View Full Version : Timing & Rhythm - Inbuilt or Acquired

The Dude
01-29-2004, 05:59 PM
Hey, today in my music class, I had my mock exam, and the teacher had said at the end of it, that technically and creatively, I'm talented - but that my timing and rhythm were consitently off.

When I asked if there was anything I could do to improve this, she said timing was something that could not be learned, but my experience of this differentiates from hers. For example my sister plays the sax and for ages she had difficulty with timing then one day it just sort of clicked.My music teacher mentioned that this might be down to me being self taught and not ever having experience of classical training in the same way she or others would have.

However, I was wondering if anybody here could help, this timing thing has really got me down because I love the guitar, it's what my life revolves around - it's all I ever do if Im not out. Anyway I was hoping somebody could help or perhaps suggest some way of really fixing up my timing because the guitar is so important to me.


01-29-2004, 06:33 PM
Well, I can tell you from my own experience. I have no rhythm whatsoever (I can't dance, which is weird since I'm latin) and yeah that used to be reflected in my playing in the first few months but then I discovered... well rediscovered (more like I started paying more attention to) the metronome... and then it all changed, it took a hell of a lot of work, to get the rhythm down in my head but now my rhythm is decent, I'm still working on it, and constantly discovering flaws and trying to correct them, just like in any other aspect of my playing... so the bottom line is: Maybe I'll never be a great dancer but I sure can learn rhythm and play in time.

So just work hard on it and you'll see results.

I hope this helps,


01-29-2004, 07:17 PM
Originally posted by The Dude
When I asked if there was anything I could do to improve this, she said timing was something that could not be learned, Look for a new teacher now!!!

There is lots you can do to improve your rhythmic skills. One approach that you might look into I wrote about here: http://www.ibreathemusic.com/article/32


John Tuohy
01-29-2004, 10:51 PM
I think a lot of timing and rhythms are a natural occurance. One of my best friends, in particular, is extremely naturally talented. When he improvises, he comes up with new rhythmic and melodic schemes every solo. He never had to study it or practice it. He always just could absord complex rhythms and melodies, and digest them and make them his own. For me, I was never able to do things like that very easily. However, through working with a metronome and learning how to count, feel and play rhythms, my time and rhythmic diversity is much better than it used to be.

John Tuohy

01-29-2004, 11:43 PM
I'm just editing an article by Tom Hess and I think this little excerpt fits the discussion. (The article should be done by tomorrow so you can read the entire thing - I hope Tom doesn't mind.)

Excerpt from 'Why Aren't You a Better Guitarist?' by Tom Hess:
There is no such thing as musical skill. There exists only a large set of musical skills. Think about some of the very different types of skills a musician needs to have: a highly developed ear, good physical technique on his/her instrument, heightened creativity, the ability to improvise well, songwriting/composing skills, the ability to play in time, the ability to play with others, the comprehension of music theory, a good memory, the ability to read music, etc.

The list goes on and on. Some players have a natural ability to play fast, some have naturally good ears, some have good voices, some are naturally more creative than others, some are natural improvisers, etc. NOBODY has natural talent in all of the necessary areas to be a complete musician. ie. through hard work, a good plan, a good teacher, etc. lack of natural talent in certain areas can be compensated and overcome.

Personally, I know rhythm is one of my strong sides - a natural ability. On the other hand, when I started out, I had big problems with transcribing and memorizing melodies. It's an area I worked on hard and with time I gained the skills that I was aiming for.

I just can't understand why a teacher would make a statement like the one The Dude mentions above. There is always a way to improve ...


The Dude
01-30-2004, 02:13 AM
Thanks for the support, it helps alot, I've decided Im going to keep working on the rhythm until it's battered into me. It's good to hear that it's somehting that can be developed, the way it was put to me had me even questioning playing the guitar because I aim to teach music or do session musicianship someday. Anyway, thanks alot for the help and support, it's good to have some good advice.

01-30-2004, 06:27 PM
Cool - that's the correct spirit :D

01-30-2004, 07:00 PM
Thanks from me also, I've been struggling with rhythm and timing, and its been getting me down quite a bit. This threads been quite encouraging.....i WILL get it sorted :)

03-18-2004, 05:17 AM
The Metronome is your best friend when it comes to rhythm. just listen to different genres and grooves and try to pick them up. when it comes to rhythm guitar, most jazz and latin is good, as well as old blues music and Metallica for heavy metal grooves. and for lead, specifically I really like Carlos Santana and Andy Timmons. Rap music has a lot of good rhythmic grooves to. just listen to it a lot and pick up what you can.

05-05-2004, 02:56 PM
As a kid, I played alone all the time and never had any guidance in the area of rhythm. It was a horrible shock when I entered an arts high school and discovered that my time was seriously lacking. It was extremely humiliating and shattered my confidence for years. But I'm thankful for it. Because it's been my prime focus musically ever since. Is my time perfect? No, but it's pretty good now. In fact, I often get compliments on it.

