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Develop Your Rhythmic Feel

Developing a versatile rhythmic skill and feel is essential for every musician. In this brief article I will introduce you to a practicing method for developing these in an accurate and maybe not so common way.

The Approach

In order to be focused we need to develop our rhythmic skills separately from our instruments - otherwise we get distracted by technique or other instrument related issues. Think of yourself as a drummer or percussionist (not to mention that in my opinion every musician should be able to play some decent drums).

For our exercises we will:
- need a metronome
- use our voice
- use our hands
- use our feet

Perform these exercises while sitting straight up but try to be relaxed and focussed.

Let's just jump right into our first exercise to see where I am heading. Set your metronome to 60 which gives us the quarter note in a 4/4. First start with counting the beats, ie One, Two, Three, Four, etc .... Then add your feet. Right foot on 1 and 3 and left foot on 2 and 4. (You could also turn this around but in the beginning it makes more sense to use your stronger foot to go with 1 and 3 as these beats have the natural tendency to be more accentuated. If you are left handed switch and use your left foot on 1 and 3). Next add your hands in the same way as your feet.

Our little 'score' looks like this:

Getting to feel '1 and 3' and '2 and 4'

Our next step is to take the metronome down to a tempo of 50. Now, think of each click as having a value of a half note (so the real tempo in quarter notes is 100). By using the metronome on beats '1 and 3' or '2 and 4' we have to 'feel' the other beats as there's nothing to orientate ourselves on. Check it out - do you feel the difference from our first exercise?

Metronome and feet on 1 and 3 - hands and voice on quarter notes.

Metronome and feet on 2 and 4 - hands and voice on quarter notes.

2 and 4 is a bit more tricky - it's more difficult to get into the beat by counting it off correctly.
Here's a way of doing it:

on the metronome clicks count:
            two                     four
then add the three inbetween:
            two        three        four
and then add the one:
 one        two        three        four

Taking it further from the above, set your metronome to 40. We can now think of the metronome as giving us just beat four in a measure so the actual tempo is 160 for quarter notes. This requires us to feel beats one, two and three. First, just try to count the entire measure - then add your feet on 2 and 4 and finally add your hands.
Here's what this looks like:

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