful tool. Yes, it’s a machine, but you have to be able to understand rhythm to push it and pull it tastefully. Otherwise the playing is just gibberish. The metronome helps to build a solid foundation.

Playing with others is one of the joys of playing music, but there are many reasons for playing, especially being able to communicate something. Effective communication relies on a solid foundation of syntax. You might say that learning grammar is cold and mechanical, yet without it you can’t convey anything.

Jan 7, 2021 - 10:35:12 AM
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Viper

USA

232 posts since 1/6/2011

I've been away from this site for a while, but nice to see this old post has found new life. Hoping others are finding all the great suggestions useful. Cheers!

Jan 7, 2021 - 11:11:50 AM
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2546 posts since 7/12/2013

quote:
Originally posted by DougD

Yeah, Brian said it first - Mark was just coypcatting.
Lee, we really need you to KEEP ORDER AROUND HERE (yelling quietly), but please pay attention!


Haha sorry! :D

Jan 8, 2021 - 9:11:09 AM
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Peghead

USA

1590 posts since 1/21/2009

If you mostly play alone, don't worry about your ryhthm, who cares? Just enjoy yourself?

Jan 8, 2021 - 12:23:32 PM
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1472 posts since 4/6/2014

yeah, get your sense of rhythm from a metronome or similar, but  IMO no pro plays with a metronome stick up their A*!. They play it how they would sing it...If they could sing all the notes as well as they can play them on the fiddle. The important thing IMO is continuity, phrasing and hitting the beat to make your phrasing make sense.

i played for years trying to get all the notes "In 2 3 4, Time 2 3 4". Then i realized That...I...Dont...sing...like ...that...at...all...No...i...dont...sing...like...that...at...all...i Singabit moOooore like ThisandgettheNotes in where i Can. laugh

Jan 8, 2021 - 1:00:44 PM
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5843 posts since 8/7/2009

I have always drove others mad with me tapping out a rhythm to the music I hear - hands, fingers, feet - pencils / whatever. And like you say Pete - my tapping is usually more that an even metered beat - it is me chasing the rhythm and trying to sync up. But sometimes its fun just to see if I can keep a steady 1, 2, 3, 4 behind all the rhythm. Usually - speeding up or slowing down is not the problem - its the slightly off beat here and there - but its easy to get back in sync.

I think that has helped more than just about anything else as far as developing an internal sense for meter. And that would be very closely related to what alaskafiddler has said about dancing - same principal.

My experience  - playing with others doesn't always pay dividends - depending on the folks and level of skill. For an expected "goal oriented pay-off" - playing with recordings is usually better for timing.

But - I would not expect for everyone to agree on one thing that will be fool proof fix for anyone and everyone. Try several things - use several things - it all helps, can't hurt.

Edited by - tonyelder on 01/08/2021 13:02:59

Jan 8, 2021 - 1:54:29 PM
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1472 posts since 4/6/2014

"They" say (who they are i dont know), that "rhythm is king", come to think of it i think i might have re-iterated it myself? But maybe context trumps it ??

Am i playing to a quiet attentive audience, a rowdy crowd, just one person, practising a passage, playing for a dance or recording? My rhythm, tempo and consequently my note choices will alter to suit the context. I think a metronome is probably a decent gauge for tempo if i am practising, but it's not what happens in real life, it seems to me to be a bit more "organic" maybe?

Jan 8, 2021 - 2:01:56 PM
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DougD

USA

9976 posts since 12/2/2007

Just take off your pegleg and beat time on the table. Don't spill the grog!

Jan 8, 2021 - 2:13:30 PM
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1472 posts since 4/6/2014

quote:
Originally posted by DougD

Just take off your pegleg and beat time on the table. Don't spill the grog!


Then i wouldn't have anything to spin around on whilst performing laugh

Jan 8, 2021 - 4:28:22 PM
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DougD

USA

9976 posts since 12/2/2007

Reminds me of a good old joke, but probably not suitable for the FHO in 2021.

Jan 10, 2021 - 7:32:48 PM

BR5-49

USA

208 posts since 1/3/2019

putting down the fiddle and listening to music with a strong downbeat is something I do when I get a bit wild (though getting a bit wild is part of my style).

sometimes I listen to native american drumming and singing... martin hayes is another suggestion

Jan 13, 2021 - 9:33:52 AM
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102 posts since 11/12/2011

quote:
Originally posted by pete_fiddle

... no pro plays with a metronome stick up their... The important thing IMO is continuity, phrasing and hitting the beat to make your phrasing make sense.

This reminds me of criticisms bestowed on a stand-in drummer for a very popular band.  He played with them for about a year -- and in that time, fans of the band were disappointed with his drumming because his timing was TOO accurate.  They said he sounded like a machine.  Not naming any names here, but that stand-in drummer is actually an awesome old-time fiddler.  A favorite of many including me ;)

Seems to me that "being TOO accurate" with regards to time-keeping is not the worst criticism a drummer or musician could receive.  But, I do know that some strive for some sort of looseness or something, I'm not sure what you would call it.   Neil Peart (drummer-extraordinaire) for example, later in his career worked with jazz greats Freddie Gruber and Peter Erskine to try to bring more "heart" to his drumming. 

Seems though that for most, achieving some high level of accuracy first (whether working with a metronome or with rock-solid rhythm player) would come first.  Then work in something else -- heart, looseness, musicality....

Edited by - christym on 01/13/2021 09:48:34

Jan 14, 2021 - 5:43:35 AM
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148 posts since 12/30/2008

quote:
Originally posted by christym

This reminds me of criticisms bestowed on a stand-in drummer for a very popular band.  He played with them for about a year -- and in that time, fans of the band were disappointed with his drumming because his timing was TOO accurate.  They said he sounded like a machine.  Not naming any names here, but that stand-in drummer is actually an awesome old-time fiddler.  A favorite of many including me ;)

Seems to me that "being TOO accurate" with regards to time-keeping is not the worst criticism a drummer or musician could receive.  But, I do know that some strive for some sort of looseness or something, I'm not sure what you would call it.   Neil Peart (drummer-extraordinaire) for example, later in his career worked with jazz greats Freddie Gruber and Peter Erskine to try to bring more "heart" to his drumming. 

Seems though that for most, achieving some high level of accuracy first (whether working with a metronome or with rock-solid rhythm player) would come first.  Then work in something else -- heart, looseness, musicality....


There's a story about someone referring to Homer of Homer and Jethro as "like a metronome." Homer's reply was: "Thanks, but a metronome don't swing!"

Jan 23, 2021 - 10:19:10 AM

37 posts since 4/2/2019

I like the tool, iRealPro. Pretty reasonably priced (I think it was about $15). Each tune is basically a chord chart and you can readily change the key, tempo, and number of repeats. Easy enough to enter your own tunes, but also comes with hundreds (thousands?) of tunes that are available on their forum. You can edit those tunes, too. It is popular with jazz crowd, but works great for fiddle tunes and bluegrass songs, too. No melody (due to copyright issues), so you do need to know a song fairly well.

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