Bad time can be corrected, believe me. I know how tough it is to feel deficient, especially when you're told that it's inborn and final. That's crap. The mind and body are incredible adaptive. The trick is force it for a while. Use a metronome, plan your phrases, don't over play, RELAX -- that's a really important part of it -- and LISTEN. Don't try to feel time in your brain either. It's not a cerebral process. It's a full-on sensation. Dancing would probably help too. Don't be bashful about it, your career is the goal, right?

Anyway, keep your spirits up and work your *** off. It'll come to you.

Bongo Boy
05-06-2004, 02:44 AM
When I asked if there was anything I could do to improve this, she said timing was something that could not be learnedIt might be something that can't be taught, but to say it can't be learned is absolutely freeking absurd. OF COURSE it can be learned. It is ALWAYS learned. There is no way in the world you can convince me that folks are born with the ritmo.

I'm no expert when it comes to the ritmo. But try putting on a tune, in private, and dancing. Keep doing it until you feel you have a groove, a feel. Maybe have someone you trust help you with the moves. If you can't dance, you probably need to practice. I can't dance. My wife just kills me on the floor, but she helps me by physically moving my body to the groove. There are some times with certain tunes where I just don't 'get it'. but having someone slap you upside the head can help.

What a load of crap. EVERYTHING is learned. Some folks may learn it by the time they're 3 just because of the house they live in. But the ritmo isn't in their DNA--it' in the family. Listen harder, listen differently, but listen to the music.

Don't discount your teacher--she probably has lots you can learn from. She may simply not know, or be comortable with, this aspect of the music. It's kinda physical.

Bongo Boy
05-06-2004, 02:51 AM
The Metronome is your best friend when it comes to rhythm.I'd say the metronome is USEFULL, but maybe not you're best friend. It's a brutal taskmaster. It might be that your best friend is your best friend, when it comes to rhtyhm. A 'sense of rhythm' goes WAY beyond just keeping the beat. 'Flexing' the beat and staying in synch is, to me, a key element of offering 'feel' to a tune.

Be the ball.

Bongo Boy
05-06-2004, 03:02 AM
Okay, I'm not quite done. Guni's comments and other comments are just so important...you MUST accept that what the teacher said is NOT true.

Here's my personal experience. I have to learn a basic conga pattern--two drums, two hands, nice ritmo. No problemo. Next comes playing the two-drum pattern against a standard 'clave' rhythm with the foot (using a foot pedal). I'm embarassed to say I've been doing this for a LONG time...and still don't have it. But I have it 70% of the time, as opposed to having it like never when I first started.

Had I been born in a region where the clave sound was a part of the music I heard day and night, I bet I'd have gotten this in days or weeks instead of months (or years). But it's also a matter of independence--left and right hand, feet and hands. It isn't in the DNA...it's in the experience.

05-06-2004, 05:23 AM
Play with a band. For the first 5 or 6 sessions I was god awful, after that it just 'clicked'. Granted I was always pretty rhytmically inclined (been banging on stuff since i was like 4) but it just sort of feels natural now. However, thats 4/4 time we're talking, I still have no idea how to do those odd time signatues (Well, I do but not well). It's practice, DT and Rush and Tool and those bands dont naturally think in those ways, they had to do alot of practice to familiarize themselves with it!

My suggestion is to listen to tons and tons of music. Clap along, slap your knee, tap your foot or hit the streering wheel on the strong beats or whatever, pretty soon it'll become natural to pick out beats and you'll find your rhythm improving. Playing in time by yourself is sort of tough to do, you dont have other instruments to guide you or help you keep your place, so work with a metronome to keep it steady, and good luck!

05-06-2004, 07:06 AM
hello dude

anytning except "genius" in music you can acquire
just buy a metronome and play with it - the slower the better

start with bpm=50 and play 1 note on 1 beat - for example, 10 minutes every day. wanna more? play 30 mins :)

when you will hit string for a minute without any miss with metronome - then your rthytm feal is great :)

and at least 1 hour a day play PG's licks with metronome... you'll be the best ;-)

(sorry for my baaaaaaaaaaad english :D )

05-15-2004, 04:35 PM
I always seem to speed up after a while, but i know a little exercise you can do to stay in time. It has helped me!

You should have some sort of metronome that you can turn off the sound on, but still have it going. Then ask someone to turn off the sound while your playing, and a while later turn it back on to see if your still in time.

Its like when Im stressed time passes slower and so I hit the beat more often that I should, and therefore speeding up.

05-24-2004, 10:36 PM
Look for a new teacher now!!!

I agree with that completely. What a boob.